Monday, October 15, 2018

Movie Reflection: First Man

I am not at all Neil Armstrong. Of course, to everyone reading this that knows me, that is obvious. But to me, in many ways I looked up to him and his career as a bit of what I would like to do with my life. After seeing the movie on Saturday night, which really just put together many facts that were already known to me, I realized I am not at all that person, and that's not what I want my life to be.

The movie starts off with one of his X-15 flights. For those that don't know the X-15 was one of the coolest planes ever built. It's also a plane that only ever had 199 flights, three were built, 12 pilots, and killed one of them. Frankly, we know so much about aerodynamics now that a plane designed to do that and look like that will never be built again. The control surfaces were small and it didn't have great aerodynamic braking. Anyway, he almost dies.

The movie then focuses for a short bit on his daughter who died of brain cancer, and throughout the movie how that affected him. It's an interesting look at mental health in the 1960s. In short, men still have this desire to be a rock, to not show emotions. I've said before, in the ultra running community depression runs deep. When you are out there all day and all night running you probably have some deep mental or emotional pain that is worse than the physical pain in the moment. The difference is there is some talking about it in today's world. Not a whole lot, but it does come up. The movie portrayed Neil as a guy that dealt with death frequently and never talked about it, even with his wife or fellow astronauts (people who might understand best), but seemed to take that pain and turn it toward doing the best job he could flying a spacecraft.

The portrayal of his Gemini 8 flight is simply amazing! I'd seen that portrayed in two previous movies but this was clearly the best. What happens in a matter of minutes seems at times to take a full hour and other times to be only seconds as I watched the Gemini spacecraft spin beyond one rotation per second. My biggest criticism of the movie is that the footage of him ejecting from the LLTV isn't as good as the actual footage. Then again, you can't really recreate that with an actual human.

In short, it's quite a good movie. Not good enough for me to see it a second time in the theatre, but enough that I will rent it when it gets to Redbox. Final disclaimer, I'm a space nerd, so I consume this stuff even when it's not that good. It would be cool, for me, if someone made more high budget movies about the early astronauts. We went to the moon!

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