Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 37 minutes, Director – Richard Linklater

After building the shuttle for the Apollo 11 mission too small NASA decides to embark on a secret mission with the same aims with a child (Milo Coy) going to the moon instead.

“It was easy to be swept up in the thought of the future” reminisces the older voice of central figure Stan (Jack Black) as he looks back on his childhood, specifically the summer of 1969, as NASA was preparing to send man to the moon. It also appears to be easy to be swept up in the thought of the past thanks to the highly nostalgic nature of Richard Linklater’s latest rotoscope feature. Placing you directly into the childhood of the late 60s thanks to the warm, nostalgic tones of Black’s narration lining pretty much the entire run-time of the piece. There’s a solid 40 minutes+ where he looks back at his childhood and the various different things that made it up, from music to film to simple games involving firing fireworks at people using bin lids as shields. It very much creates a feeling of a film of two halves – perhaps two similar short films – one a piece of nostalgic childhood flashback, the other a tale of the space race (mostly).

Early on we see Stan (Milo Coy) taken in by two NASA agents (Glen Powell, Zachary Levi) after particular skills are noticed within him. They explain that the Apollo 11 shuttle has been built too small and so they want to send a child on a secret pre-11 mission to see how it will pan out. However, we see little of this actual mission. Instead, Linklater pairs it up with rotoscoped footage of the actual Apollo 11 venture, with Stan watching alongside his family, flashing back to his own space venture every now and then. It slightly contrasts within the wonderment that’s created in the opening stages when the undiscovered expanses of space, and the moon, are discussed, the other-worldly feel pushed by the animation style, by the older Stan as he recounts tales of being “the last of the ‘duck and cover’ generation”.

As the narration continues in the childhood recount the overall style does begin to lose something. As we get lists of TV shows and music at the time it simply feels like more of a delve into what life was like rather than a direct narrative film. Rather, it feels like something more suited to a documentary than a film of this kind. Even when returning to the child in space themes for the second half there’s still a largely narration-led structure to the piece that while not overly removing you from it does begin to feel like the personal nostalgia of writer-director Linklater rather than the something shared with the viewer as in the opening portion and beginning of the late-60s throwback, even for those born nowhere near/ well after the era. It’s a style and format which would perhaps work well in the space of a short film, or, again, more direct documentary.

Yet, you still manage to get caught up in some of the feelings the film conjures up. There are nerves and a rush as you watch the landing recreated in the animation format, the family crowded round the TV to watch it. A sense of interest is conjured up when briefly looking at those who were against the idea of the moon landing for financial reasons, with a number of black people living hungry and in poverty – linking well to ideas brought up in last year’s Summer Of Soul. While you wish that the film had dealt more with perhaps the most creative and futuristic/ fantastical element in the form of the kid-in-space narrative there’s still enough to conjure up interest within the unfolding events and reminiscences that Apollo 10 1/2 has to look back on. Not all of it may be felt by the viewer, but there’s certainly enough to keep you in place in this authentic space-age throwback. Using the animation to simply push such feelings further and wrap you in the mind of those who saw it all happen (and in terms of the secret mission not happen) at the time.

Using the animation to push the futuristic space-age wonderment there’s a fine sense of nostalgia conjured up within Apollo 10 1/2. While it might dampen into personal nostalgia as the piece goes on there’s still enough present within the memories on display to keep you engaged and interested.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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