The Right Stuff: Real Men, the review of the first season

The Right Stuff: Real Men, the review of the first season
Space and space exploration are experiencing a moment of strong interest both at a technological and scientific level and in pop culture. In the last year, in fact, we have seen series like Space Force, Away and Over The Moon from Netflix and to chase this space race, Disney + has decided to present the series The Right Stuff: Real Men which debuts almost a year later. since it was announced in November 2019. After talking to you about the first two episodes previewed, here's the full review of the first season.

The Right Stuff: Real Men is a TV show based on the Tom Wolfe's novel of the same name and Philip Kaufman's 1983 film adaptation, and is Disney + 's first attempt to make a more mature series after High Fidelity and Love, Victor were moved to Hulu for fear that the content would not fit. for Disney's target audience. The series was produced for National Geographic by Leonardo DiCaprio's Appian Way and Warner Bros Television.

The Right Stuff: Real Men, Between Differences and Maturity

From the opening credits we notice how Disney wanted to reinforce the concept of adapting the series to the cinematic work, with the consequent risk that fans of the second work could spend much of the first episode looking for the cast differences between the series and the film equivalent. This aspect would not create problems if everything had been wisely respected, but unfortunately the absence of Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot of the United States Air Force, who in the film earned an Oscar nomination for actor Sam Shepard, immediately catches the eye.

Screenwriter Mark Lafferty undoubtedly thought of making this choice to create a considerable narrative distance between the series and the film so that the story could be more dynamic. In the film, in fact, there are three different points of view that include not only Major John Glenn and Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard, but also, precisely, Chuck Yeager who shows a certain reluctance towards NASA. In the series, however, only the seething hostility between the first two vying to be the first man in space is shown.

The Right Stuff: Real Men, in fact, tells a grandiose feat, generated by true ambition and to discover the consequences that success had on those who achieved it, the Mercury Seven, along with their families. How competition, wealth and sudden stardom changed their lives as they changed history.

In 1959, at the height of the Cold War, America fears it is a declining nation while the Soviet Union dominates the space race. But the US government has a solution: get a man into space in a short time. The newly formed NASA is given this monumental task, and a team of the nation's best engineers reckon it will take decades to accomplish the feat, but they will only have two years.

NASA engineers, including rocket engineer Bob Gilruth (Patrick Fischler) and passionate Chris Kraft (Eric Ladin) work against the clock under increasing pressure from Washington. Together they select seven astronauts from a group of military test pilots. These are ordinary men, torn from the darkness who, a few days before being presented to the world, are transformed into heroes even before doing something heroic.

The two men at the center of the story are Major John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams), esteemed test pilot and devoted family man, and Lieutenant Commander Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman), one of the best test pilots in the history of the United States Navy. Among the other members of the Mercury Seven, Commander Gordo Cooper (Colin O’Donoghue), the youngest of the seven who was chosen to everyone's surprise; Wally Schirra (Aaron Staton), a competitive driver skilled at making jokes; Scott Carpenter (James Lafferty), nicknamed “The Poet” by the other astronauts; Deke Slayton (Micah Stock), taciturn but incredibly intelligent pilot and engineer, and Gus Grissom (Michael Trotter), a decorated military veteran who will become the second man in space.

A troubled confusion

A few words are enough to describe the first season of The Right Stuff: Real Men: enjoyable, but unclear. You never understand what it really wants to be because all the episodes develop narratively like films, but in reality they structurally follow the stylistic features of seriality. In this way he is likely to struggle to find an audience that would be interested in every single step.

The central conflict of the work is the dichotomy between the two most important members of the Mercury Seven program: Glenn, amiably portrayed by Patrick J. Adams as an expert role-climber and capable of cunning political maneuvers (blatant allusion to Glenn's post-astronaut life as a senator) and Alan Shepard, played by Jake McDorman and shown as a womanizer with problems controlling his impulsiveness and some physical defects in the ear.

The interpretation of McDorman, to which most of the first episodes is dedicated, stands out in particular. This is characterized by the character's family and character description in particular the dysfunctional relationship with his father and his adopted daughter. Also interesting is the secondary plot involving Leroy "Gordo" Cooper (Colin O'Donoghue) and his wife Trudy (Eloise Mumford) who agree to pretend a happy marriage to increase their husband's chances of being selected for the Mercury Program and is the l only really intriguing part present in the first two episodes of the show.

The real first problem comes when trying to talk about the actual space program. Creator Lafferty, no stranger to stories of technological ingenuity, after working as a screenwriter for Manhattan and Halt and Catch Fire, evocatively displays NASA's busy days via large rooms filled with unmanned desks and continual launch failures. Fans of the space program will likely be disappointed by the little attention given to the real scientific studies placed on various space launches and the analysis of various problems during the launches also because we see astronauts more in swimming pools and their family problems than training for space. .

Which brings us to another point, which is that outside of the three astronauts mentioned above, the other pilots of the Mercury Seven are simply useful as extras. This is a real shame as these men have played all a key role in promoting the space program. In this sense, the series openly invites a second viewer experience, as most will likely try to fill in the blanks or check if what is portrayed on screen is based on real facts via other in-depth research.

The important interpretations of female actresses and the lack of narrative credibility

The really interesting aspect of the work, therefore, becomes the private one of the pilots and the role of the family in their life. In this sense, the interpretations of the three main actresses are worthy of attention: the aforementioned Eloise Mumford who in the role of Trudy Cooper fakes a wedding while she herself wanted a career in aviation, Nora Zehetner in the role of Annie Glenn, whose stammer not only makes public life difficult for her, but it also acts as an impetus for John and Shannon Lucio's constant obstruction as Louise Shepard, a fearless journalist who goes to great lengths not to be made aware of her husband's shady business and who she wants at all costs to be the best in her role.

Lovers of realism, however, will find family moments lacking in credibility even though the performances are really good. Love stories scream too much at Disney romanticism because although their fluffiness is obvious, they always tend not to show their true melodramatic and critical nature. For example, it is easy to understand that Alan Shepard does not pay much attention to his wife preferring a life of betrayal and worldliness, but being a Disney product all this is told with a certain aura of vagueness where family love still prevails.

Precisely because we are talking about a Disney product we noticed another not indifferent problem which is the lack of courage on the part of Mark Lafferty in making the work a real historical study by simply following the stylistic features of a calm, politically correct series. and suitable for everyone. These would not be flaws if the series itself did not show moments of blatant family betrayal and exaggerated worldliness, so it is not possible to explain why not to make it a real mature work, perhaps going so far as to explain why in that group of astronauts-heroes, in those years, there could be women like Trudy Cooper or citizens of color.

In conclusion ...

The biggest weakness of The Right Stuff: Real Men is therefore the story that is flat, too imprinted heroism and which adds nothing new compared to the 1983 film, but rather takes away important pieces such as the character of Chuck Yeager. In the end the series, just like the space program it wants to narrate, stumbles in the early stages with a slow, irregular and imprecise beginning and tries to recover in the final stages with some not indifferent directorial and writing goodies. Even net of some serious errors, especially technical ones with unrealistic special effects and very dark and unclear shots, the first season of The Right Stuff: Real Men is still enjoyable. In particular, the interpretations of the protagonists and their supporting actors and a soundtrack stand out, reinforced by the presence of songs of the time, when rock'n'roll was the soundtrack of everyone's days, very suggestive.

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