Wednesday 24 October 2018

Film Review "First Man"

(Contains minor spoilers)

At the weekend I saw the film "First Man" in the cinema and I didn't really like it. It's about Neil Armstrong and the first moon landing. I wasn't transported into the story, in fact I found it so uninvolving that I was able to be annoyed by things like the set dressing and the camera work. A huge amount of the film is shot on shaky "Blair Witch" handheld cameras and most of the frame is often obscured. We get, for example, a tiny view out of a window in a dark cockpit. Fine, perhaps that's to convey the feeling of claustrophobia, but they do the same trick to watch children playing in a swimming pool, most of the lens is obscured by the water and we can only see a ribbon at the top of the screen.

I think the domestic sets were brilliant, but to be fair I've never been in a 60s American living room. I'm a spaceflight enthusiast and this film definitely wasn't made for me. The space capsules and rockets were accurate, but for some strange reason they'd made them all look old, dirty and rusty. The 50 year old ones that I've seen in a museum were cleaner and nicer than the ones in the film that were supposed to have just been built. The flames coming out the back of the first stage of a Saturn V rocket were the wrong colour and the wrong shape at high altitude.

Lots of technical bits of the story that I'd have liked to see were omitted in favour of mawkish emo indulgence. It was made as an emotional story about the man and his family. I'm bad at picking up these things so it seemed boring and straightforward: He was upset when his daughter died, he was nervous and stoic about going to the moon, he was glad to see his wife again afterwards. The climactic scene was about him having to admit to his children that he might not come home from the moon mission. To me this didn't ring true. He was working as a test pilot and his colleagues were dying by the week. I think everyone involved must have come to terms long ago with the fact that me might well come home from work dead.

Richard "Barry Norman" B


  1. I agree, it was long and boring and was neither a good historic review of the early 60's space race or an emotional drama that explored Neil Armstrong the man.
    "The Right Stuff" was better at both and was also entertaining and humorous.

    However, my trip to the cinema was worth it for what happened after the film:

    As we were leaving a guy from the audience approached us and said "I had to step out and missed the last few minutes, what happened?" I thought he was joking because I cannot think of another historical event from the 20th century that nearly everyone in the world is aware of (Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon), So I sarcastically replied "They didn't make it, he didn't get to the moon". His faced dropped and from his shocked appearance I could tell he thought I was serious, at which point my wife said "No, He did get to the moon and got home safely"

    1. I'm with you both on it, I said to someone at work today that it wasn't "The Right Stuff". I'll say one thing in its favor, it does throw some light on the reasons why he was so private after the landings. Although who would have thought they'd have to put up with the landing deniers; Buzz deals with them rather well, see

  2. I re-watched "The Right Stuff" this week. Thoroughly enjoyed it. It's great. The only tiny problem I had with it is that the young Jeff Goldblum is a bit annoying.