The Apollo 11 Moon landing is often depicted in soft-focused reverence for what is easily one of the greatest human achievements of the 20th century. In First Man, which stars Ryan Gosling as NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong, the mission to the Moon is seen as one of the scariest, if not most intense, retellings of Apollo 11 mission ever made.
On Wednesday, Universal Pictures released the second trailer for First Man, directed by Damien Chazelle. Based on Armstrong’s 2005 biography written by James R. Hansen, the film shows the NASA astronaut as a family man willing to risk his life to go to the Moon, which comes at a great emotional cost for the people he loves at home.
First Man, which opens in theaters on October 12, is shaping up to be a far different picture than Chazelle’s previous films, notably the musicals Whiplash and La La Land. There’s a good amount of ominous, apocalyptic imagery one would expect with rocket science (everything’s on fire!), faces overwhelmed by dramatic shadow, and the intimacy that comes with handheld cinematography.
A number of factors seem to put First Man among the movies that traditionally vie for an Oscar: October is the traditional start of Oscar season, Chazelle won Best Director in 2017 for La La Land, Gosling has star power matched by acting ability, and First Man tells an epic American story that the Academy has always gravitated toward.
The trailer offers only glimpses at the collective effort of applied intelligence that was required by NASA in a mission that was hellish at times. In the end, the three crew members made it to the moon and back, with Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing the lunar module Eagle on the surface, with Michael Collins piloting the command module. Some 600 million people watched it live, and 50 years’ worth of technological advancements later, the thing still looks like a miracle. It should be noted here that a lot of new technology had to be invented just to make sure no one died in space. It’s like being lost in the woods and you have to invent a flashlight with just sticks and leaves.
First Man may not be scary in the same way Ridley Scott’s Alien was scary, but don’t tell me that the possibility of going up in flames in Earth’s upper atmosphere isn’t just a bit terrifying.
First Man lands in theaters on October 12.