Review: Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Adventure (2022)


Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Adventure (2022)

Directed by: Richard Linklater | 97 minutes | animation, adventure | Actors: Milo Coy, Zachary Levi, Glen Powell, Josh Wiggins, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise, Natalie L’Amoreaux, Jessica Brynn Cohen, Sam Chipman, Danielle Guilbot, Larry Jack Dotson, Mona Lee Fultz | Original voice cast: Jack Black

Ten-year-old Stan (Milo Coy) grows up in Houston in 1969, the year of the first moon landing. His great imagination causes him to daydream about being the one who will step on the moon. Tension mounts in the days leading up to landing, but Stan is also busy with all kinds of other things that are important to a child his age. There are many interesting series on television and the sunny Texan weather ensures that there is plenty of time to play outside. Director Richard Linklater (known for ‘Boyhood’ and ‘Dazed & Confused’ among others) shows that he is still the king of the coming-of-age genre.

‘Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Adventure’ is full of typical Linklater elements. As in many of his films, he also uses an unknown protagonist who undergoes a major change in his youth. In addition, the unique animation style of rotoscoping that Linklater used in ‘A Scanner Darkly’ and ‘Waking Life’ also returns. Rotoscoping is a technique by which filmed scenes can be traced frame by frame on a drawing board to get a very realistic form of animation. This form of animation creates special visual effects that make the image appear to be breathing. It fits well with the playful way Stan goes through life. For example, the film begins with two NASA employees recruiting Stan for the mission to the moon. It turns out that the capsule that NASA has built is too small for an adult person. Stan is the perfect candidate and is secretly trained during the summer. Of course this is all fantasy. An older Stan (Jack Black) recounts this experience, but mostly goes into detail about what his childhood was like. In a bird’s-eye view, the adult Stan tells about what happened in 1969 and what the daily life of an American child was like, with recognizable hits from this time in the background.

The film is largely a collection of childhood memories of Linklater himself. Despite the film being set in 1960s Texas, these particular memories are very entertaining. Stan’s childhood is quite average, which makes it also remind the viewer of the good old days of being a kid. Not only the beautiful moments pass by, but also the details that we now look back on with aversion. Think of questionable ways of parenting (such as hitting children) or dangerous situations in traffic in which people could still get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.

For fans of Linklater’s style, Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood is a must-see. The strength is not in the story, but in the atmosphere and dialogues that ensure that the film looks away very easily. A nostalgic trip, even for those who did not grow up in this exciting time.

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