Apollo 13 (the movie)

Just an appreciation thread. I just watched it (not for the first time) and I just think it’s a great movie. Yes, it’s sometimes over-the-top in a Spielberg kind of way; yes, the line between fact and fiction is sometimes thin, but come on… Jim Lovell’s wife gets to me every time, and James Horner’s music is pleasantly not performed by Celine Dion.

Fantastic effects + triumph over adversity = great movie.

And the surprise ending!


The ship hits an iceberg and sinks!

Ah, Guhntuh Vent. I vundah veh Guhntuh vent?

What were some of the things that never happened on the flight or sorta happened, but got pumped up for the movie? Off the top of my head, I recall that Lovell’s actual transmission after the tank rupture went something like:

LOVELL: “Houston we’ve had a little problem up here.”

HOUSTON: (IIRC) “Say again.”

LOVELL: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

In the film, Lovell says the now-famous: “Houston, we have a problem.”

The other two astronauts did not fight and bitch at each other like in the movie.

The course correction firing bursts were of different durations and frequencies than in the movie.

Finally, after the four minute blackout in the film, we hear Hanks/Lovell speak to Houston, when IRL it was the astronaut played by Bacon who broke the silence and let the world know Apollo 13 was coming home.

These are all from memory, so I may be off a little.

Sir Rhosis

In fairness, the radio message was a little indistinct, and the film version is what has effectively become history.

Lovell’s said in interviews that yes, there was a brief bickerfest, fueled by cold, hunger, frustration, and fear, but out of respect to his friends he wouldn’t describe it. Ron Howard and the actors worked the scene out themselves for the movie.

You may be right about the other items you list, but they’re completely forgivable even if true. One thing I do recall from Lovell’s interviews was that the mockup CM instrument panel had one light the wrong color, but otherwise the props people nailed it.

Some of the lesser characters, like the controllers in Houston and the reporters, were composites. Mattingly’s role in working out the checklist was not central. The jury-rigged scrubber wasn’t designed via a box of parts dumped on a table; the chief scrubber engineer worked it out in his head while driving in and the team just wrote the instructions. But again, so what, really?

But yes, it’s one of the greatest movies ever made, because it was one of the greatest stories ever to really happen. Let me strongly recommend Lovell’s autobiography Lost Moon (rereleased under the title Apollo 13), which was the primary source material for the screenplay, and has much more detail. That episode of Hanks’ HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, which if you haven’t seen you must, was about what happened on the ground - there was no point in remaking the movie.

You gotta read the book…more went wrong than they could squeeze into one movie. I guess they could have made a sequel, then, huh (ha-ha)? But seriously, the book will be a quick, non-stop read! - Jinx

Don’t take me wrong, I enjoy the film immensely, but have always been fascinated by the little licenses that all historical movies take.

Sir Rhosis

I do recall reading somewhere about a bit of Hollywood license used when Houston was informing the crew that they were approaching gimbal lock, and Lovell responds “Freddo, inform Houston that I’m well aware of the g*****n gimbals.” Apparently, this use of profanity was frowned upon because the capsule’s comms were on VOX, which I guess is an open mic or something (I’m sure someone recalls more about this than I do).

Anyway, in reality, Lovell didn’t actually curse… but it seems his displeasure and annoyance at being reminded of something he was already aware of were obvious in his tone of voice, and Houston reminded the crew they were on VOX.

Supposedly, this scene was the inspriation for Junkyard Wars.

Anyone who is into Apollo would do well to see Moon Shot. From amazon:

And definitely read Lost Moon by Jim Lovell. A very good read, chockful of information.

For whatever small licenses they took, they were all inconsequential to the story. In the main details, Apollo 13 has to rate as one of the most accurate movies ever made.

I mean, they actually shot many of the zero-G sequences in zero G. That’s dedication to the craft. The sets were near-exact duplicates. I remember one of the actual Apollo 13 controllers saying that when he visited the set for mission control it just blew him away because it WAS mission control. Exactly. He said it was like walking into a time warp. Most of the dialog while in space was taken exactly from the actual mission transcripts. Very impressive stuff.

One of the best movies ever.

Actually, in the case of the CM, many of the components were originals, having been pulled out of storage and restored for use in the film.

In the film they played up the choice to irrevocably close some reactant valves in the command module. This being the moment when they realized they wouldn’t be able to land on the moon.

I don’t have Lovell’s book in front of me, but I seem to recall him saying that those valves closed automatically when the explosion happened. So actually they had no choice in the matter.

Also, I think the course correction burn using the earth as a reference wasn’t nearly the drama it appeared to be in the film. It was a little known procedure that nobody thought they’d ever have to use. But it was in the procedure books and had been tested in the simulator, if I remember correctly.

I love the movie, but I think it was very unfair to Jack Swigert. There was this implication throughout the film that maybe he wasn’t quite up to the task, and everyone was worried about his part in the flight. In fact, this was completely untrue. The backups received the same training as the prime crew. And Swigert had been instrumental in developing the procedures for command module emergencies. So actually they were lucky to have him along.

My only beef about the movie is a very minor one.
In the book, Lovell makes it clear that everyone chipped in and helped out. NASA, contractors, subcontractors. He illustrates this with the story about the execs from the contractor that built the LEM (Grumman?) who found out about the problem while in NYC. They returned back to their plant at about midnight and found the parking lot, full and all the lights on in the building. Whithout being asked all the engineers had gotten the news, and showed up to help.
In the movie, this gets reduced to somebody in mission control asking the contractor’s rep if the LEM could do something and he answers that he can’t guarrentee it. Made him and the company look a bit like a weasel.
But as has been said, so what?

When I first saw the film, on a rented VHS tape, I distinctly remember spotting a minor blooper: during the scene in which Lovell’s daughter is having a tantrum because the Beatles have just broken up, she is seen waving around a copy of the Let it Be LP. The catch is that the album hadn’t been released yet at the time of the Apollo 13 mission. But this is not visible on the DVD. There’s only a fleeting glimpse of something square and black in the girl’s hand, not clearly identifiable as an LP cover. Did they really go to the trouble of re-editing this scene, or did I hallucinate the whole thing?

I have it on VHS, which is what I watched, and I noticed it too. So it was definitely not a hallucination. As to whether or not they edited that out, someone with the DVD will have to answer that.

I’m 99% sure I read that at IMDB as one of the goofs… but I’m 2 seconds away from going to bed so I’m not lookin’.

I hated that movie. And I’m against the death penalty, but I’d make an exception in James Horner’s case.

My daughter loves it. I get a kick over how many people are smoking in the movie…hell, even the doctor exhales smoke when he tells Flight that the astronauts are good to go.

Anyone notice how much time Mrs. Lovell spends sitting on the floor?