Thoughts After Seeing First Man

They finally decided to make a prequel to Apollo 13.

Okay, not really. But it kind of felt that way.

I don’t know much about the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong. Yeah, I learned about him in school growing up. He was the first man to walk on the moon. In Apollo 13, Tom Hanks, as Jim Lovell, compares Armstrong to Christopher Columbus and Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh, maybe. Columbus? No way. There was no population on the moon for Armstrong to enslave and infect with smallpox…

As I was saying, I never knew anything about Neil Armstrong beyond first man on the moon. But if this movie is to be believed, this guy dealt with his share of tragedy.

Sure, it’s well documented how tragic the early days of the American space program were. Really, the later days have seen enough tragedy, too. I won’t get into all that here, just understand that Neil lost a lot of friends before Apollo 11 was even a blip on the radar. And then some.

Ryan Gosling portrays Armstrong as someone who dealt with his hardships alone. Maybe he was a natural introvert and that’s just how he chose to deal with difficult emotions. He sure didn’t like talking things out. Not with his friends. Not with his kids. Not with his wife. Is that how Armstrong was in the real world?

Funny, a guy who is famous for saying what is probably one of the most well-known sentences in human history didn’t like to talk to people.

The movie did a great job building suspense in a lot of difficult situations. But, honestly, it was hard for me to feel a sense of suspense when Neil found himself in danger. It didn’t matter what mission he was flying, I knew it would ultimately turn out okay, because I knew that this guy was still gonna be the first one to step foot on the moon.

It’s like when I’ve already seen The Lord of the Rings and then I watch The Hobbit. It’s hard to be afraid for how things will turn out for Bilbo Baggins.

I did have several thoughts that ran through my head that really had nothing to do with the movie in particular. First of all… I can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been to be an astronaut in those early NASA days. I can’t imagine how terrifying I guess it still can be today.

But particularly back then. They strap you down and lock you into a titanium can that’s sitting on top of enough explosive material to propel you from the earth’s surface to outer space. Geez… Where do I sign up for that trip?

Another thought came right at the start of the movie. I hope this isn’t a spoiler. But maybe it will be. But I don’t really care because it’s historical fact, I looked it up. Early in the film, Armstrong’s daughter passes away (part of all that tragedy I mentioned earlier).

Now, I know what it feels like to lose loved ones. But I cannot fathom what it feels like to love anything or anyone as much as a parent loves their child. And that’s what I was thinking about as I watched the opening scenes of First Man. Watching Neil interact with his sick and dying little girl, I just thought that, as a single and childless man, I have zero idea of what that kind of love feels like. And then I remember feeling a little grateful for that fact, because it also means I may never know the pain of losing that love. Or that loved one.

I know, I was already cynical before I saw the movie. I don’t think First Man made me any more cynical. But I do think it’s worth seeing. Go check it out if you haven’t already. I could see it winning a statue or two when awards season rolls around.

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