Movie Dictator Club: For All Mankind (1989)

The Movie Dictator Club for the month of July, 2011 takes me to the moon!

Screenplay By: No One
Directed By: Al Reinert

I have a deep sense of awe for outer space, and a deep sense of amazement for the American space program. My Grandma spent a large portion of her life in Cape Canaveral, Florida, right next to the Kennedy Space Center. I loved going to that place, I loved watching all the videos, seeing the artifacts, and basking in the history and wonderment that is the space program. I realize that I am now in a minority when it comes to the sense of wonder I carry for the American space program, most people today could care less about the space program or going to space. As most people have lost their fondness for the idea of exploring outer space I have stayed just as in love with that idea. I’m still the guy who will randomly turn on the NASA Channel to see images from the mysteries of outer space.

The images contained within For All Mankind are what I walk away from the experience remembering the most. Specifically I was floored by the imagery featured during the takeoff of the Apollo rocket. Fire surrounds the screen, it engulfs all that the eye can see. Then the footage takes us closer, it allows us to see individual pieces of paneling falling off the sides of the rocket and the girders of the launching pad. I felt like an eleven year old boy sitting in front of a video playing at the Kennedy Space Center transfixed, unable to look away from the wonderful and jaw dropping images. It was a glorious feeling, and as For All Mankind entered space that sense of exhilaration never ebbed, because space is cool, I don’t care what anyone else says.

It was also as For All Mankind entered space that I realized that as jaw dropping as the imagery was the actual narrative was far too cold. These are amazing events happening on screen, and outside of the imagery and a few swells in the score I never got the sense that For All Mankind was connecting with me as much as it should. The narrative was a bit too clinical, and the coldness that came from its clinical nature slowly ate away at my enthusiasm for what I was seeing. I went from a sense of total immersion in what I was seeing to a detached feeling of, “well, that was pretty good,” by the films end.

The images do call back to me though, those moments are reverential in a way that is believable and powerful. I wish the rest of the film had been more engaging and warm, more willing to ensnare me within its grasp. For All Mankind spoke to a part of me, but it didn’t speak to me completely. The images were like a series of whispers tickling the inside of my ear drums while the narrative slowly moved out of earshot. I’m glad to have seen For All Mankind, but I know it could have been so much more, and that is upsetting.




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