First Man True Story: What The Movie Changed About Neil Armstrong & The Moon Landing

Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling is now out in theaters, but does it accurately depict the true story? Mostly!

First Man poster excerpt

Damien Chazelle's Neil Armstrong biopic First Man is now out in theaters, but what did it change from Armstrong's actual life and the moon landing? As it turns out, Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer stayed very close to the way the major events of Armstrong's life played out.

First Man stars Ryan Gosling as legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong, and chronicles his journey to becoming the first man to step foot on the moon. Thanks to the years of work it took for Armstrong to get to this point, First Man shows almost a decade of his life. The movie begins with a brief look at his pre-NASA days, and then focuses on his life once he is actually training to go to space. So how does First Man deal with the a story that was years in the making?

Related: Read Our Review of First Man

Did Neil Armstrong Leave His Daughter's Bracelet On The Moon?

First Man Neil Armstrong with his Daughter

The main emotional thread for First Man is actually related to Neil's personal life, but one that ties into his astronaut career. The movie begins by showing how Neil's relationship with his daughter, Karen, who passed away at the age of 2 following health complications related to a brain tumor. In the film, after she dies, Neil takes one of her bracelets and locks it away. He then begins to shut off most of his emotions and rarely discusses the death of his daughter with anyone. But, once he lands on the moon, the bracelet returns.

First Man shows Neil tossing the bracelet into the Little Crest Crater on the moon. Although this moment is not confirmed to have actually happened in real life, the concept of Neil doing this is taken from First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, the movie which Chazelle and Singer's script is based on. This act isn't confirmed to ever have happened, but it is plausible given Neil's life. It fits with Neil's closed off personality, and gives him a sense of closure in the film.

How The Space Race & Moon Landing Were Different

Ryan Gosling EW First Man Photo Header

The space race and moon landing as depicted in First Man is largely similar to how events actually played out. The major difference between First Man and the real history really comes down to its focus. Since this is Neil Armstrong's story, the movie largely focuses on his experience and not on how NASA is racing to be the first to the moon. It still shows Neil becoming part of Gemini 5 and Gemini 8, before the film centers itself on the Apollo missions. First Man shows his reaction to the Apollo 1 fire, and then his drive to get the space program right in order to make Apollo 11 successful. The main difference that comes with First Man is just the truncation of the events, and the focus moving from NASA's perspective to Neil's.

Planting The Flag & What First Man Missed Out

First Man Moon Landing

A point of controversy for First Man was the apparent omission of the Apollo 11 crew planting the American flag on the moon after a successful landing. The flag is indeed planted on the moon, but the difference is that First Man doesn't show the actual act of the crew sticking it into the lunar surface. The movie elects to just show it in the background. Whether or not this is a reasonable move may be up the viewer, but it makes sense with the movie presented. Again, First Man is told from Neil's perspective and the planting of the flag is a major accomplishment for America. This is why the emotional payoff of the third act comes with the bracelet toss and not the flag planting.

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