Ryan Gosling Takes a Small Step in Neil Armstrong's Boots in 'First Man' Trailer: Here's What You Can Expect
For most movie watchers, the first impression comes from watching a trailer either on the internet or in a theater during that 20 minute block after the official showtime but before the feature presentation. A trailer for the upcoming Neil Armstrong biopic First Man starring Ryan Gosling and directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land) dropped online recently, so let's talk about what it shows, what it doesn't show, and what we expect to see when the film hits theaters on October 12.
The purpose of a trailer is to make audiences aware of a new film and its release date, introduce the plot, and to tease just enough of the shots to get butts in seats on opening weekend. Some people avoid them altogether because they think that trailer editors often reveal too much, but because the film is based on a biography (written by James R. Hansen) about a real person, we don't think a spoiler warning is necessary.
The trailer opens with a bang, literally, as Neil Armstrong (Gosling) and others watch a rocket launch through a window. It then introduces his family and what he is risking to be "the first man to walk on the moon." Through questions from reporters at press conferences, handwritten math equations, test flights, direct quotes from other actors, and onscreen text calling it the "most dangerous mission in history," we are given a glimpse at the stakes and reminded that the Apollo 11 mission didn't begin and end on July 20, 1969. "Only after we've mastered these tasks do we consider trying to land on the moon," says Kyle Chandler, who is playing aeronautical engineer and WWII veteran Major Deke Slayton. The trailer gives the impression that the film will be more sci-fi action drama than character-focused biopic, with quick shots of Gosling's eyes, violently rattling rocket parts and gauges, passionate conversations and hopeful quotes, fiery explosions, and an equally intense score that builds with the action and adds to the excitement. If we didn't know any better we'd be a little concerned about the odds of the mission ending successfully, which feels like it was the trailer house's intent. Armstrong's full name is never spoken in the trailer (neither is Buzz Aldrin's). A reporter calls him "Neil" around the minute mark, and the only time his name is shown is in a quick shot of the tag on his spacesuit.
The book that inspired the film is titled First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, but the film is simply First Man. Some uninformed trailer watchers who blinked during the name tag shot could easily mistake the movie for a different kind of space action film starring Ryan Gosling. Smart marketing? Yes, if you want to reach a wider audience that may be less interested in history. Misleading? We'd have to see the film first before judging how accurately the trailer captures the tone. The acting from Gosling, Claire Foy, and others looks good, the effects are believable, and having not lived through the '60s, the trailer made us more interested in Armstrong's story before, during, and maybe even after the historic small step/giant leap.
First Man is listed as having an October 12 release date here in the United States and in several other markets.