A false controversy has arisen regarding the Neil Armstrong biopic ‘First Man’, directed by Damien Chazelle. Some people, including Republican Congressman Marco Rubio, are lambasting the film (which they haven’t seen) because there is speculation that the movie downplays or even negates the fact that Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon is an American and that this was an American accomplishment. After Rubio read a headline– just a headline, not an article– that read, “Neil Armstrong movie ‘First Man’ omits the American flag,” he wrote “This is total lunacy. And a disservice at a time when our people need reminders of what we can achieve when we work together.”
But Armstrong’s sons, Rick and Mark are squelching that, by saying “There are numerous shots of the American flag on the moon.” The fact is, this movie isn’t a chronicle of that moon mission or a bit of US patriotic propaganda, but a personal examination of Armstrong the man and the incredible difficulties he faced on this journey.
With James R. Hanson, the biographer who penned the book ‘First Man’ upon which this movie is based, Rick and Mark Armstrong issued this statement:
We’ve read a number of comments about the film today and specifically about the absence of the flag planting scene, made largely by people who haven’t seen the movie. As we’ve seen it multiple times, we thought maybe we should weigh in.
This is a film that focuses on what you don’t know about Neil Armstrong. It’s a film that focuses on things you didn’t see or may not remember about Neil’s journey to the moon. The filmmakers spent years doing extensive research to get at the man behind the myth, to get at the story behind the story. It’s a movie that gives you unique insight into the Armstrong family and fallen American Heroes like Elliot See and Ed White. It’s a very personal movie about our dad’s journey, seen through his eyes.
This story is human and it is universal. Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement “for all mankind,” as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz left on the moon. It is a story about an ordinary man who makes profound sacrifices and suffers through intense loss in order to achieve the impossible.
Although Neil didn’t see himself that way, he was an American hero. He was also an engineer and a pilot, a father and a friend, a man who suffered privately through great tragedies with incredible grace. This is why, though there are numerous shots of the American flag on the moon, the filmmakers chose to focus on Neil looking back at the earth, his walk to Little West Crater, his unique, personal experience of completing this journey, a journey that has seen so many incredible highs and devastating lows.
In short, we do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite. But don’t take our word for it. We’d encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves.
While attending the Venice Film Festival, where ‘First Man’ screened, Gosling remarked that Armstrong’s moonwalk “was widely regarded not as an American, but as a human achievement.” Adding to the misunderstanding, Gosling stated, “I don’t think Neil viewed himself as an American hero, quite the opposite.”
Director Chazelle confirmed that the American flag was present but wasn’t the focus of that sequence. “In ‘First Man’ I show the American flag standing on the lunar surface, but the flag being physically planted into the surface is one of several moments of the Apollo 11 lunar EVA that I chose not to focus upon.” This follows up the idea that this movie isn’t a chronicle of this achievement, but a personal examination of the real man who accomplished it.
“To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America’s mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong’s personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours. I wanted the primary focus in that scene to be on Neil’s solitary moments on the moon — his point of view as he first exited the LEM, his time spent at Little West Crater, the memories that may have crossed his mind during his lunar EVA. This was a feat beyond imagination; it was truly a giant leap for mankind. This film is about one of the most extraordinary accomplishments not only in American history, but in human history. My hope is that by digging under the surface and humanizing the icon, we can better understand just how difficult, audacious and heroic this moment really was.”
‘Last Man’ is already generating Oscar buzz, which is fitting considering Chazelle already won the award for Outstanding Directing for ‘La La Land’, a film that earned five other Oscars and for which Gosling was nominated. His film prior to that, ‘Whiplash’ was also nominated for five Academy Awards and won three, including Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons.
‘First Man’ lands on Earth theaters on October 12.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter