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Movie Review – First Man

November 11, 2018

FirstManI saw this movie a couple of weeks ago and am just now getting around to blogging about it. For those not in the know, First Man is basically the story of Neil Armstrong and the circumstances leading up to his historic landing on the Moon.

The Good
It’s about the Gemini and Apollo programs, what’s not to like!? As a history buff and a fan of NASA I tend to love this stuff. Ryan Gosling portrays Armstrong and does a really good job, imo.

The Bad
Not really a knock on the movie but more of a personal preference, I would have liked more space program, less focus on his family/civilian life. Others might feel differently.

The Ugly
So, about half way through the movie I start feeling nauseous. I’m thinking I’m coming down with something then realize that the movie is actually making me motion sick! The director Damien Chazelle made some interesting choices. He shows Armstrong’s Gemini launch from the perspective of the guys in the capsule, you never actually see the rocket – I actually thought it was pretty cool. But part of experiencing the launch was mimicking the shaking of the rocket. That’s when I think I started getting motion sick. Later, the capsule Armstrong is in starts rolling out of control – an actual incident that almost kills him and his crew mate – this is also shown from the astronauts’ perspective. Yeah, that didn’t help either. There’s a lot of ‘shaky jerky’ camera movement in the movie, including times when I didn’t think it was necessary. I do have issues with motion sickness, but damn!

Political BS
First Man is about American History and the Apollo space program so; of course, it becomes another flash point in the ongoing-never ending Culture War. Because why not?

From the Right, the complaint is that the movie does not show Armstrong planting the American flag, because of that it is somehow anti-American. I find the complaint absurd. The American flag is all over the movie including a scene where Armstrong’s son unfurls the flag on his front porch while his dad is on his Gemini flight. They do show the American flag on the moon at one point. The movie is in no way anti-American. It drives me crazy that people complained about this without actually seeing the movie.

From the Left, we’ve got the usual complaint that the movie is too focused on a bunch of white guys and that there are no faces of color. I find the complaint absurd. The movie is a historical look at the US space program in the 1960s through the eyes of the astronauts. They were all white, all male – their colleagues at NASA overwhelmingly the same. It wasn’t right, but that’s the way it was. What was Chazelle supposed to do, make Buzz Aldrin African-American?

When I left the theater, I’d have given the movie a 6 or 7 out of 10, mostly because I was expecting the Right Stuff and that’s not what I got. The movie has stuck with me though. I wasn’t sure about some of Chazelle’s directing decisions but I’ve decided I like his style.  I’d give it an 8 out of 10. Even with the ‘shaky jerky’ camera movement, I liked it a lot.

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