If you saw the superb 2007 documentary, In the Shadow of the Moon, I am not certain what the point would be in viewing this forty-minute 2005 IMAX film - at least if you are old enough to remember the television coverage of the Apollo missions. The former film includes spectacular archival footage of those missions and insightful on-camera interviews with ten of the surviving astronauts. This one is aimed more directly as a motivational film for a youthful audience as it seeks to reignite the pioneering spirit that sparked the first space flights. NASA aficionado Tom Hanks wrote and produced (along with director Mark Cowen) this enthralling if somewhat cursory look at what it took to get to the moon and what it will take to continue the legacy. The film not only recreates some of the actual Apollo lunar missions but also posits what could have happened had disaster struck. The result adds a suspenseful element obviously designed to engage younger viewers.
Hanks applies his storytelling skills to full dramatic effect during these fictitious interludes. They are intertwined with a whirlwind of facts presented in a breezy manner, an especially effective tactic in chronicling mankind's fascination with the moon since this film is meant to inspire as well as to educate. To reinforce the approach, there is a series of quick interviews with youngsters that bookend the featurette showing how the space race has completely preceded them and how it could be resuscitated for the next generation of lunar exploration which targets us back on the moon by 2016. A number of famous actors provide the voices of the astronauts - Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Paul Newman - but few are recognizable. The 3-D visual effects are lost on the 2007 DVD, though I think not as much as the elongated dimensions provided by an IMAX theater. Even more than the technical elements, what really brings the film together is Hanks' obvious enthusiasm for the subject. The DVD includes additional video footage and photographs from the Apollo 11 mission plus a trivia game.