Richard Linklater is responsible for some of the headiest feature-length cartoons in the recent American cinema, from the theoretical philosophizing of Waking Life to the densely conceptual sci-fi of his Phillip K. Dick adaptation A Scanner Darkly. Those films were both produced using an innovative technique called rotoscoping (by which illustration is overlaid on live-action footage of actors), a method that Linklater will return to for his next film.
He’ll take his animation in a more kid-friendly direction with Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood, the first trailer for which touched down online just this morning. Linklater returns to the nostalgia-rosy 1970s of his own boyhood, previously visited in Dazed and Confused as well as Everybody Wants Some!!, for another look at the off-kilter side of the good ol’ days.
A boy growing up in Linklater’s home state of Texas watches the escalation of the space race through wide eyes, as America scrambles to beat the Rooskies into orbit and shore up the national sense of morale. In this transitional moment — hippies have begun to infiltrate the neighborhood, though it’s sometimes tricky to identify them and trickier to formulate your own opinion on their lifestyle — a pair of G-men (voiced by Linklater’s past collaborators Glen Powell and Jack Black) claiming to be from NASA recruit the elementary-schooler for a once-in-a-lifetime mission.
He’s just the right size to fit in the lunar module the government accidentally designed slightly too small, an indication of the film’s wry sense of humor. (Are you so good at math that you’ve never made a mistake?) While his country watches with bated breath, the boy undergoes a condensed training regimen and gets ready to make his wildest dreams a reality, even if the confidential nature of the risky flight means no one will ever know of his bravery.
Between the cast, the setting, the subject material, and the animation style, this project could not be more squarely in Linklater’s comfort zone. Some have criticized him for a reluctance to challenge himself, but for those of us dialed in to his specific frequency, there’s no complaints about more of the same. He’s the only guy dishing it up, after all.
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood comes to Netflix in the UK and US on 1 April.
Published 7 Mar 2022