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Do Disney+ and Nat Geo have The Right Stuff?

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In 1983 something big happened at the box office. The last instalment of the Star Wars saga hit theaters and we finally got some answers to that "Luke, I am your father," statement of Darth Vader's. But something else was in theaters that year, something else to do with space, and unlike Return of the Jedi, this movie was about real astronauts and the race to space in the early 1960s. Unfortunately, not many people at the time noticed. 

That other film was The Right Stuff

Nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (along with winning four others), The Right Stuff proved a bad box office return didn't mean relegation to the dustbin of history. The film was selected for preservation in the National Film registry in 2013, and now Nat Geo has taken Tom Wolfe's acclaimed book of the same name and turned it into a series currently streaming on Disney+.

So the question is, does this new telling of the history of the early space program and the Mercury astronauts have The Right Stuff

'Eh. Sort of.  

If you've read the book or watched the film, many of the character beats will look familiar. The conflict between John Glenn (Patrick J Adams) and Alan Shepard (Jake McDormon) to see who will be chosen as the first man in space is ramped up to eleven as is Gordon Cooper's (Colin O'Donoghue) rocky home life. The biggest issue for me watching the first three episodes was honestly keeping track of the characters. Other than Glenn, Shepard, and Cooper, none of the remaining Seven are really present in the story. They are little more than set dressing, and with little to no introduction for them, I'm never really sure which astronaut they are playing when they do speak. 

The series does a good job of showing how seven ordinary men, and their families, are catapulted from the anonymity of test pilots to the center of the world stage. Patrick J Adams' John Glenn still exudes that 'Mister Clean Marine' vibe, and there is plenty of smoking, drinking, and skirt-chasing, but something seems to be lacking. Maybe it's the feeling of actually watching something historical? The disclaimer at the front of each episode stating that people or situations have been altered for dramatic purposes doesn't quite cover the level of licence taken in the show. 

With that in mind, I'm more than a little hesitant to see how the series deals with such things as Gus Grissom and the loss of Liberty Bell 7. Both Deke Slayton and Gordon Cooper took issue with how the movie version dealt with the loss of the capsule when the escape hatch blew after touch down in July of 1961. Will the series take the same road of making it look like Grissom did something wrong, or will it set the story straight and give Gus his due that the hatch did "just blow" on its own? We'll have to wait at see. 

All in all, I wouldn't say to give the series a pass, there is some good stuff here. I would suggest you take what you see with a grain of salt, seek out some of the actual historical information, and maybe watch From the Earth To The Moon if you want to binge something and get a more accurate telling of the early days at NASA.

Are you watching The Right Stuff? What do you think of the series so far? 

Written by LadyShelley on Oct 19, 2020

Comments

LadyShelley posted a month ago

@NeoRocket wrote:
I was looking forward to this. Remember at least several generations grew up without this so, an education. I am glad they did this but wish it was better and hope it gets better. But YES! THANK YOU! What about a series on Gemini!?? And... Apollo! Both in the same tone as the Right Stuff (the MOVIE! of course!). And yes, then the Shuttle program! The whole program including the two major tragedies and what was learned from both. But as a PART of the story not "focusing" on the incidents as you so rightly pointed out is all Hollyweird has managed to do so far. Enough death porn. The Shuttle Program was not two utter destruction of two craft and all aboard. It was so much more. 

I LOVE auto racing and bike racing. Especially drag racing and the F1 racing of both. I go or tune in to see RACING!!! Knowing full well there actually are those that go mainly "to see the wrecks". Well in my experience those are a very small minority and not respected by most racers or fans. In other words there are a few morons in any crowd. So stop making Shuttle Disaster movies to spotlight the recent manned adventures into space.

Thank you for those insights LadyShelley.

I was sooo looking forward to this as well. I've been a space nerd all my life and my hope was with NatGeo and Disney behind it we would get an expansive in-depth look at the early space program, like what Tom Hanks and his crew did with From The Earth to the Moon. Instead, we're getting, as you put it, reality show, and frankly not a very good one. I still don't know which actors are supposed to be Slayton, Carpenter, or Schirra, though at least they pinned down which one is Grissom. 

As for Liberty Bell 7, there is no doubt now that Gus did nothing wrong, that the hatch did blow on its own. But with the way things are going, I have zero confidence this production will set the story straight. 

NeoRocket posted a month ago

@LadyShelley wrote:
Why remake The Right Stuff? I suspect at least part of it is down to the people in charge of productions remember the film, remember the romance surrounding the early space era as a result of the film (or book) and want to cash in on that. The problem is, this was all sixty years ago now. None of the Seven are still alive (another reason to maybe do this, there's no one to complain about the egregious character assassinations). I've always found it interesting that there are any number of movies/miniseries'/whatever for Mercury and Apollo, but next to nothing for the Gemini Project and the only things about the shuttle program are basically disaster films about Challenger and Columbia

I think people are still excited about space and space exploration, but it's hard to get too emotional over robots. So instead productions relive the 'glory days' so to speak. 

I was looking forward to this. Remember at least several generations grew up without this so, an education. I am glad they did this but wish it was better and hope it gets better. But YES! THANK YOU! What about a series on Gemini!?? And... Apollo! Both in the same tone as the Right Stuff (the MOVIE! of course!). And yes, then the Shuttle program! The whole program including the two major tragedies and what was learned from both. But as a PART of the story not "focusing" on the incidents as you so rightly pointed out is all Hollyweird has managed to do so far. Enough death porn. The Shuttle Program was not two utter destruction of two craft and all aboard. It was so much more. 

I LOVE auto racing and bike racing. Especially drag racing and the F1 racing of both. I go or tune in to see RACING!!! Knowing full well there actually are those that go mainly "to see the wrecks". Well in my experience those are a very small minority and not respected by most racers or fans. In other words there are a few morons in any crowd. So stop making Shuttle Disaster movies to spotlight the recent manned adventures into space.

Thank you for those insights LadyShelley.

NeoRocket posted a month ago

I loved The Right Stuff! (movie) I too was familiar with the story of the loss of Liberty 7 and I believe the accounts that it was not Grissom's fault. But on the whole? I loved that movie and shortly after the theater run, owned a VHS copy. Of course now, after having upgraded to the DVD, I have a Bluray copy.
I loved the tone of the movie which seems to be lacking in this series despite excellent actors and performances. The movie had an epic feel. A "larger than life feel" appropriate to this nation seeking to send a man into space and compete with the other major Global Superpower in doing it. EPIC! This series... Seems... Smaller. At times even... Small. The concentrating on the "party boy" aspect over what they were doing. The concentrating on petty interpersonal dramas between the pilots. We are 4 episodes in and mostly what I have seen is reality show level drama queen drama. 

The scene in The Right Stuff the movie? Where they hit Edwards and at a BBQ the wives are in the house talking about their fears? That was riveting. That was a great personal scene. With a series providing more hours of screen time to dig deeper instead we get this? C'mon Disney. You can do better. Or... Can you?

LadyShelley posted a month ago

Why remake The Right Stuff? I suspect at least part of it is down to the people in charge of productions remember the film, remember the romance surrounding the early space era as a result of the film (or book) and want to cash in on that. The problem is, this was all sixty years ago now. None of the Seven are still alive (another reason to maybe do this, there's no one to complain about the egregious character assassinations). I've always found it interesting that there are any number of movies/miniseries'/whatever for Mercury and Apollo, but next to nothing for the Gemini Project and the only things about the shuttle program are basically disaster films about Challenger and Columbia

I think people are still excited about space and space exploration, but it's hard to get too emotional over robots. So instead productions relive the 'glory days' so to speak. 

JuanArango posted a month ago

Also think that a series is not needed for this, but I might be wrong.

lao.san posted a month ago

I remember seeing the movie the Right Stuff and so was a bit confused as to why they decided to make a series out of it. Then again, everything is being remade nowadays. I watched the first episode and felt it was ok... that is, it was standards television fare. But I agree, it has nothing of the gravitas the movie had.

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