This Orbital Life recently watched The Right Stuff. It was good, and anyone curious about the history of the American space program really should watch it. But it could have been so much better. Here are four ways The Right Stuff could have become The Perfect Stuff:
1. Make it shorter. The movie was three hours long. Exhausting, although the end was worth waiting for.
2. Better acting in the supporting roles. Some of the characters were just way over the top, which may have been the point. John Glenn was portrayed as a gee golly shucks robot Boy Scout while all the astronaut’s wives were portrayed as tittering, nervous wrecks (but not Glamorous Glennis, Chuck Yeager’s wife). Don’t even get me started on Lyndon Johnson and the NASA public relations guy – they were almost cartoonish in their behavior. I get that the movie was trying to caricature the state of American culture at the time, but these characters were so absurd it was distracting and almost hard to watch.
3. Cut out the superstitious crap. The movie discusses how pilots were scared of breaking the sound barrier because it would anger the “demons” in the sky. Later in the film, Australian Aborigine campfires were juxtaposed with ice crystals coming off of John Glenn’s capsule in space. Eye-rollingly cheesy. I get that the movie maker was trying to insert some sort of metaphysical aspect to the movie to increase tension or something but in the end it all just fell flat.
4. Stick to the main idea. When I sat down to watch the movie, I made the mistake of thinking it would be a movie about astronauts and spaceflight. But what it’s really about is men with incredible, titanic, reckless courage. Literally legendary levels of courage. Flying an experimental aircraft with a broken rib to the edge of space or sitting in a tin-can on top of hundreds of tons of high explosives designed by guys who were very recently Nazis takes a lot of balls. And that’s what this movie is about – guys who had guts. I think all the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo and supporting role nonsense took away from that. Perhaps a re-make is needed?