Skip to comments."First Man" Impressions (VANITY)
Posted on 10/13/2018 6:49:16 PM PDT by Future Snake Eater
So I took the family to see "First Man" today. The movie took a lot of heat from virtue-signaling types, but I suspected the criticisms were unfounded. I was nearly totally correct. Like, 98%.
First of all, I'm not super well-read on the space program as compared to some uber-nerds who I'm sure populate this forum who could run rings around me in general knowledge regarding this era of our history. I have, however, been interested in the space program for a long time and even got to meet Alan Shepard at a book signing at the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL, once. I've seen all the key films and documentaries, and I (read?) the audio book "Rocket Men" which was quite exhaustive in its content and research. Now that my bona fides (or lack thereof) are established...
Ryan Gosling is great. When I saw he was cast as Neil Armstrong in the first trailer for this film, I thought that was some fantastic casting. He's nearly always quiet, stoic, and thoughtful in his roles which fits everything I've read about Armstrong. I don't know anything about the real Janet Armstrong, but Claire Foy did a fine job playing his supportive-but-perpetually-worried wife. While he's not in many scenes, Corey Stoll (Marvel fans will recognize him as the bad guy in the first "Ant-Man") plays Buzz Aldrin as a bit of a loudmouth who rubs people around him the wrong way, which, again, based on what I've read, seems to fit well. The other most recurring role outside the Armstrong clan is their friend, neighbor, and fellow astronaut Ed White played by Jason Clarke who is very good in that role, too, if a bit generic in his "overall good guy" portrayal, but I'm sure the real Ed White was a good dude.
The film is heavily reliant on sound. That's not to say it doesn't look fantastic, because it does. There's an added film grain look that almost makes it look like a new-ish 1960s film. But the sound punishes you. That doesn't mean it's overly loud, it just uses sound a lot to put us right there. As Armstrong streaks through the stratosphere in his X-15 in the opening scene of the film, the shaking and rattling of the aircraft combined with Armstrong's rapid breathing elevates the heart rate. When the Gemini 8 rocket lifts off and we're strapped into the tight capsule with Armstrong and Scott, the harsh creaking and slamming and whining of their spacecraft as it roars off the launchpad puts us in a spot we've never really been in any other film. These guys are just there for the ride until they hit orbit and it feels like a very, very dangerous trip. The close-ups of the rivets holding the panels together were especially effective shots communicating to us just how rickety these things are given the stresses they're supposed to endure.
The tone of the film, in juxtaposition to the intense sound and beautiful shots, is quiet, sad, almost funereal. Armstrong's daughter Karen died of cancer at a very young age. Numerous friends of his die though the course of the space program. Each loss impacts the stoic Armstrong by further driving him to stoicism. My wife commented that he would be a very difficult man to live with, and, indeed, Neil and Janet Armstrong divorced in 1994 after 38 years of marriage. You can see the seeds of that sad end in this film.
Now on to the political side of it all.
There is something of a montage scene after the Apollo 1 fire. Some hippies outside the Cape Canaveral facility doing a bongo circle poetry slam with this black guy lamenting in prose how he don't got nuffin but "whitey is on the moon." There are contemporary interviews of young Baby Boomers whining that space program money could be spent to solve all of our society's ills instead of being wasted on exploration. My favorite is the bongo circle types brandishing signs with pictures/names of the dead astronauts, asking if the sacrifice is worth it--like people like that give a damn about dead people and definitely aren't using their bodies to try to advance their political ideals. Perish the thought. Post-Apollo 11, there is montage footage of the celebrations around the country (I'm a little spotty on this scene since that's when I had to take my son to the bathroom). As I walked out of the theater, I heard a French woman proclaiming how she knew the Americans would do it because they don't fail. Overall, I though the movie showed both sides fairly dispassionately, but the latter set of scenes was clearly more exciting b/c real people really cared about the achievement. During the poetry slam scene, all I could think was "Who here knows who this guy is? Who here knows who Neil Armstrong is?" Case closed as far as I'm concerned.
Finally, the moon landing itself. Great scene, meticulously accurate. When they finally open up the LEM, the camera looks down through the hatch and the effect of that shot makes the moon feel like a completely alien place these guys are about to set foot on. It's a feeling I've never felt before in any other film/show/documentary. There is something of a montage scene as Armstrong and Aldrin do their thing, but the overall scene is played from a very personal perspective with respect to Armstrong. Could the filmmakers have worked them putting up the flag in a quick cut as part of the montage? Yes, I think so. Would it have detracted from the film? No, I don't think so. Do I think the film is an insult to patriotic Americans and ruined as a result? Hell no.
Overall, I really enjoyed it. It went the opposite direction of the NASA press release side a la "The Right Stuff." This was far more personal and felt realistic. These weren't invincible Supermen doing the impossible with a smile and a wink. These were human beings fully committed to doing an extremely dangerous job, and they paid a personal price for it.
Bottom Line: ignore the virtue-signalers. This is a great film and well worth your time.
At least they have flags on their spacesuits.
Except for a hardware delay, Pete Conrad would have been the first man on the Moon.
I think Armstrong was the perfect man for the job. It’s funny how those things turn out.
That is all well and good except that they actually admitted to purposely leaving it out. They did not want it to focus on America accomplishing this great feat. So, no thanks, I will not be seeing it.
Thank you for that well-written review! Kudos!
Interesting about the sound. Might make it worth experiencing in a theater.
So why leave it out then? They are looking to be historically accurate, right? I can't stand PC crap.
“There are contemporary interviews of young Baby Boomers whining that space program money could be spent to solve all of our society’s ills instead of being wasted on exploration.”
I was 18 at the Moon landing so I remember it well. The film makers must have looked long and hard to find someone saying that because I never, ever heard anyone whining about the Moon landing. It easily could have been staged by the news crew at the time considering the liberal dominance of the news even then.
I was driving across the South one night in July 1969 and I stopped at a gas station in Cajun country. I went into the office to pay for my gas and when I glanced at the black and white TV they had there I saw an astronaut standing on the Moon.
When they landed on the moon, I thought for sure that by the year 2000 we would be on Mars.
Instead politicians convinced everyone, or at least themselves, that all that money would be better spent on earth, and they killed the space program. So 50 years later we cant even get back to the moon, a mere three days from home. We still have poor people, we still have highways with potholes, the decision to remain earthbound has in my opinion been a stupefyingly stupid mistake.
I know about the space program because my auntie was a rocket scientist....NACA and NASA. She inspired me to change majors
It’s not historically inaccurate. It’s just not historically complete. There are other aspects of Armstrong’s life and career they skipped over, too. And you see the flag out there in other shots anyway.
I appreciate the review. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie in the theater in over 20 years, but I might go to see this one.
The “whitey on the moon crap” pissed me off. Eff the gibmedats.
Gotta see it bow!
Gotta see it now!
The moon landings were not "human achievements"...they were AMERICAN achievements.
Not watching, ever.
No excuse-hope they lose money.Gosling is not an American and has a smart mouth for money.
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