- Director: Richard Linklater
- Writer: Richard Linklater
- Stars: Milo Coy, Jack Black, Glen Powell, Zachary Levi, Josh Wiggins, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise, Natalia L’Amoreaux, Jessica Brynn Cohen, Sam Chipman, Danielle Guilbot
- Release Date: March 13, 2022 (SXSW)
Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood Trailer
A few minutes before the conclusion of Apollo 10 12: A Space Age Childhood, Richard Linklater’s luscious rotoscope ode to the tail-end of the 1960s, the father of our young protagonist Stanley (Milo Coy) expresses concern that his son may have missed an important historical event. Despite the fact that Stanley was sleeping, his mother (Lee Eddy) believes that he will one day believe that he witnessed everything.
The magic trick that is memory serves as the foundation for Apollo, a film that depicts the Apollo 11 mission through the eyes of Stan, a ten-year-old boy who was living in Houston at the time of the mission—hometown—at Linklater’s the time of the mission. During his first day of school, Stan is approached by two suited men who inform him that NASA accidentally built a spaceship that was too small for an adult to ride in. Since Stan is not as experienced as one of their highly trained adult astronauts, they will need him to make a test flight to the Moon instead.
Thereafter, the viewer will be treated to a 90-minute kaleidoscopic examination of the year 1969, interspersed with scenes from what is undoubtedly the greatest fantasy of the Stanleys of the world: space travel. By delving into the minutiae of life in the 1970s, Linklater doesn’t worry about boring his audience with the minutiae of his own life in the same time period. Throughout the film, the narrator, grown-up Stanley (Jack Black), confidently jumps between descriptions of the monotonous games that neighborhood kid used to play, breakdowns of the plots of old black-and-white sci-fi shows, the conservative methodologies that Stanley’s mother employs in making school lunches for her children, the nuances of spending time with grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, and everything in between.
Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood (Structure)
The majority of the film is structured in a montage-like manner, with the camera bouncing from one nostalgic scene to the next. Despite the fact that the film never quite allows us to sit in one particular moment, the film never feels sluggish. Furthermore, despite the fact that the entire experience is intensely time- and space-specific, it never feels like “inside baseball” for those who have already experienced it.
Sandra Adair, Linklater’s longtime collaborator, is responsible for much of the film’s smooth editing, which can be attributed to her work on the film. Like a high-energy music video, the action in Apollo seamlessly transitions from one scene to the next and back again. Adair’s editing expertly recreates the sensation of reliving a childhood memory; even the most inconsequential details (watching Janis Joplin chain smoke on the Dick Cavett show, riding a particular roller coaster at Astroworld) come together as if they were pieces of a puzzle. Everything appears to be equally important, and even the frightening things, such as the imminent threat of chemical warfare, are depicted in a positive light…
This sensation is also a result of the animation in the film, which was directed by Tommy Pallotta, another of Linklater’s longtime collaborators. It’s not just that Apollo is a nod to Linklater’s earlier trips down memory lane, such as Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, but it also marks the director’s first time experimenting with rotoscope animation since Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006), both of which were instrumental in repopularizing the technique. Moreover, because the rotoscope technique requires that the animator draw over real actors, Apollo’s mannerisms are more realistic than those of most animated films. Meanwhile, the drawings appear to have been lifted from an old sci-fi comic book, which adds to the overall feeling of speed and nostalgia of the whole thing.
Everyone and everything in the film that has to do with chronicling life in 1969 is so engrossing on its own that it’s impossible not to wonder what Apollo would be like if Stanley’s outer space subplot were to be removed entirely. Indeed, Mission Apollo 10 12 is the film’s weakest segment, and, while it serves to justify the existence of a film that is essentially a meandering nostalgia trip, it does little to advance the plot as a whole. Adding it in with Apollo 11 makes the segment a little confusing, and the time spent wondering which mission we’re actually watching ends up underselling the significance of the first steps on the Moon in terms of their significance for mankind in the context of the film. However, when Apollo succeeds, it succeeds spectacularly. In its own way, it’s a stylish meditation on childhood that isn’t afraid to indulge in all of the sentimentality that comes with it. Almost 30 years after the release of Dazed and Confused, Linklater is still reminding us of the many reasons why childhood is such a special time.