Richard Linklater is back with an animated film, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood, that is sure to be an awards contender.
Animation is cinema and it is not only for children if you go by the film’s PG-13 rating. I’m not sure whether unique is the right word to use but there’s something about the visuals here that stand apart from watching other animated movies. Maybe it is the fact that they utilize live-action reference shots to inform their animation by way of rotoscoping. I think this film works better in animation than it would as a live-action film. For one, there’s no spending millions on reconstructing NASA sets. The work that goes into animating all the classic TV shows and music albums in the film is stupendous and intricate to say the least. But still, visually speaking, the film looks like a relic of years past than the contemporary product that it is. I must had that the 2D hand-drawn animation is simply beautiful.
Linklater draws on his own life experiences in this flashback to the summer of 1969. We’re looking at the 1969 moon landing through two different perspectives. One is that of both astronaut and mission control and the other is of a kid growing up in Texas. It’s a film that qualifies under coming-of-age film, societal commentary, and adventure. What Richard Linklater does with Apollo 10 1/2 is beautifully nostalgic to say the least. I don’t now how many filmmakers were growing up close to NASA during the late 1960s. Linklater certainly was one of them and so he adds a fantasy aspect into the mix.
The main focus of the film is Stan (Milo Coy, Jack Black) and we’re experiencing the film through his memories. There’s no shortage of fantasy in the film as Stan fantasizes that two NASA operatives, Kranz (Zachary Levi) and Bostwick (Glen Powell), approach him for a mission. It couldn’t be further from the truth but let’s just go with it here. Linklater grounds the film through the non-fantasy aspects of Stan’s childhood. If you’re telling a film set in Houston, it has to include both the Astrodome and Astroworld in the film at some point.
As animation evolves further and further in a digital world, it’s nice to see films dependent on the classic hand-drawn animation. You don’t really see films utilizing traditional animation these days. Most of them end up being made entirely on computers. Whether its 3D computer animation or tradigital animation, the world of animated films is changing, for better or worse. But I digress. Watching a film like Apollo 10 1/2 is a throwback to the 1960s in more ways than one.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Richard Linklater
CAST: Milo Coy, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise, Natalie L’Amoreaux, Josh Wiggins, Sam Chipman, Jessica Brynn Cohen, Danielle Guilbot, with Zachary Levi, Glen Powell, and Jack Black
Netflix released Apollo 10 1/2 in theaters on March 25, 2022 and started streaming on April 1. Grade: 4.5/5
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