First Man is a film based on Neil Armstrong and that was a pretty big event so I suppose it’s about time we got the really big budget film adaption. It’s a solid movie although they make Neil Armstrong look incredibly unlikable here. I have to assume he was like this in real life or there would have been a ton of buzz from family and friends about how they did him a disservice. Either way the film makes it very hard to root for him at any point in the movie.
The movie starts with Neil crashing yet again so his superiors think that he just isn’t in a good headspace to be a pilot for a while. He’s temporarily grounded and unfortunately his daughter ends up dying so now he’s quite depressed. He ends up taking a job with NASA for project Gemini where they will be using some cutting edge tech to try and get to the Moon. It’ll be a difficult journey though with a lot of setbacks and deaths to get in the way. Can Neil pull through?
Of course since you know the events you know how the film has to end. It’s pretty straight forward in that respect but it’s fair to say that you won’t know all of the events here unless you really studied his life in the past. The effects are definitely really solid so you should appreciate seeing the space view from the ship and even the inner workings of the machine. At times it can try being a little too life like so the screen goes totally dark or totally light which makes it hard to see but otherwise it all tends to look very fancy.
During the film we also see how a lot of people are skeptical about Nasa’s mission and think they shouldn’t be wasting money to go on these space trips. How will going to the Moon enhance life on Earth? Well, Neil’s answer is that in space you can see the bigger picture and it’s something people should see. I thought this was a bit on the weak side. Personally while this may be a hot take, I do think exploring space is a waste of time at the moment. It is extremely expensive as the film shows and all that money could absolutely be spent on better things. Building more and more space ships like this just isn’t helping out much. It’s not like in a sci-fi film where we find some super metals in space that can help us out here. None of that tends to happen.
Sure, we learn about planets and space, but it’s hard to say how much of a tangible effect that has on quality of life. I would certainly say it has less effect than if you put that into some good Earth projects straight up. You don’t see many people talking about space nowadays so it’s hard to say what the general sentiments there are, but I still hold the same position. I know we’re getting close to trips to Mars and other places but it all just seems like a waste of time. Now if private companies want to do it, no problem. When it comes from the government’s funds though then that’s a different issue.
As an aside, there was a whole lot of discussion when the film was coming out about the U.S. flag scene not appearing here. I’m not sure how much I would have noticed it otherwise though. While it was an iconic moment in all Neil Armstrong stories, the ending all goes by rather quickly. Knowing this in advance though, I do think it should have been included. That’s just a staple of the event and even titles like Justice League and many other popular culture moments always make sure to keep that in. It’s impressive to see the flag up there on the Moon and a good proof that the U.S. made it first after Russia had the edge for most of the film.
So the drama is solid and the film has good writing. There’s always a lot happening here with other pilots being knocked down in droves. It shows how much sacrifice went into this and how Neil grew tired of the funerals. He had a difficult time adjusting to loss and it gradually made him drift more and more from his family. The movie never portrays him in a sympathetic light there which is good but it also made it difficult to have him as a main character. I just didn’t like the guy at all and nearly all of his scenes make him feel like a bad character.
He could have done the bare minimum to make his family happy and didn’t even do that. His wife Janet did the best that she could in the meantime. It was still a pretty tough journey for her though since she would have to make excuses for him and raise the kids on her own. By the end she does put her foot down and force him to talk to the kids which wasn’t easy. Neil’s friends also do their best to try and talk to him but it never really works.
Overall, First Man is a good adaption of the events. All in all, I probably could have done without a lot of the human drama though. Cut that stuff out and just focus on the actual flying and building of the ships. If this made the film too short then I feel like you could extend that by showing more scenes of Congress debating if this was actually worth pursuing after the first ship blew up and burned those 3 people alive. You could certainly have quite a few scenes about that and it would easily help pad out the runtime by the end while still feeling natural. I’d certainly be very interested to see how that goes at least. Either way, if you want a film about Neil Armstrong’s life, you’ll be hard pressed to find one more detailed than this film.