Nothing is more manly than an outer space adventure... so why is Apollo 13 such a tearjerker?
The goal of this series is to show that being "manly" and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example: Appalling 13. (Apollo 13, we're talking about Apollo 13 here.)
For the longest time, this was THE film to pop in your new entertainment system to stretch its legs. The roar of the rockets, the inky blacks of space, the gentle pastels of the 1970s...two out of three of those still hold up. Sure, films like Guardians of the Galaxy would watch this now and give a big raccoon-shaped middle finger, but it's not just about the special effects. This movie has heart, perhaps so much heart that guys watching it find themselves leaking fluid from their ocular portals.
Like always, we can't go into a film without first approving it as a "manly" endeavor. Spaceflight, rockets, explosions...we've got them all. Dick-measuring contests at mission control as buzz-cut men argue the best options to keep their astronauts alive? Gotta have that. And let's not forget that this is based on a real story. Little-known fact about men: history is totally our jam. Knowing what great men have done in the past makes us feel good about ourselves, or perhaps motivates us to do even better in order to top their achievements. It's sort of a reverse-fatherly pride. Hell, just the swelling music as the rocket takes off is enough to us want to pound our chests in superiority to the heavens we've conquered.
Good, we've got a manly movie on our hands... yet we also appear to be grasping tissues. Why?
The plot of this film alone can give you chills, only because it actually happened (for the most part). Tom "The Perfect Man" Hanks is an astronaut at a time when Americans have just set foot on the Moon. His excitement to repeat that feat himself is countered by America's waning interest in the huge cheeseball in the sky. Having already beaten the Russians at touching rocks, no one cares anymore, and so Tom is fighting a losing battle of relevance. A last minute plot-hand-waving ear infection for the original commander moves Tom up to Apollo 13, a rocket that I'm SURE has been inspected with the greatest of care by the people I just mentioned don't care anymore. I'm sure of it. Sarcasm.
(Kyle's Edit: Dan is trying to make my Apollo-nerd head explode. Please don't take his poo-flingings as facts. Please. Apollo 13, the mission and the film, has no villain to lay blame on unless you insist on giving Teflon a reprimand for not being indestructible.)
The film establishes that Tom "Big" Hanks is a family man, with a devoted wife, oddly comical geriatric mom, dirty hippy daughter and there might have been several other moppets... all that matters at this point is that he had loved ones. His pilot of choice is Gary Sinise, who ironically lost his acting career on Mars. Sadly, he's grounded after NASA did a blood test and found out he may have had cooties. Enter Kevin Bacon, because how else can you have six degrees? Oh, and Bill Paxton goes up too, which should have been a clue that at some point there would be a game, and it would be over. The star-power shoved into that module is probably why their rocket half-blew up.
We're treated to a litany of foreshadowing that could kill an elephant. Tom's wife drops her wedding ring down the shower drain. Tom's car keeps stalling. Everyone has nightmares. WE GET IT, BAD THINGS ARE GOING DOWN!