I’m a bit late to the party, but I watched “First Man” a couple of nights ago. The Ryan Gosling-led movie about the Moon landing, directed by Damien Chazelle is a good, well-made movie with great visual and sound effects, but that falls short on the emotional side, even though it aims to do just that.
There were definitely some strong points that I enjoyed about this movie. The first one was the sound effects; they stood out to me from the beginning and I think they did an amazing job of describing the actual setting and feeling of space flights. All that creaking and rattling made me realize that the technology back then was horrible and probably unsafe; I am grateful for what we have today and can be done in the following years.
Another thing I enjoyed was seeing the backstage struggles and challenges of the whole operation: from Soviet competition, to malfunctions, to Government and public pressure. For me, that gave a lot of context and motivation to the storyline.
The main problem I had with “First Man” had to do with the characters. All of them, especially Neil Armstrong. I don’t know if the astronaut was actually this way in real life or if this was just a script thing, but the main character was much too reserved and closed off to empathize with. Although the story tried to do that by highlighting his young daughter’s death, it somehow did not work. This tragic moment did not make me connect with him. Hell, I connected more with Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler’s characters then I did with Gosling. And I think that is a problem. Claire Foy was fine, but added nothing major to the development of the story or its characters.
The ending gave me the feeling that the family and daughter’s death plot was just an emotional plot detail added by the scriptwriter to make the character more human and the story more relatable. I understand why he did, because making a movie just to show the science behind the Moon landing would be boring. But somehow it didn’t work in “First Man”- it felt too obvious, and because of the character’s reserved nature, I ended up not caring that much about it or him.
In conclusion, I would describe “First Man” as an interesting movie about the Moon landing and the man behind it, but one that I will probably forget about it in one week.