In the Shadow of the Moon

After directing Apollo 13 in 1995, Ron Howard sure has been getting a lot of mileage out of his Hollywood ties to the space program. Once again he lends his name to yet another Apollo-themed piece of entertainment, a stately documentary about the 24 men who flew to the moon as part of the United States Space Program in the late '60s and early '70s.

I guess it's no surprise that the bulk of this movie covers the pioneering Apollo 11 landing and Neil Armstrong's historic steps, although the stories and images from the less-discussed later landings were of more interest to me. As for the elusive Armstrong, he's a no-show amongst the ten talking heads in the picture – mostly surviving Apollo astronauts, including Armstrong's crewmates Buzz Aldrin and a hilarious Mike Collins – but his mythic status looms so large that the film may as well have been called In the Shadow of Neil Armstrong.

Aside from predictable awe-filled reminiscences of aging space cowboys and a bombastic score, there's still lots of neat lunar footage (some of it supposedly shown for the first time, though that's a bit hard to believe) and fine documentary storytelling. The film didn't – how shall I say it? – send me over the moon, but I liked it well enough. However, the grainy footage from space doesn't impress much on the big screen, and I'm sure In the Shadow of the Moon will lose nothing when it winds up on TV.