First Man might not be the best movie about space exploration around but it is still a well made drama from Damien Chazelle in a solid follow-up to his Academy Award winning music-drama, La La Land. Ryan Gosling gives a nice, if not quiet, performance.
Universal | PG13 – 141 min. – $44.95 | January 22, 2019
Date Published: 01/24/2019 | Author: The Movieman
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.
THE MOVIE — 4.0/5
There are only a very few moments in the history of man (and woman) that has made an impact (good and bad): The invention of the wheel. Nuclear weapons. Automobiles. The first plane. The Transatlantic flight. And space exploration, most notably, the landing on the moon.
First Man is an examination on astronaut Neil Armstrong (RYAN GOSLING) and looks at a relatively short, but important, period of his life from 1961 through 1969 and the historic Apollo 11 mission. It goes into how he got into the program as well as his marriage to his wife, Janet (CLAIRE FOY) and their personal sacrifices as they experience the loss of a daughter and close friends, fellow astronauts, and the toll it takes. Oh, and Buzz Aldrin (portrayed by COREY STALL) was a grade-A, callous douchebag.
Space exploration has always interested me, right alongside the historical events of World War II, and First Man tells a story that, as far as I can tell, hasn’t been captured on film outside I’m sure some documentaries over the years. What I particularly enjoyed was director Damien Chazelle, in his follow-up to his award-winning musical La La Land, approach of putting the audience in an almost first-person viewpoint with Armstrong during his missions and showing the dangers these men went through in the name of exploration, and in the face of public pressure for perhaps to remain grounded, not worth the cost of life and money.
Although, as far as movies about space go, First Man doesn’t quite measure up to the likes of Gravity or Interstellar, but it is one good drama. Ryan Gosling does a wonderful job in his portrayal as Neil Armstrong and while it wasn’t anything powerful, it was finely measured with some greatly emotional scenes. Won’t, and didn’t, get much award recognition but in fairness, the script didn’t do him much favors, especially since the film only covers a brief time in his career.
Claire Foy meanwhile proves that she could be an actress on the rise between this and, yes, even The Girl in the Spider’s Web, not to mention her lead performance on The Crown. The rest of the supporting cast were alright. The one oddity was Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin; he’s not in the movie a whole lot but two scenes made him look like a complete asshole, needlessly since he doesn’t act as some sort of antagonist or foil toward Armstrong. Now, he very well may have been a unsympathetic jerk-wad, but his scenes were rather unnecessary since he really doesn’t play a big role even in the moon landing, with the focus being squarely on Armstrong anyway.
In the end, First Man isn’t all that amazing in some aspects, but does feature respectable performances by both Gosling and Foy while the space exploration parts were easily the highlights, culminating with the well done moon landing sequence, really satisfactorily re-created.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.25/5
This release comes with a title-embossed, glossy slip cover. Included is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy. All of the features are available on the 4K UHD disc and are in 4K resolution. Unfortunately for a film of this type, these featurettes were a bit too short, though totaling around 39 minutes.
Audio Commentary – Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross provide a nice group track covering the production of First Man going into how the project came to be, breaking down a variety of scenes, locations, working with the cast, etc. A very professional track.
Deleted Scenes (4:17) – Nothing major here, one scene is of a house fire the other is the Apollo 8 launch. Some historical items but neither one advanced the story or added much for the characters.
Shooting for the Moon (3:40) is a basic overview of the project with some interviews by the cast and filmmakers on what drew them to the film and its core story.
Preparing to Launch (3:39) – This featurette is on Neil Armstrong and bringing his story onto the big screen.
Giant Leap in One Small Step (4:31) – This is one of the more interesting featurettes with interviews by Armstrong’s two children, along with Chazelle and Gosling, and more on Armstrong the man and who he was.
Mission Gone Wrong (2:42) – This featurette goes into the filming of the training vehicle sequence.
Putting You in the Seat (7:09) is on Chazelle’s approach to having an almost first-person viewpoint on Armstrong and his flights.
Recreating the Moon Landing (6:01) looks at how the moon landing scene was filmed.
Shooting at NASA (3:11) looks at filming on the actual locations, such as Cape Canaveral and Andrews Air Force Base.
Astronaut Training (4:02) looks at the cast getting a tour and some training for their roles.
4K VIDEO – 5.0/5, BD VIDEO – 4.75/5
|First Man lands on 4K UHD and Blu-ray presented with a 2.39 widescreen aspect ratio and given a 2160p high-definition transfer (1080p on Blu-ray). This is an amazing looking picture, not only is detail incredibly sharp, the natural grain and noise remained intact. Colors are vibrant aided with the included HDR (Dolby Vision is also available) and probably one of the few movies I’ve watched on the UHD format, the black levels are incredibly stark, as you can imagine with the amount of darkly lit tight quarters or in space itself, there is quite a bit of those shots, and even so, objects or persons in them are still discernible. The Blu-ray meanwhile is nothing to sniff at either, detail might not be as sharp by comparison, but the darker elements were still stark in its own right and colors also looked lively.|
AUDIO – 5.0/5
|Both formats come equipped with a Dolby Atmos track. From the opening sequence, this track really comes to life our lead character tries to regain control of his ship as it bounced off the atmosphere. But actually the majority of the scenes are pretty much dialogue driven and on that, most of the audio is relegated to the center channel with minimal uses of the other channels utilized for ambient noises. But as soon as you kind of get used to those scenes, when the Apollo 11 engines ignite, boy the depth comes to incredible life and the entire room shook, probably giving the closest experience of a rock launch one could at home.|
OVERALL – 4.5/5
Overall, First Man might not be the best movie about space exploration around but it is still a well made drama from Damien Chazelle in a solid follow-up to his Academy Award winning music-drama, La La Land. Ryan Gosling gives a nice, if not quiet, performance but the highlight was the space travel sequences. This 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack includes amazing video and audio transfers while the bonus material was decent enough.
The screen captures came from the Blu-ray copy and are here to add visuals to the review and do not represent the 4K video.