Released to Netflix, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood has a deceptive mouthful of a title which does nothing to sell the film’s bizarre charm.
An animated semi-biographical historical sci-fi coming-of-age film from the mind of Richard Linklater, Apollo 10 1/2 (as it will be called from here on out) features the voice talents of Jack Black, Zachary Levi, and Glen Powell. Its animation was achieved through rotoscoping – which, combined with the interesting blend of nostalgia and fantasy, gives the film an utterly unique feel.
Visually, Apollo 10 1/2 is a treat. Its gorgeously animated visuals tell a story that’s mesmerizing even to those with no real affinity for the era of the Space Race, capturing the sense of nostalgia that tints the vast majority of childhood memories.
Its story follows Stan, a boy growing up on the outskirts of Houston amid the excitement of the Space Race. As well as Adult Stan’s general reminiscence, the film’s story sees Young Stan approached by NASA to pilot a mission to the moon before Apollo 11 due to them having built the lunar module too small for adult astronauts.
By blending Stan’s fantasy with the near-hysteria of the Space Race and framing it all through the lens of nostalgia, Apollo 10 1/2 paints a picture of the late 1960s that very much feels as though it’s come from the mind of a child. Jack Black’s narration carries the film from anecdote to anecdote, building a general picture of American life in the ’60s that’s crafted with genuine care and attention.
The use of rotoscoping allows Linklater to make use of actual footage from the moon landing (as well as a large number of ’60s TV shows and movies) in the film without hurting its visual consistency. This only builds the immersion in its story, which deftly blends its fantasy with its reality in a way that makes a touching statement on youth, memory, and nostalgia.
Apollo 10 1/2 is easy to dismiss as a nostalgia flick for those who remember the ’60s, but it’s so much more. It’s a deeply interesting exploration of our formative years and how the historical events we live through shape us as people. Apollo 10 1/2 might not appeal to a wide audience at a glance, but there’s something in it for just about everyone.
Summary: A nostalgia trip to a time that many in its audience won’t remember, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood manages to be both informative, entertaining, and deeply charming.
Highlights: The style of animation makes Apollo 10 1/2 feel fresh and vibrant while maintaining a sense of retro style – visually, it’s a treat throughout.