Reaching to the stars, traveling through the final frontier, and making contact with the unknown is what the science fiction authors are all about. To think that the dream was realized years ago is a feat many still to this day question. Tonight, my review is about the adventure to the stars and the men who led the way. Wrapping up my revies this week, tonight yours truly analyzes the largely advertised, potentially award winning, biography about Neal Armstrong entitled:
Movie: First Man (2018)
The Acting: A big role like this requires big talent and Gosling has stepped up to the new psychologically heavy, portrayal of the man who journeyed to the stars. His depth portrayal of the role is top notch, a balance of a dramatized role that feels realistic and very reflective of the psyche of space travel. Claire Foy on the other hand drops into a very regal and strong role, expressing the other side of the coin as the wife of an astronaut. Their chemistry works together, and the focus on each one leads to amazing performances that makes for endearing characters.
The Immersive Experience: You want to feel like you are blasting off into space? You’ve got it! You want to feel like you are being strained by an overwhelming array of G Force? You’ve got it. You want? Okay I think you get it. First Man’s team did their best to get you strapped into the space exploration experience and did a fine job in my opinion. One will feel like they are experiencing this first hand, with a screen that rattles, sound effects that dropped you into the heart of the mission, and a number of technical terms to further enroll you in the experience.
The Setting: I’m a sucker for movies successfully taking you back in time. First Man takes us back into the time period of the 60s, bringing the cars, looks, houses, and hairstyles to really bring you into the decade of exploration. First Man keeps all the themes rolling and adds that extra bit of magic by introducing a gritty filter to help you achieve the effects of watching the events through the new reels of yore. This may not seem super cool or necessary, but that extra nostalgia helps pull the experience to new heights so nice work there.
Unique Approach: First Man decides to go a little more abstract in its presentation than the normal historical documentary. A realistic portrayal with minimal magic, First Man is always about taking an event and then having you reflect on it. The result is a psychological trial of experiencing the stress of this field of research, that helps with experiencing the historical prowess of this space travel. While this approach will not be for everyone, it gets points for making an effort to be unique and artistic while also to the point.
The Portrayal of Struggle: I agree with my fellow audience members that First Man did a fantastic job expressing the difficulties of getting this mission off the ground. From the failures of the testing modules, the setbacks of equipment burning out, and to the very stresses of the rocket itself, all of it is nicely detailed in this movie. You’ll not be subjected to montages or magical findings, but instead get the bare facts to provide the full on knowledge of the issues this program faced.
Other characters: It’s not that the other characters are bad, it’s the fact that they aren’t utilized as well as I wanted. Much of Armstrong’s group, with the exception of the wife, are only fragments of the story overall. I wanted to see more interactions with them, get their input and contributions to the story, instead of the dram filled moping they chose to focus on. Why they did this I don’t know, but I believe the abstract approach has much to do with this.
The Heavy Jargon: I mentioned earlier how the movie immerses you and sadly it does this a little too well. The special effects drown out a lot of meaningful conversation in this movie, reducing the lines to mumbling, incoherent rants that aren’t easy to follow. Even for what you can hear, the movie relies very heavily on jargon and technical lingo, which if you don’t subscribe to physics or rocket science may not be the most interesting thing to listen to.
Mindset vs Program: The abstract direction taken in this movie works for getting into the head of the characters, and you’ll get plenty of shots of Gosling trapped in his mind, moping in a teary-eyed mess as he relives his experiences. It’s beautiful artistically, but it’s not the most entertaining as I came to see more of the design to get to the moon. Like Hidden Figures I wanted character development and integration than psychological reflection that a book is better at hitting. Regardless, this approach didn’t quite work in terms of my expectations or entertainment value
Dragging Pace: The biggest thing for me… is this movie is slow at times. It has to do with how long it takes for us to get into the meat of the program, only to be then be dogged down by more personal life components than the exciting tests you want to see. As such, this constant up and down presentation that didn’t quite work for me and had me fighting sleep at times.
First Man is different from what I expected. It’s unique presentation is going to be the make or break for modern audiences and whether or not they will enjoy this movie. Those looking for a realistic, well-acted, artistic, immersive approach will enjoy the historical representation of this movie. However, if you wanted that Hollywood magic, entertainment, and more like a story presentation, than this film is not going to be your cup of tea. First Man is certainly a piece of work, but it all depends on the type of experience you want. Worth a trip to the theater? I think so for the effects and the food for thought, but otherwise hold out until next week when blockbusters return. k
Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0