First to the Moon offers up a mix of archival footage, interviews, and CGI in revisiting the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968.
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a joint address to Congress. In this speech, the late president made it an American goal to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The history-making goal would take place in 1969. Sadly, John F. Kennedy would not be around to see America land a man on the moon.
It was quite an interesting time in 1968. The country would be at its most divisive since the Civil War. The war in Vietnam led to some strong feelings at home. But in December 1968, America would send Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell into space. The trio’s mission was to become the first to leave the low Earth orbit, orbit the moon, and return to Earth. They were also the first humans to witness an Earthrise. Funny enough, this was documented in another film last year. Anders would shoot a photo that is certainly among the most famous in history.
While interviews with the trio account for half the film, the Saturn V rocket launch is one of those moments where you can’t help but feel the awe in watching. It’s a shame that this film is only getting a VOD release because these launches are made for the big screen. This is where the film largely differs from that of another moon mission documentary, Apollo 11. It’s not fair to compare films so I won’t go there. I do appreciate that First to the Moon gives us interviews with the three astronauts.
Lovell’s story is very well known thanks to serving in the crew of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. Like the other two, he shares his story of how he got on NASA’s radar and had his name submitted by the Navy. His name was initially on a list of 148 people. Only 32 would get selected to undergo physicals. Unfortunately, Lovell didn’t pass the physical. He would try again in 1962. This is when Borman found himself volunteering for the second group. There just happened to be strict criteria for who NASA would train as astronauts.
NASA put together an ambitious goal in landing a man on the moon. It certainly wasn’t easy. There were deaths along the way. But Apollo 8 would come during an important time in America. The year saw the assassinations of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Throw in the aforementioned Vietnam and 1968 would not be pretty. Getting three men orbiting the moon would certainly be something to salvage the year.
First to the Moon may take us on a journey but the small screen doesn’t quite do this story justice.
DIRECTOR: Paul Hildebrandt
FEATURING: Frank Borman, Bill Anders, and Jim Lovell