Thursday , February 29 2024
Could have and should have been a more complete piece of storytelling.

DVD Review: For All Mankind (The Criterion Collection)

Written by Hombre Divertido

Containing eighty minutes of amazing footage from Apollo missions to the moon, this newly restored high-definition digital transfer, from producer/director Al Reinert, takes an already amazing product, and makes it look and sound better. From The Criterion Collection, this new release hit shelves on July 14th, and is sure to wow those interested in the footage of trips to the moon.

Reinert has done a remarkable job of gathering often never-before-seen footage of the adventures of the twenty-four astronauts who travelled to the moon. Combining said footage with an enchanting soundtrack by Brian Eno makes for an interesting look at some exciting footage.

Though Reinert may be a fine documentarian, he fails as a storyteller in this outing. By combining all the footage into a single trip to the moon, he confuses the audience as they try to determine whose voice is being heard, and why the faces continue to change. Once the film has ended, and some of the bonus material is viewed, you get a better idea of the goal, and the optional on-screen identifications do help, but it is not the combining of footage into one story that is the true tragedy in storytelling here. The omission of information regarding the return from the moon, re-entry, splash down, and simple questions such as what is it like when that hatch is opened for the first time back on Earth, or what is it like to step foot on Earth again? It’s somewhat laughable that in the bonus feature “An Accidental Gift: The Making of: For All Mankind” Reinert explains his reasoning for not telling the entire story, as he states that he felt the return was anti-climactic. Actually, it is the definition of climactic, and completely necessary to this tale.

Other bonus features include: audio commentary featuring Reinert and Apollo 17 commander Eugene A. Cernan, the last man to set foot on the Moon; On Camera, a collection of excerpted, on-screen interviews with fifteen of the Apollo astronauts; a short piece on astronaut Alan Bean and his artwork; NASA audio highlights and liftoff footage; and a booklet featuring essays by film critic Terrence Rafferty and Reinert. In many cases the bonus material helps to round out the feature.

There is no question that the footage in this release is spectacular, but combining the footage with the interviews found in the bonus material, and allowing the footage to stand on its own rather than trying to combine it into one trip to the moon, would have made for a better viewing experience. The addition of the experiences of the astronauts on the return from the moon, are crucial to rounding out this project.

Recommendation: Great piece of history that makes for an educational and entertaining viewing experience, especially for those too young to remember the events. Could have and should have been a more complete piece of storytelling.

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