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Off Course in More Ways Than One on 'Apollo 13' : Reviewer Is Lost in Space When It Comes to Re-creation

COUNTERPUNCH

July 17, 1995|TERRY WILLEY and CAROL BAKER-WILLEY | Terry Willey is a family counselor who lives in Bakersfield with his wife, Carol Baker-Willey. They write screenplays together

Film critic Kenneth Turan can't seem to decide whether he liked "Apollo 13" ("Mission Improbable," June 30). Was it a "sentimental, middle-of-the-road" movie? Or was it "a great story, which they mostly tell rather well"?

What did seem pretty clear was that Turan does not like director Ron Howard and did not want to say anything nice about his work. Calling Howard "the master of Opie-Vision" seems on a par with calling Frank Capra "the king of Capra-corn." And we know how much that damaged Mr. Capra's career.

Turan says, "The film's derring-do aspects have the advantage of showing the men simply being heroic as opposed to acting like heroes." Earlier in his review he seemed to complain the characters were "such wholesome heroes." Perhaps he doesn't realize that astronauts were (and are) heroes because they do something extraordinary: leave the safety of Earth to go into space.

Turan says, "This is a quintessential guy movie." Is this because NASA was run by men? This was a film about people struggling together to save their friends. In the end, teamwork, perseverance and ability overcome all obstacles. To us that seems to be a universal theme.

Turan compares the film to a "war movie without a human enemy." While Mission Control might resemble a war room, in a war film the issue is to kill the enemy; in this film the issue is to save the astronauts' lives.

Turan complains that the film shows "a scene of dramatic bickering on board that apparently did not occur." It seems very likely that whether or not it's on record, three men trapped in a crippled, freezing-cold space capsule for several days with nothing to do (since the computers were shut down) sooner or later would exchange a few heated words.

Had the film shown absolutely no disagreements between the astronauts, we think Turan would have been quick to point out that the audience expected such a confrontation among the men; why didn't they create one if only for dramatic purposes?

Turan also attacks portrayals as "glib" and "professionally uplifting." If you examine this film more closely, you'll notice that as the crisis wears on, characters become more human, not less so.

We think "Apollo 13" is an incredibly entertaining re-creation of the mission straight down the line. Technically, Mission Control looked authentic down to the smallest detail. And the scenes of weightlessness aboard the spacecraft far surpass anything ever done in Earth-bound movies.

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