Narration By Gary Sinese
I miss the days of my youth (not so long ago by the way) when there was excitement around the space program. I’m sure the excitement I felt didn’t compare to the salad days of the space program when the U.S. was racing Russia to get to the moon but in the 80’s and 90’s there was still some fantastic energy around NASA. Nowadays no one seems to care about the space program even though the advances in science and technology have been really exciting. This four part documentary tells the tale of the space program from its beginnings to the word of NASA today.
These four feature length documentaries cover the space program in greater detail than any other documentary I’ve ever seen. As I said it starts with our attempts to beat Russia into orbit and then our triumphant moon landing, the creation of the space shuttle, and the tragic crash of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Gary Sinese, who starred in the Ron Howard big budget retelling of the Apollo 13 missions handles the narration of this film quite well. He doesn’t seem to be just calling it in; he seems to truly have enthusiasm for the information he’s sharing. The storytelling is crafted to attempt to build suspense within these historic events and often it succeeds.
Now, the problems with the documentary is that with all the work that went into pacing and building suspense this film series is still very traditional in its presentation. There’s stock footage, narration, and interviews throughout the films utilized to tell these stories. It’s fascinating to hear stories not just from historians but from the people actually involved with the space program during the era being covered in the film. It’s great that some of the people involved in the early days of the space program get the opportunity to tell their stories here. Again though, it’s still a very typical Discovery Channel/History Channel type of documentary. The genre needs some new blood, someone to come along and find a new and exciting way to do these kinds of documentaries.
Even with my complaints, by the end of this documentary mini series I was again excited about the space program and I went and friended the Mars Rover on Twitter. Many of the innovations we take for granted today came from the sacrifices made by the pioneers of the space program and the trend continues today with all of the new products being developed by NASA that will eventually find their way to consumers. This film should be required viewing in schools. It is a traditional documentary in style but its well done within those parameters and the information shared is some of the most exciting in American history.
The widescreen video here is of a wide variety. The stock footage is extremely grainy simply due to its age. Now, about the stock footage, this footage is presented here as highly detailed as you’re likely to ever see. With the extra detail the grain is also enhanced too. So that’s just something you’ll have to accept. The interviews were shot in hi def and it shows with great black levels, natural skin tone, and good detail. Most of the hi def shots were of interviews so this won’t be the demo disc for your home theater. All things considered, this is the best you’re likely to see this film look considering the variety of footage used in it.
The films are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0. If you have the system for it the 5.1 presentation is the way to go. Now, don’t expect some hugely immersive experience because this is a documentary. The surround speakers are mostly used for the score of the film giving it a dramatic effect by swelling through all of the speakers when necessary. Dialogue, sound, and score are crisp and cleanly mixed throughout. The only issues are audio bits from stock footage. There’s only so much that can be done with this old audio but it comes through clear enough to follow here.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The four disc collection comes in a thick Blu-ray amaray case with a picture of the space shuttle on the front. The case is solid and doesn’t feel cheap with lose discs floating around in the box. The art is a little basic and predictable. It’s very standard similar to the creation of the film itself. It’s good but not innovative.
It’s hard to come up with bonus features for a documentary film that don’t simply feel like deleted scenes. It can be odd to create a making of documentary of a documentary but that actually would have been interesting here to see the in depth and daunting task of bringing this film to life. On the first three discs there are a few interviews with NASA personnel outside of the actual mini series and a few unused clips. As I said, this feels like deleted footage.
Disc four is where all of the extras really are. There are five classic NASA public relations films made to promote the space program. These are little bits of history that are extremely interesting to watch and are a perfect capper to this documentary. Still, a making of documentary and commentaries would have been an appreciated addition.
This extensive film(s) is fascinating if a little dry in style. Space buffs must buy this package immediately. Teachers should buy this film for their classes and anyone else interested in the space program should give it a look.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10
The Movie(s) 9/10
The Video 8.5/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10