How Close to First Man is Armstrong’s Real Story?

Hi. My name is Neil Armstrong, and that’s all you’re going to know about me.

First Man is a surprising film. It’s surprisingly devoid of excitement, I mean. Instead of a rousing tale of man’s journey to the moon, it focuses narrowly on life through the eyes of the taciturn and insular Neil Armstrong.

He’s a strange choice to be awarded the honor of the first person to set foot on another world. Buzz Aldrin was right behind him, but I guess being the second  man lacks cache. Even in Apollo 13, Jim Lovell and crew joke around, saying, “Armstrong? Really?”

Laying aside the fact that this man is very personal, I’d have thought he would have gone home and met with colleges, children, UN Summits, or otherwise directed his limelight to the service of NASA’s educational promotion. Nope. Not his gig.

This is a man that after an entire bladder-busting 2 & 1/2 hour movie, remains a cipher to the audience. Clearly, the had the Right Stuff to be a test pilot and astronaut, but had the personality of a Stoic.  And, well, the movie reflects this. Who was Armstrong? Did he even care about his wife…or the moon, even? All I can tell is he deeply loved his daughter, who sadly died as a toddler from brain cancer.

First Man spoilers ahead!

If you’ve seen the film, you’re probably wondering about Karen’s baby bracelet. Did he leave it on the moon? Is it still there, a testament to loving and grieving and family? It’s been a topic of some speculation. It’s known Armstrong deviated a bit from his walk plan, and stood over the Little West Crater for a few minutes. The movie chooses to show him definitively tossing the precious bracelet into the crater. If he did this, I hope he was able to excoriate some of his demons and find a measure of personal peace. Because, well, walking on the FREAKING moon seemed, to him, a casual matter. Compare his still introspection on the Sea of Tranquility, versus Aldrin hopping joyfully along the surface. Sometimes I think singularly amazing moments are wasted on some people.  I don’t dislike Armstrong, but have to still wonder, like Lovell and crew:  WHY HIM?

So. Does First Man hew closely to what we do know of Armstrong’s life and vision? This excellent article from History Vs Hollywood covers the issue in a very readable fashion — no need for me to repeat it here.

Suffice to say the director kept the biography as rigorously accurate as possible. We can feel the authenticity and sincerity bursting through the film. The science was spot on, but the characterizations of the astronauts were a bit one-sided (ie — how Armstrong saw them), making for a possibly unreliable narrator. For example, Aldrin comes across as a somewhat offensive jerk in the film. Was he really? I imagine these things are in the eye of the beholder.

But back to the bracelet commentary — James Hanson, author of Armstrong’s autobiography First Man, reports that after many hours of personally interviewing him, he’s sure Armstrong left something behind.  He never said what, or admitted to it, but it’s known he did report his personal manifest list as missing to NASA. Then, he later donated his manifest to Purdue University, so it wasn’t so missing after all. There’s a lineage for astronauts leaving things behind. According to this article:

“For instance, Charlie Duke, who in 1972 became the tenth person to walk on the moon, left a photo of his family there, according to Singer. Buzz Aldrin brought a pouch that belonged to the Apollo 1 astronauts as a memorial to them.”

Armstrong’s manifest will be sealed until 2020, so we don’t have too long to know if Karen’s bracelet was on the list. His family hopes and believes he did leave that memento behind. We’ll see. It seems like a logical choice to me. But it did make for a nice bookmark to the movie, either way.

Last thoughts for First Man: It doesn’t feel like a prequel to the (IMO) far superior Apollo 13 at all: keep in mind it’s NOT an adventure film. There are exciting moments for sure, but most of the runtime is silent and clouded with grief. I did enjoy the space scenes, what we got of them. But we also had to endure a lot of sorrow, silence, and unpleasantness between the space action. That might have highlighted the power of the rocket scenes, which were undeniably cool. I wish the movie had more of that powerful imagery.

Should you see First Man in the theater? I saw it in IMAX, which made the rocket scenes rumble, and the quiet scenes more tense. If you’re a real fan of NASA and the space program, it’s a must-see,  just to experience it properly. For everyone else, wait for the DVD.

 

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)

Where’s the American Flag in First Man?

Much ado has been made about the omission of the moment when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin planted the American flag on the moon in the movie First Man. So what’s the deal?

Here’s what the director had to say about this decision:

“It surprised me because there are so many things that we weren’t able to focus on not only during the lunar EVA but in the entirety of Apollo 11. Just by the nature of the story we were telling, we just couldn’t go into every detail. So our through-line became, especially at this part of the movie where it’s the final emotional journey for Neil, what were the private, unknown moments of Neil on the moon? The flag was not a private, unknown moment for Neil. It’s a very famous moment and it wasn’t Neil alone. We included the famous descent down the ladder because that’s him alone, literally first feeling what it’s like to be on the moon. But other than that, we only wanted to focus on the unfamous stuff on the moon. So we don’t go into the phone call with Nixon, we don’t go into the scientific experiments, we don’t go into reentry.”

Regardless of how you feel about the exclusion of this scene, there are numerous people who (at least pretend) to care deeply about it. So much so, they told blatant lies that would be clear to anyone who’s even seen the movie trailer. It’s been said the American flag is deliberately never shown — this is false.

Here are three images (below) showing the American flag in a 2 1/2 minute First Man trailer. The movie is 2 hours and 21 minutes long, so they’re on pace to show the flag 169.2 times! (I’m sure it will be much less because, as they say: sample size matters.)

First Man Flag

First Man Flag

First Man Flag

First Man‘s Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle is known for stories of intense personal sacrifice in the struggle to achieve, like La La Land and Whiplash. The title First Man really sums up what this movie is about: an individual struggling against his fears, technology, physical limitations, and most of all, gravity.

Chazelle added:

“In First Man I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon. To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is, “No.” My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon. Particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours.”

Armstrong’s sons, Rick and Mark, wrote in a statement:

“This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement for all mankind, (emphasis added) as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz left on the moon. It is a story about an ordinary man who makes profound sacrifices and suffers through intense loss in order to achieve the impossible,”

Conclusion
There are those who think that everyone who disagrees with their perspective on patriotism has some agenda, or is behind some conspiracy to corrupt, what they feel, is the only true expression of patriotism. But, sometimes these decisions are based on artistic expression, or as is more often the case, didn’t notice that there was anything patriotic there in the first place.

Read Next: Where’s the Flag? Opinion, by polyGeek

Movie Review – First Man

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Movie Review – Interstellar

Movie Review - InterstellarMy one word review would be: disappointed.

I think Christopher Nolan tried too hard to make a modern day 2001 A Space Odyssey. The ships looked much like 2001. There were long, drawn out scenes of docking. The robot TARS simultaneously pays homage to HAL and the monolith. And of course the visuals throughout the movie echo back to 2001.

The best thing I can say about the movie is the acting is top notch. Matthew McConaughey was excellent, and I thought Mackenzie Foy, the young daughter, was fantastic in every scene.

I have a big problem with Anne Hathaway’s role. Her acting was, as usual, superb, but her role was completely wasted on her talents. For such a long movie, there was surprisingly little time devoted to giving her character, Amelia, any meat. Amelia was either giving technical dialog, devoid of emotion, or frantically reacting to something. There wasn’t any time for play and bonding between the characters.

I’m tempted to give this movie a much worse rating, but the acting pulls it out of the gutter.

One more thing: stop playing blaringly loud music over dialog. There were numerous times I had no idea what the actors were saying. It was distracting all the way through the movie.

Grade: C+

Upon further review..
It’s been a few years since I posted the original review, and I’ve seen it a few more times since then. I still don’t love the movie, but I’ve warmed up to it a little. I’d bump the grade up to a solid B, maybe even B+. It is, for me, an easy movie to rewatch because it’s so beautifully filmed, and the music is outstanding, even though my original observation that the music plays too loudly over the dialog still holds.

About The Peetimes: I would recommend that you use the 1st Peetime. #1 is a perfect Peetime. There’s no character development, action, or plot development. #2 has some dramatic scenes, but they are easy to sum up. #3 has one long tension building scene but you’ll be back before it reaches the climax..

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Interstellar. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Movie Review – The Martian

Movie Review - The MartianMatt Damon is at the top of his game. It’s an enormous challenge to ask an actor to spend so much of the movie acting in a vacuum (no pun intended), with few opportunities to interact with other characters. Matt’s charm and charisma make every scene he’s in shine.

Some critics commented that this movie is “One big promotional campaign for NASA.” (Like that’s a bad thing.) You won’t just be entertained; you’ll be educated. And by all means, take your adolescent kids to see it. They’ll certainly learn something, and hopefully be inspired to come home and do more research on the various topics covered in the movie.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: My focus was to have Peetimes with as few scenes as possible with Watney (Matt Damon) in them. The scenes that Watney are in are mostly montages, with little or no dialog. #1 A good Peetime. There’s an important story development, but it mostly involves long stretches of Watney driving and digging. #2 You should leave as soon as the above line is spoken. Nothing else important is said during their conversation. A new character is introduced right at the end of this Peetime. #3 A good Peetime with little dialogue to miss. This is mostly a process scene that leads into an increase in tension. #4 There’s no dialog during this Peetime, but it’s also only 3 minutes long, and important action happens shortly afterward.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Martian. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray

Christene Johnson (RunPee Sis)

RunPee.com owes RunPee Sis a huge debt of gratitude. She sees any movie needed with no complaints and has done so for ten years (even basing Thanksgiving and Christmas family festivities around the seeing films). In 2015 Sis ran the entire RunPee enterprise herself, while RunPee Dan, Jilly and Mom went traipsing off to Europe. Sis is the spider in the web holding the RunPee family together — besides being a funny, well rounded person, and a joyous pleasure to be around. Her favorite films start and end with horror (which thank goodness she’s happy to see, since most of us don’t have the stomach for it) — but also likes silly comedies, sad dramas, and musicals of all types. If you’ve used a Peetime for a scary film, you probably have RunPee Sis to thank for it.

Favorite movie genre: Horror, horror, and more horror. The more disturbing, the better. Period.

Bio

Movie Review – Gravity

Movie Review - GravityI enjoyed Gravity, but didn’t love it. I’m not going to grade the movie on its scientific accuracy because if I did, it would get a D, at best. Instead I’ll only consider the story aspects.

My biggest beef with Gravity is the character development. The movie is only 90 minutes long, which doesn’t leave enough time for both action scenes and character development. The struggles and challenges that Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) goes through leads to the character breaking down. But we don’t know anything about her inner turmoil until after the fact. I think if they had made the movie another 30 minutes longer, and included something of Ryan’s past, then the audience could have felt the emotional experience as well.

Basically, the movie was in 3D but the emotional content was in 1D.

That said, the 3D excitement was riveting, and certainly worth seeing.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of scientific inaccuracies. Instead of reviewing that myself, I’ll just give you a link to a good overview of some of the things they got wrong in the movie. Most of these can be forgiven, because the story needed to assume certain things in order for it to work.

Note: the article below is full of spoilers.

http://science.time.com/2013/10/01/what-gravity-gets-right-and-wrong-about-space/

RunPee Wife was less than impressed with the movie. Jilly’s review would read something like this: Sandra Bullock breathes heavy; there are lots of electronic buzzing and dinging noises. Things blow up in space. Nothing else happens. The end.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: There’s not a lot of downtime in this movie. RunPee Wife agrees that the Peetime I found is about as good as it’s going to get...

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Gravity. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.