“Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood,” directed by Richard Linklater, is a science fantasy that takes a trip down memory lane. The year is 1969, and the world is torn between the moon landing and the Vietnam War. Amidst this polarity, we have Stanley, a schoolboy who excelled in kickball tournaments and had a growing interest in science.
The film unfolds with the voiceover of a grown Stanley who fondly remembers his childhood days and his trip to the moon. The 60s were chaotic, and his childhood was deeply influenced by the fact that he lived in the Houston suburbs, where NASA had its establishment. Everything around him had the name “Astro” before it, be it an amusement park or even a stadium. Americans felt closer to the future than ever before. People dreamt of outer space, the planets yet to be explored, and the possibility of even buying property on Mars! “Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood” explores the evolving America through a child’s fantasy-laden memories, making one question its autobiographical angle.
Plot Summary: A Look At Stanley’s Childhood
Stan looks back at his eventful childhood. His father worked at NASA; he handled the department of shipping and receiving, something that Stan was not proud of. He built stories around his father’s job and how he had to make significant decisions that could affect humankind. As a child, our imagination knew no bounds, and Stan loved to dream. Science, as he mentioned, was the topic of discussion everywhere. They could discuss the current events and the possible future in science classes. The teacher used to bring the television set inside the classroom on days of rocket launching. The class cheered during liftoff. The idea of a man walking on the moon was all that people around him looked forward to.
The war in Vietnam did not affect Stan and his family. It was something that he looked at only through television. There was a particular memory that truly spoke of the time. He remembered how his family had packed their leftover meals for the starving children in Vietnam. As a child, he could not comprehend the complex emotions at play. At a time when starvation was the result of the war, how could one not condemn and simply send food to the starving Vietnamese children? During the same time, a young Stan and his family tried to identify hippies through their outfits. It was comical when the mother categorized a young man with short hair as non-hippie, and her daughter pointed her attention to the bell bottoms, leaving her confused.
What is also interesting is how he remembered his sisters and brothers through their choice of entertainment. The eldest, Vicky, had started to look at the world from a different angle. She spoke of the hippies, she discussed the lyrics of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and she supported those who spoke against the grand mission of sending a man on the moon when people in the country were not well fed. There was a clear difference of opinion between Vivian and their father, who was proud of what America was aiming for. The polarity outside the house was gradually taking shape inside the family space as well. Stan did not have much of an opinion. As a child in a white middle-class family, he never truly understood the impact of it. The television broadcast the black community’s outrage, which found the space mission unnecessary at a time when people in America were struggling financially.
The film takes us on a ride, as Stan is chosen for a secret NASA mission named Apollo 10 1/2. He was the first child to walk on the moon, even before Neil Armstrong, or at least that is how he remembered it.
‘Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood’ Ending Explained: What Was Apollo 10 1/2?
Apollo 10 1/2 was what happened between Apollo 10 and Apollo 11. One morning, when Stan was playing kickball on the ground, he spotted two men wearing black suits. The men were from NASA, and they wanted Stan to join them on their special secret mission. Stan had good grades in science and was great in the fields too. He was perfect for what they were looking for. The spaceship was mistakenly constructed too small, and they wanted to find a suitable candidate to volunteer for this adventure. When Stan agreed to be a part of it, it was nothing short of his dream come true.
With the excuse of summer camp, Stan trained to become a young astronaut ready to launch into space. Even though he threw up the first time, he gradually learned his way to navigate through space and operate the spacecraft. He enjoyed every moment spent with them, and he had a lot of expectations at stake. He could not share the secret with his friends and family; he had to deal with the overwhelming responsibility all by himself. But with the extensive training, he felt confident about himself, he knew what had to be done, and he kept his calm. The day had finally come when Stan was thrust into space. As he watched the Earth from afar, he finally landed on the moon. He exclaimed that the eagle had landed, once the spacecraft hit the ground. He walked on the moon, leaving footprints. He watched the dust rise and settle.
During the launch of Apollo 11, Stan woke up late. He sat in front of the television with the rest of the eager family members to witness history. The only thing is that they did not know that Stan had lived the experience. The family joyfully cheered on the success of the launch. Stan went to Astroworld with his brothers and sisters on the day the spacecraft landed. They enjoyed the rides and were informed about the landing on the moon by other visitors. Everyone had a smile on their faces at the park after hearing the news. The family sat in front of the television in the evening to watch the first man, an American, walk on the moon. The American flag was hoisted, and the proud viewers were overjoyed by the success. Stan was tired, and he fell asleep on the sofa as the historical event unfolded. His father carried him to his room and tucked him into bed. He expressed to his wife how he hoped that Stan would not miss the historical moment. After all, he wanted his son to tell this story to his grandsons. But, the young mind had imagined being a part of it. It had weaved a tale so convincingly! Truly, the walk on the moon was not a single man’s reality but the reality of thousands who worked and prayed for it.
It is nostalgia that makes “Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood” a satisfying watch. The fact that the world cared less about accidents and mishaps is probably why Stan could imagine a world where a child was sent all by himself to space. The 60s were a time when people were hopeful about the future, and the changes technology would bring. The world was evolving faster than one could keep track of, leading to numerous science fiction films and novels trying to imagine the universe and man in the future. At the current time, when we are witnessing catastrophe around us, with hundreds dying as a result of wars and invasions, it is almost ironic to watch people being hopeful after the image of Earth was captured by NASA from space. People believed that war would cease to exist after men witnessed themselves from afar, but we know now that it was nothing but sweet dreaming.
“Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood” is a 2022 Animated Drama film written and directed by Richard Linklater.