When it comes to Hollywood’s depiction of awful moments in American history, they might defend themselves showing all the gruesome details on the screen by saying “it’s important and the full story needs to be told.” But when America leads the way in one of the greatest achievements in human history, there’s plenty of space on the cutting room floor for scenes that might drive that point home. But the reason given for why one of the most iconic moments in history wasn’t depicted in a new movie about Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 seems to be, well, kind of ridiculous:
The upcoming Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man,” from “Whiplash” and “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle, premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday to rave reviews and early Oscar buzz. But the movie doesn’t include a key scene in Armstrong’s mission to the moon and an integral moment in American history.
The movie omits the moment of the American flag being planted on the moon (though the flag is present in the film), and the movie’s star Ryan Gosling, who plays Armstrong, defended the decision when asked about it at Venice (via The Telegraph).
Gosling, who is Canadian, argued that the first voyage to the moon was a “human achievement” that didn’t just represent an American accomplishment, and that’s how Armstrong viewed it.
“I think this was widely regarded in the end as a human achievement [and] that’s how we chose to view it,” Gosling. “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.”
Gosling added, “He was reminding everyone that he was just the tip of the iceberg — and that’s not just to be humble, that’s also true. So I don’t think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil.”
They “wanted the film to reflect Neil”? Well, Neil planted an American flag on the moon and Hollywood chose not to depict that — so no, they actually didn’t want the film to reflect Neil.
Also to try and spin this as wanting the story to depict a “human accomplishment” and not an American one is weapons-grade ridiculous. The Apollo 11 moon landing was a quintessential American accomplishment. In JFK’s “we choose to go to the moon” speech in 1962, the “we” he spoke of wasn’t “the world” or “all humans” — “we” was the United States, which was in the middle of a space race against the Soviet Union at the time. Hollywood’s revisionist history in “biographies” strikes yet again.
The director of “First Man” said the choice to omit a scene depicting Armstrong planting the American flag at the Sea of Tranquility wasn’t a political one, so perhaps they thought a short scene showing one of the most iconic moments in history would make their 2 hour and 18 minute film 30 seconds too long, or something.
A scene showing how Armstrong and Aldrin struggled to get the flag in place on the moon due to problems with how it was packed could have actually provided the film with a moment of “yep this is definitely a government operation” levity, but obviously somebody didn’t want to go there — in order to accurately reflect Neil, or something.