Apollo 10: Childhood in the Space Age Review Round-Up: Linklater's latest film gets out-of-this-world reviews

Richard Linklater's latest film, which had its world premiere at SXSW, is available today on Netflix worldwide.

Directed by Houston native Richard Linklater, Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood recreates the first moon landing in the summer of 1969 through the parallel perspectives of the launch mission control team and a young child growing up in Houston and watching the launch from his living room. The film is an animated reenactment of the first moon landing in the summer of 1969 through the parallel perspectives of the launch mission control team and a young child growing up in Houston watching the launch from his living room. The film is a semi-autobiographical narrative, drawing much of its inspiration from Linklater's own life growing up in Houston. More than just a reenactment of historical events, the film unfolds as a coming-of-age tale that depicts life in America in the 1960s more broadly.

"Apollo 10": A Space Age Adventure was produced by Linklater's Detour Filmproduction and Submarine. Initially shot in live action, filming was completed in March 2020. The rotoscoped film was finished with a mix of 2D and CG at Minnow Mountain in Austin and Submarine in the Netherlands. It features an aesthetic familiar to fans of Linklater's previous animated films, "Waking Life" (2001) and "Scanner Darkly" (2006).

The film's voice cast includes Jack Black as the protagonist and narrator, voicing the adult version of Stan, a child whose dreams are fueled by working near NASA scientists and astronauts. In addition to Black, Zachary Levi, Glen Powell, Josh Wiggins, Milo Coy, Lee Eddy, Bill Wise, Natalie Lamoreaux, Jessica Brin Cohen, Sam Chipman, and Daniel Gilbot are also in the film, along with director Linklater. SXSW premiere.

At the time of its release, the film boasted a 94% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviews praising its nostalgic appeal and the filmmaker's fresh approach to first-person storytelling. Below is a sampling of the reviews following the SXSW World Premiere.

Peter DeBruge of Variety praised the circuitous way in which Linklater reveals the film's story as it moves back and forth in time, delivering a final product that is more than the sum of its parts:

As a narrative, "Apollo 10 1/2" is seemingly endless It meanders amicably through asides, and when Linklater finally returns to where junior astronaut Stan (played by Milo Coy) was vomiting in a NASA simulator, it is not at all clear how this kid's top-secret moon mission fits into the larger narrative. At least at first. After all, the film is less about space and more about time travel, or more specifically, about taking Linklater and his followers back more than half a century.

In her review for the Associated Press, Lindsay Barr praised Linklater's ability to do something familiar that never feels recycled:

...... Like most of Linklater's work, it is so sincere, so sweetly truthful, that one can't really blame her for not reinventing the wheel. It is comforting, just like the stories we hear from our parents or the stories we have heard so many times ourselves. So put the ham casserole on the stove, pull up a chair, and enjoy hearing one more time that someone who grew up with a black and white TV didn't know Oz was in color.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw puts this film in the same league as Linklater's other animated works:

Richard Linklater looks back from space to the blue hills of childhood memory in this very fun and sweet family film on Netflix is a look back at a time when the world was a cult and hallucinatory place, much like Linklater's previous films, including 2001's Waking Life and 2006's A Scanner Darkly.

Indiewire's David Ehrlich was impressed by Linklater's "sweetly effervescent piecing together of the filmmaker's own childhood Kodachrome memories":

Linklater's bittersweet collage of half-related memory fragments pieced together, perhaps, but the emphasis on bite-sized moments in time (many of which are concrete, others more figurative) has the satisfyingly paradoxical effect of sloshing them all together into something unreal. As in Apollo 10, Black's narration, Stanley's eventual trip to the moon, and the dreamlike animation that depicts it in the same vivid style as reality, are unified by an idea that Linklater has carried with him since he first picked up a movie camera: remembering the past is to remember the past is also to re-imagine the past.

Abby Olcese of RogerEbert.com complains that Linklater prefers to "speak to the audience":

Linklater has always been a fascinatingly meandering director, and his best work usually strays as a way to get intimate with his characters. Apollo 10 1/2 does little more than indulge in nostalgia for dark shadows and drive-in theaters. Elements of rotoscoped cinematography, while effective for moments on the lunar module, often interrupt the natural energy of Stan's interactions with his parents and older siblings, as the majority of the film is set on the ground.