First Man on the Moon (DVD)

Does this small documentary take a giant leap?

Just a few hours ago, the United States took one small step back towards the stars with the launch of the Orion spacecraft. And with the maiden voyage of the first new manned US spacecraft in almost thirty-five years, it’s perhaps appropriate to look at the life of the man who made the first steps.

When Neil Armstrong passed away in 2012, it felt like the end of an era, largely because of the degree to which he was the image of the United States’ greatest achievement in space flight—the first man on the moon. At the same time, he was one of the most reserved and humble of national heroes.

For instance, he never thought of himself as having been chosen to be the first man on the moon; instead, he was assigned to a flight that turned out to be the first moon landing—had any of the previous Apollo missions encountered serious problems, that landing could have easily been pushed back to a later flight.

That’s the enduring image of Armstrong—never a fame seeker, he was, rather, intensely focused, task-oriented, armed with the conviction that if you do all the little things right, success will take care of itself. While Nova’s biography is, frankly, not particularly engaging, the simple truth is that Armstrong’s nature didn’t lend itself to a more energetic narrative.

Sprinkled with interviews with Armstrong’s family, friends, and colleagues, Nova’s biography of Armstrong, which premiered December 3, 2014, is a straightforward walk through Armstrong’s life, from the plane ride that set his life’s ambition in motion, to his enduring legacy. There are really not a lot of revelations here—no deep dark secret or hidden scandal.

In one respect, it works, because it paints Armstrong pretty much as he was, without a lot of aggrandizement. The downside? It’s kind of boring, actually.

The most promising clip is from a 2004 dinner honoring James Doohan, but it’s all too brief—all the more a shame because it gave us one of the few peeks of the man, not the heroic image.

Technically, the disc is OK—a lot of the biography is comprised of archival footage, which has been cleaned up somewhat. The stereo audiotrack is clear and easy to understand.

It’s good enough for a quick introduction to the man, I suppose, but there’s nothing here that would make me want to buy it. An unremarkable biography of a most remarkable man.

PBS, 60, NR (2014)


Full Frame
Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)





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