Rating: PG-13, Time: 2hr 21min, Director: Damien Chazelle, Cast on IMDb
What did you think of the flag missing on the moon?
For some reason, the director chose to omit the US flag planting from the moon landing. I don't think the film misses it, however there was a lot of patriotism and pride going into NASA landing on the moon. The director said they had wanted to celebrate the movie as a human achievement, which it is. They did have numerous US flags all over the suits and gear, so it was obvious who spent the money to make the moon landing possible. Personally, I think the end of the film is a bit off as they downplay the joy the astronauts felt after landing. Its the most significant achievement of mankind and you're like "Ya they got me locked up in isolation another 2 weeks and I didn't die". I felt that missed the mark heavily from the historic joy all of mankind felt at that moment. Maybe the bad name Trump has given to US patriotism may have over shadowed this decision to tone down patriotism here.
What did you think of the family side of Armstrong?
It was interesting to see how the wives were or were not coping with the tradegy of multiple astronauts dying on various missions to get finally to the moon. So the wife is kind of always sorrowful and almost punishing Neil for choosing this life where he could be killed at any point trying to serve his country getting to the moon. Some of the scenes were very weighty, like the death of his daughter and fellow colleagues. Basically, Neil is all bottled up and reserved, which was more common for this generation of flight pilots.
Do you think it was missing anything historical?
The movie is 2 hours and 20 minutes, so they really don't have much space to cover multiple events and need to focus 90% on the NASA programs for sure. I think earlier in the film they could have shown that Neil was a Korea pilot flying mutliple missions, that I didn't know about and shows a much more Cold War feel to his background. At the same time, NASA is building ICBMs like the Soviets were in the nuclear weapons race that is going on simultaneously. Likely, they could have covered this a bit with the kids in school with nuclear blast tests to give it that a bit of flavor. Another strange thing is they tack on JFK's speech about going to moon at the end vs. in the middle of the film where it went chronologically. This really throws off the whole reason why they went to the moon at all.
Another very important visual fact they left out of the space race was Sputnik and the effect it had at the time on the US public. All the US started practicing bomb drills, some even built nuclear bomb shelters in their back yard. This truly started the beginning of the US wanting to beat the Soviet Union in space technology, so they didn't die from an atomic attack or lose face in the satellite race. A simple 2 minutes of Sputnik flying around and the paranoia of the 1950s would have helped the film quite a bit I feel.
How well did they cover the other crews training to go to the moon?
I think they got into the meat of how precarious it was to live as an astronaut. You could be killed in a mission, killed in a training event, killed testing a new rocket, ship, etc. It was a very dangerous job and they captured that well. On the other hand, with the subdued patriotism in the film, you kind of have no idea why they are risking their life. We do as civilians and history students, but I'm not sure they get to the motivations behind the crew of why they sign up to risk it all to go to space. I think maybe having a flashback of military flying missions, Cuban Missile Crisis, etc. may have helped flesh out this part of the story. These were military pilots then sent on to train for the moon missions, but all were first military pilots.
Was there anything you would change in the film?
Beyond adding in a bit of historical detail: Korea War clips, Sputnik fear and USSR a bit more prominently as a competitor and sworn enemy, I think I would take out the camera shake from the on the ground shots. There are several parties and conversations where the camera shakes unnecessarily. It looks worse than amateur vloggers in my view. Only the camera shake while flying should be kept for the high contrast. If there is an emotional scene, maybe you want some camera shake, but not really in my mind. It kind of separates from the 1960s way of cutting film, which you want to sync with rather than stand apart from.
Overall, even with some flaws, the movie is highly enjoyable and heart wrenching story.
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