May 21, 2019

The “First Man” Problem

“The moon landing was one of the most remarkable moments in human history, and yet First Man – in cinemas on Friday – manages to focuses on its more unremarkable aspects.

Whether it’s Apollo 13, Gravity or, most recently, Matt Damon “science-ing the s*** out of” sticky situations in The Martian, space movies have generally centred on the missions themselves, with the majority of the action taking place in-shuttle. So First Man director Damien Chazelle is right to want to instead focus on something else and spend more time on Earth getting to know the men and women behind the mission. But throughout the film’s 138 minutes, the message I kept receiving was probably not the one Chazelle intended: Neil Armstrong was just a regular guy.

And of course he was. Commanding a daring space mission requires keeping a cool head and making complex calculations. It’s not suited to a classic movie protagonist; there’s no room for mavericks and narcissists here. The film actually spells this out, with Armstrong undergoing psychological analysis – primitive though it was in the 1960s – at Nasa as part of his lengthy job interview.”

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