By ALEX CASTRO
First Man has landed in our movie theaters.
First man is the somber true story of the first man to walk on the moon. The film follows astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) from 1961 until after the Apollo 11 launch in 1969.
Overall, First Man does a decent job documenting the moments that made Armstrong’s journey legendary. However, the film is dragged down by the unsatisfactory camera work and visual blunders.
Most of the movie’s runtime is committed to the characters having an emotional crisis. If the movie had incorporated the short clips seen in the credit sequence, which include picnics and walks in the park, the cast would have had the opportunity to show a complete spectrum of emotions.
Moreover, throughout the film, Armstrong is in a spacecraft. However, First Man overuses these scenes, using them unsuccessfully to simulate action. The film tries to illustrate a sense of suspense with blasting music and nervous emotions on the actors’ faces, but in the end, fails.
Furthermore, the film has even caused an official epilepsy warning from production company Universal Studios because most of the film contains violent shaking of the camera and bright flashing lights. Even those without epilepsy may experience headaches, nausea and motion sickness, especially on the big screen. This restricts the audience of the film and turns away potential viewers.
On the other hand, with 2 ½ hours of runtime, it would be naturally assumed that the audience will get to know all the characters that have been introduced. Yet that is not so. The main cast is mainly composed of about 5 people, and the rest fall into the supporting cast and side character territories. These side characters are easily forgotten as the film primarily focuses on the main characters. Even members of the “main” cast are not well thought out. They have few feelings and opinions and as a result, get repetitive quickly.
Nevertheless, the realism with which the producers execute the action helps the movie draw in the viewers. The expertly crafted sets and impressive CGI immerse the audience in a surreal experience. The masterly crafted backgrounds and props let the audience visualize and get swept into the story. The details in the backgrounds such as shading, texture and depth capture the viewer’s attention.
In addition, throughout the movie, director Damien Chazelle expertly portrays the factual and cultural details. From their clothing to the housing, the minute details all contribute to paint the picture of a very convincing 1960s era. For example, the audience repeatedly observes Neil’s wife, Janet, casually smoking in the house. Nowadays, this is unusual behavior, but in the 60’s it was a common sight to behold. By leaving this small detail in, the film establishes a strong setting.
Even so, First Man draws out too many of its conflicts. One issue or argument lasts years and years but still ends up being unresolved. Eventually, the audience needs closure, but the emotional finale is overshadowed by the underwhelming final moments. For all of the sadness and sorrow of the film, Neil gets no conclusion. The ghost that has haunted him throughout the entire film has been swept away. Yet the shadow still looms over the film, stealing away any lasting impression the film may have had.
Ultimately, the film’s serious mood constricted the actor’s abilities and character development. The shoddy visual and audio work is redeemed by the attention to detail.
First Man really did crash land.