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HD-DVD Review: Apollo 13

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Based on the true story of the Apollo 13 mission to the moon on April 11, 1970, the film chronicles the tragic mishap that gripped a nation. Man had already set foot on the moon and America, though only less than a year before, now considered the mission to be routine. The mission proved to be anything but routine for those involved. Due to an oxygen tank explosion, the crew never got to achieve the goal of their mission, to reach the moon. America watched anxiously for nearly six days, hoping for a safe return of three young American astronauts.

Apollo 13 was released theatrically in June of 1995. The special effects of the film were ahead of its time. Almost 11 years old, this film was a special effects masterpiece that started with an incredibly realistic launch sequence and concluded with the suspenseful descent back to Earth. Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Apollo 13 is one of the best films of the past 15 years. Bringing the film to HD-DVD was a good idea, but the format presents some downfalls.

The resolution is incredible, especially for a film that was not filmed during the HD era. With such impressive resolution, some things are a bit too clear. The launch sequence that was so impressive 11 years ago, now presented in 1080i resolution, is so clear it almost looks fake. The smoke billowing from the launch site can noticeably be identified as CG because of the clarity and sharpness of the picture. During Ron Howard’s audio commentary, he mentions that he needed to tell Digital Domain, the company responsible for the film’s computer generated graphics, to diffuse the CG graphics because the images looked ultra real. Unfortunately for Howard, they now look even sharper in HD.

The DTS icon lit up on my receiver, and I experienced Apollo 13 in a whole new way through my ears. The launch sequence absolutely thundered through the house and quite possibly woke the neighbors. The soundtrack shined almost as brightly as the resolution and I found myself experiencing DVD in a whole new way. Some fans will surely have a high desire to see some of their favorite older films remastered in HD…*cough* Jurassic Park *cough*…but could be disappointed if the resolution is so high that the illusion of special effects is spoiled.

The film grade is gauged against any film, while the Picture and Audio grades are gauged against other HD-DVDs. HD-DVD Value refers to whether or not the film is worth re-purchasing or re-watching in this new format.

The Upside:
A great film with great sound.

The Downside:
The HD resolution is perhaps a bit too clear for an older film such as this.

On The Side:
The famous quote, “Houston, We have a problem” is a misquote. The actual quote, muttered by John Swigert, was, “Okay, Houston, we’ve had a problem here” and was later repeated back by James Lovell as “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Breaking Down the HD-DVD:
The Film: A
The Picture: C

The Audio: B+
HD-DVD Value: C

HD-DVD Stats:
Release Date: April 25th, 2006
Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris
Directed by: Ron Howard
Writing Credits: Jim Lovell (book), Jeffrey Kluger (book), William Broyles Jr., Al Reinert (screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital
MPAA: Rated PG for language and emotional intensity.
Country: USA
Run Time: 140 min.
Studio: Universal
Trailer

By Brian Gibson, Associate Editor of Film School Rejects

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  • http://bryanmckay.com/blog Bryan McKay

    HD resolution still doesn’t equal the native resolution of 35mm film. If it looks fake on HD-DVD, it probably looked equally as fake when projected in theatres. The only thing I would possible expect from the HD transfer is some artificial image sharpening, but it’s impossible to add any clarity or detail that didn’t exist in the original print.