First Man is a docudrama of epic proportions.
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Taking one of the most ubiquitous stories and making it into a suspenseful drama is not an easy task.
According to critics, First Man is a masterpiece – but that doesn’t stop people from finding fault with it.
In the movie adaptation of the book, director Damien Chazelle chose not to focus on one very memorable moment of the moon landing – sparking major outroar over the decision.
Why is the flag planting scene not in the movie?
After the screening at the Venice Film Festival, some conservative American columnists took issue with the movie omitting the moment a flag was planted in the moon’s surface.
Bill Kristol claimed the movie was “a foolish and pernicious falsification of history.”
However, the flag does appear in scenes, though the planting of it is not made into a momentous occasion.
The filmmaker, Neil Armstrong’s sons, and star Ryan Gosling also responded to the controversy.
In a joint statement Neil Armstrong’s sons Rick and Mark, along with the author of First Man James R. Hansen, said: “This story is human and it is universal.
“Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement ‘for all mankind’.
“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.”
Damien Chazelle, who worked with Gosling previously on La La Land, said: “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.”
“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.”
Chazelle added: “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,” the director said.
Gosling himself responded to the criticism by saying: “I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement and that’s how we chose to view it.
“I also think Neil was extremely humble, as were many of these astronauts, and time and time again he deferred the focus from himself to the 400,000 people who made the mission possible.”
First Man is out in UK and US cinemas on October 12, 2018.