Every once in a while, you let yourself go back in time. I look up there and I might just reflect for a half a minute or so. I can take myself there at the speed of thought.
This documentary focuses on Gene Cernan, the twelfth, and final, astronaut to set foot on the moon. It’s an interesting enough idea and the film is well-made. I’m not sure if Cernan himself is really charismatic enough to build an entire movie around. He’s an interesting guy, of course, but the film works best when it has a wider focus on the start of the space program. The film sees it through Cernan’s eyes, but despite the fact that it’s a story I already knew pretty well, it’s just such a great story that those sections of the film work really well. Other than that, the film has a lot of trivial stuff in it; I don’t really care about following Cernan around on a current speaking tour, for instance. But when Cernan tells the story of the trip when he actually landed on the moon the film does have an awe-inspiring, magical feeling. Cernan seems to still have trouble believing that it actually happened himself even as it remains the touchstone of his life. There’s a wonderful moment of him at an Air and Space museum standing in front of an exhibit featuring the actual lunar lander he flew in all those years before, complete with a dummy inside wearing a jumpsuit with his name on it. He shakes his head, remarks that sometimes it feels like a movie he saw instead of something he really did and then he just shrugs, half in exasperation, half in disbelief. And it does, of course, allow Cernan a soapbox for his pleas to restart the space program, go to Mars, etc. A sequence where he visits the now deserted facility he launched from has a deeply sad feeling, an old man wandering an overgrown ghost town. The film is entertaining and engaging enough to keep me entertained. Beyond that, it never really reaches anything like the transcendence it’s kind of reaching for and much of the ground is familiar. A good movie, well made certainly, and never really awfully boring, but in some ways, it does feel trivial and unimportant. 3 stars.
tl;dr – documentary has a great hook, but only occasionally reaches any of the real heights it’s striving for; well-made and interesting, but somewhat trivial and familiar. 3 stars.