First Man review
First Man and Space Exploration on Film

First Man arrives in UK cinemas on Friday 12th October. The film reunites La La Land star Ryan Gosling with his La La Land director Damien Chazelle. This time though the songs and dancing are cast aside, focusing in on astronaut Neil Armstrong, who everyone knows as the first man to walk on the moon. First Man unfolds across the 1960’s and follows Armstrong from a test pilot to a member of the Gemini project, to his eventual first steps on the moon. It gives a deeper look into the home-life of Armstrong, one that many might not be too familiar with, whilst at the same time charting the progress of the Apollo missions. Space exploration has always fascinated cinema audiences, whether they are based on true life like First Man, or something more fantastical. With First Man arriving in cinemas imminently, we thought that now would be the perfect time to round up some of cinema’s infamous space missions.

First Man

First Man and Space Exploration on Film

We’ll start first with First Man. Ryan Gosling leads as first man on the moon Neil Armstrong. Watch the film and follow Armstrong from the ground, to orbit, all the way to the moon. There are plenty of hardships along the way and First Man doesn’t shy away from any of them, including the ill-fated Apollo One launch. The majority of First Man unfolds Earth side, but eventually we get up into space with Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) and Mike Collins (Lukas Haas). Once in space, it doesn’t take long before we get to that iconic moment of mankind as Armstrong takes that one small step and giant leap onto uncharted terra firma. Chazelle’s visuals here are nothing short of breathtaking and well worth the watch in IMAX to get that total immersion moment.

Apollo 13

First Man and Space Exploration on Film

Before First Man, the most famous film based on a real-life space mission was, of course, Apollo 13. Directed by Ron Howard, and starring Tom Hanks in the lead role of Jim Lovell, the Academy Award-winning movie told the story of the ill-fated attempt to revisit the moon. Only two missions after Armstrong’s glorious space jaunt, Lovell and fellow crew-men Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) and Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) expected some plain sailing, but soon after arriving in the vastness of space, they encountered an electrical failure that left them practically stranded. The film then focuses on their new mission: to get them all home alive. Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) and Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) (the grounded original member of the Apollo 13 crew) are on hand at Mission Control to help out, and thankfully all ends well.

Mission To Mars

First Man and Space Exploration on Film

After being grounded in Apollo 13, a measles-free Gary Sinise finally made it into outer space in Mission to Mars. Sinise is Mars II co-commander Jim McConnell (as close a name as he could get to Lovell), whose crew are sent to rescue Don Cheadle’s Luke Graham. Graham was the head of the Mars I, the sole-survivor of man’s first landing on Mars. Once on Mars, McConnell and co begin to explore its surface and find the origins of the human race. The film was released in 2000, the same year as fellow Mars mission film Red Planet, with events occurring in 2020. Sadly though, we’re still a fair few years off of an actual manned mission to Mars.

The Martian

First Man and Space Exploration on Film

After the moon, Mars seems to be the go-to place for cinema space missions, the most recent being The Martian, starring Matt Damon as astronaut Mark Watney, a man who finds himself stranded on the dusty red planet. Given the subject matter, it’s a little odd that it found itself nominated for, and winning, the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. The screen-time is split between Watney and his attempts at survival, the crew whom accidentally left him behind, and the people on Earth trying to arrange his rescue. Typically these films would feature more than one person stranded, but here Damon is left to shine all by himself.

Sunshine

First Man and Space Exploration on Film

Set in a future wherein our sun is dying, the crew of Icarus II are travelling to our nearest star to drop off a payload that will hopefully re-ignite it and bring Earth out of it’s solar winter. Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle is a film all about it’s mission. The mission comes before everything, including the lives of crew members. This desperate need to complete their task successfully leads the crew to take a detour after they discover the abandoned vessel of previous mission Icarus I. The decision proves to be deadly and the crew must fight tooth and nail to deliver their payload to the sun and survive.

Armageddon

First Man and Space Exploration on Film

The Earth is about to meet a sticky asteroid-impact end; there is a potential plan to save humanity by landing a spacecraft on the asteroid and doing some drilling to plant a nuclear bomb. Do you A) train your NASA astronauts familiar with the environment of space to drill? Or B) get a rag-tag bunch of burly deep-sea drillers to become astronauts? Well if you’re director Michael Bay you choose the latter, a group of tough drillers headed up by Bruce Willis’ Harry Stamper.

Apollo 18

First Man and Space Exploration on Film

After the success of the Apollo 11 mission, NASA commissioned more journeys to the moon, and even after the near disaster of Apollo 13 still sent out another four missions. Apollo 18 tells the story of the secret eighteenth mission that has supposedly been swept under the carpet. What sounds like a conspiracy theorists dream is actually just an example of the found footage horror genre moving into the space arena.

Catch First Man in cinemas across the UK from Friday 12th October 2018. Read our glowing review from TIFF 2018 here