First Man

Eric Berger liked the movie.

[Afternoon update]
Thoughts from Marina Koren. Despite Gosling’s stupid statement, “it’s not an unpatriotic movie.”

[Late-afternoon update]
Here is Alan Boyle’s review.

[Saturday-morning update]

For those saying they’ll watch it at home, I rarely go to the theater, but this is the sort of film that deserves a big screen.

[Friday-afternoon update]

John Podhoretz hated it.

31 thoughts on “First Man”

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing it tomorrow. I’m taking a couple of my older kids. Everything I’ve heard says it’s a pretty good depiction of Neil Armstrong, which is what I hope it turns out to be. Good actors, good director; we’ll see.

  2. Despite Gosling’s stupid statement, “it’s not an unpatriotic movie.”

    I have a policy of not rewarding this type of behavior. I’ll watch it on netflix.

      1. The problem is that all of Hollywood from the execs and directors to the writers and actors have declared war on their audiences. This one actor, who I happen to like, and this one movie are part of a larger picture.

        I used to not care about the views of actors, singers, and artists. Then they made me care.

        1. On the plus side, actors are about the last thing left for Hollywood to replace with computers. In 10-20 years, people will think it’s quaint when they see a human playing a part in a movie.

  3. Meh, I’m pretty ambivalent about it. Will probably wait for the DVD and add it to the Lunar Library. Not that I have any interest in the whole patriotic flag waving nonsense, but rather I find I’m suffering from deep Apollo fatigue.

  4. My father worked with Armstrong on VTOL techniques, using the X-14, then based at NASA Ames in Mountain View CA. They had previously worked together on carrier quals for the Crusader.

    (As my father told the story:) During one session at Half Moon Bay airport, they couldn’t get the engines restarted after a landing. The support team called Ames to have some parts flown over. Supposedly my father asked Armstrong, “So, if this happens on the Moon, what are you going to do?”. He had a mean sense of humor, and said he thought Armstrong was a bit of a bastard. But, they were both from the Navy aviation tradition (Dad was a Marine, Neil was Navy) and there may have been a little interservice rivalry.

    1. Thanks for that vignette. They painted Aldrin pretty poorly in the movie. I suppose all those fighter jocks had to be self-regarding jerks. How else could they have the confidence to do what they did? I get so tired of our modern judgmental society that seeks to penalize those who achieve.

    1. I’m glad the movie went into that. It didn’t judge, it just presented some protests. I found the recital of “Whitey on the Moon” very enlightening. For those who are unaware of this poem from Gil Scott-Heron, here is the first stanza:

      “A rat done bit my sister Nell
      With whitey on the moon
      Her face and arms began to swell
      And whitey’s on the moon
      I can’t pay no doctor bills
      But whitey’s on the moon
      Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still
      While whitey’s on the moon.”

      It’s sad that such a false dilemma holds sway with so many. The idea that forgoing the Moon shots would have provided more doctors to treat rat bites is economically illiterate. There simply aren’t enough people who could be trained to be competent doctors. What you’ve got to do in such a situation is multiply the reach of those who can, and that requires gains in productivity that can only be achieved by advancing technological frontiers.

      If we allow our society to be held back, in a futile attempt to throw mere dollars (but no actual resources) at curing all the ills of society, we will never advance to the point where productivity gains allow us to address those ills.

      1. It’s sad that such a false dilemma holds sway with so many. The idea that forgoing the Moon shots would have provided more doctors to treat rat bites is economically illiterate.

        But is it really? It isn’t an economic argument, it is an ideological one. The dilemma is very real when it comes to deciding how to split up the taxpayer’s money and there are only about 320 million ideological opinions on the best way to do it. We can delve into the merits of the view, and that is fun to do, but it is essentially an ideological argument.

        What you’ve got to do in such a situation is multiply the reach of those who can, and that requires gains in productivity that can only be achieved by advancing technological frontiers.

        The government can play a role. I’m not sure if NASA has played a good one in total, but perhaps the best that could be hoped for? What really drives society forward isn’t government but individuals perusing what they think is important. The cycle of discovery and cross pollination is the heart of free enterprise and free people.

        The challenge is in persuading the impersuadable when it comes to spending taxpayer money or in persuading people to let free people do what they want with their own money. There are always those whose minds wont be changed or whose interests will diverge but I think the second option is the most desirable and the easiest to persuade people of different opinions to support.

        Unfortunately, when it comes to trying to cure societies’ ills, people have a mental block that prevents them from accepting that the future is uncertain, that the universe is a brutal place, and that improvements take time, sometimes more than a lifetime.

        Our country is at a critical inflection point. Free enterprise is rising up to take on the challenges of space due in large part to the success of non-space related industries. NASA has helped and hindered this. Looking forward there is much to be hopeful about but it also a little worrying that new entrants appear to be getting entrapped in the government sphere and traditional contractors are subverting the “new” system to retain control.

    1. Since we weren’t asking for anything, I think you just did. Even if you don’t think you did.

      I still enjoyed my weekend in Dover, UK. Some people go to opening weekends at the movie; others do other things. Thanks for thinking of me as an other!

      Like wodun, I hope you enjoy watching a movie.

  5. Saw the movie last night on an IMAX screen. Theater was nowhere near full.
    Overall, I liked it. Technically, they got a lot right. There were a few mistakes, but not nearly as off-putting to me as “The Right Stuff”
    On the way home my wife commented, and I have to agree, that they never give you a reason to understand why Armstrong was given the Apollo 11 mission. You see Gemini 8, the Apollo 1 fire, and Armstrong ejecting from the LLRV. Next thing you know he’s got the prime crew for the first landing. They could have had Slayton or Gilruth say something like “He’s the best we’ve got, he’ll get the LM down to the surface.” Instead you just got Armstrong’s blank looks to just about everything.

    1. Sounds like the movie showed, rather than told, you why Armstrong got the nod. He saved situations other men would likely not have. That’s also why Buzz Aldrin was on that mission.

      1. I agree, but you don’t have to guess. In the book “Moon Shot” Slayton specifically mentions Armstrong’s actions during Gemini 8 as one of the factors in the call. Movies are visual media however, where actions speak louder than words as the clique goes…

        1. No question, but for the casual viewer, it seems to me that the way the post-incident investigation was framed in the movie, there were doubts about Armstrong’s actions. I’m sure there were, but some explicit recognition of Armstrong’s piloting skills and decision making might make it more clear. I know the history, so I’m just projecting what I think others who don’t might think.

          1. “the way the post-incident investigation was framed in the movie, there were doubts about Armstrong’s actions. I’m sure there were, but some explicit recognition of Armstrong’s piloting skills and decision making might make it more clear.”

            I agree. They painted him as questionable. Some people right at the start wanted him off the X-15, he was exonerated for Gemini 8 and then there was the LRRV ejection.

            If you weren’t paying attention you’d think this guy was snakebit. They should have made it more clear that they picked him BECAUSE of the way he handled those things.

      1. There is that too, but most purchased digital movies are cross platform now. With YouTube, you can watch them in VR with better than HD resolution, and make the relative screen size pretty much whatever you want.

        I think on the future, we might get more 360 content, which would make for really spectacular movies.

  6. Just saw it on IMAX. I felt the movie was an accurate portrayal of what I’d read and heard over the years of what Neil Armstrong was like. The methodical, level headed Engineer was spot on in my opinion and how his demeanor affected his personal and professional life. The IMAX screen and sound system really helped to make the action sequences feel more real. The next step would be to see it in a centrifuge I think.

    1. Yes, it fit the description I have read about his taciturn nature, but it seemed to me it went a little too far. He was almost robotic. It kind of felt as though I were watching an extended cut of Blade Runner 2049. It felt a lot like that movie – a bunch of disjointed scenes that didn’t really weave a cohesive narrative.

      The Aldrin character – I’ve also read he could be considered a bit abrasive. But, his character in the movie seemed as much overly smarmy as Armstrong’s character was robotic.

      The flag was there in many shots, and there was no doubt it was an American endeavor. So, they didn’t show the actual planting of it. It wasn’t a big deal in my judgment. The Moon shots were still spectacular, and I teared up when he put his boot down on the surface.

      Overall, I’d rate it a must-see if you are interested in space in general, and the greatest achievement of humankind to date IMO.

  7. Earlier I mentioned the book Moon Shot and in going back over it I had forgotten the Intro was written by one N. Armstrong. The final two paragraphs of that intro seem an apropos quote for this thread…


    Luna is once again isolated. Four decades have passed without footfalls on its dusty surface. No wheeled Rovers patrol the lunar highlands. Silent ramparts guard vast territories never yet visited by man. Unseen vistas await the return of explorers from Earth.

    And they will return.
    -Neil Armstrong

  8. Saw the movie last night. I had low expectations so I wasn’t hugely disappointed.

    I didn’t see anything wrong with the flag on the moon thing: they showed it twice.

    But it was a BORING movie.

    Now of course I knew what was goign to happen but I also knew what was going to happen in the movie Apollo 13 and I liked that movie.

    They cut to Ryan Gosling’s eyes FAR FAR too much. I got no sense of “methodical engineer and/or pilot”. All I got was a non-communicative wuss.

    As someone (Bart?) said above, they painted Aldrin as a jackass and I don’t know if that was accurate.

    Also for people who are not space geeks the movie was confusing. I went with two ladies and there was a LOT they didn’t understand. First off the opening didn’t give them any sense that NA was in an X-15 being dropped from a bomber.

    One asked, after the movie, “If they just about ran out of fuel landing on the moon, where did they get the fuel to take off again?”

    …which is a very fair question if you aren’t a space geek (like myself).

    In my opinion, The Right Stuff movie was better ( as flawed as that one was) and Apollo 13 was much better. The theater was empty.

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