First Man appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc – mostly. Nine minutes, 40 seconds of footage from the Moon landing expands to 1.78:1 to account for IMAX shots, but the vast majority of the film remains 2.39:1.
First Man used a mix of formats, as it went from 16mm all the way to IMAX 65mm, so unsurprisingly, picture quality varied dependent on the material at work. As expected, the 16mm shots fared the worst, as they displayed fairly iffy delineation and accuracy.
Also as expected, the other formats looked much better – especially the IMAX material, as that footage showed excellent clarity and definition. The 35mm shots lacked the same impact, but they still mainly demonstrated nice accuracy and sharpness, with limitations that arose solely due to the faux documentary style the filmmakers favored.
Whatever the format, the film suffered from no jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. Of course, no print flaws marred the proceedings either.
In terms of colors, First Man favored a decided teal orientation, with some orange/amber thrown in as well. I’d have preferred a more traditional palette for a story like this, but given the “modern” approach to photography on display, the hues came as no surprise. The Blu-ray rendered them in an appropriate manner.
Blacks came across as dark and deep, while shadows appeared smooth and well-depicted. Despite inconsistencies related to the source photography, this became a largely satisfying image.
Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the film’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack offered unequivocal pleasures, as it filled the various speakers well. As anticipated, the scenes related to the space program fared best.
Those created a terrific sense of the action and the settings. Various components formed a fine package to add drama and impact to the proceedings.
Quieter scenes worked fine as well, with music that used the channels in a broad, engaging manner. Various effects contributed dimensionality to the proceedings and allowed the character elements to emerge.
Audio quality impressed, with effects that packed a wallop. When allowed to prosper – via those space scenes I mentioned – the mix showed effects with excellent clarity and accuracy. They threw in deep, tight low-end as well.
Music sounded lush and full, while speech remained concise and distinctive. I felt wholly pleased with this very strong soundtrack.
The Blu-ray comes with a bunch of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from director Damien Chazelle, screenwriter Josh Singer and editor Tom Cross. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/characters, research and realism, cast and performances, sets and locations, editing and music, photography, and effects.
After a slow start, this becomes a pretty informative commentary. While its focus on historical accuracy makes it feel a little self-congratulatory at times, we still get a nice view of production choices and learn a fair amount about the movie’s creation.
Two Deleted Scenes follow, as we find “House Fire” (3:36) and “Apollo 8 Launch” (0:41). The former shows a blaze at the Armstrong home, while the latter depicts Neil as he views the blast off. Both seem pretty forgettable and they would’ve added little to the film, though “Fire” does offer a brief glimpse of a more emotional Neil.
Eight featurettes ensue, and these launch with Shooting for the Moon. In this three-minute, 40-second reel, we hear from Chazelle, Singer, and actors Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy.
We find out how various participants came to the project as well as characters, story and stylistic choices. It becomes a fairly superficial overview.
With Preparing to Launch, we discover a three-minute, 39-second reel that features Chazelle, Gosling, Singer, Foy, author James R. Hansen, producer Wyck Godfrey, and actors Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler.
“Launch” offers a few more character/story notes. Like “Shooting”, it doesn’t give us much substance.
Next comes Giant Leap In One Small Step, a four-minute, 31-second piece that includes Chazelle, Gosling, and Neil Armstrong’s sons Mark and Rick. “Step” examines basic notes about Neil Armstrong. I like the glimpses of archival footage and it’s good to get some notes from Neil’s kids, but overall, this becomes another fairly ordinary piece.
For Mission Gone Wrong, we get a two-minute, 42-second program with Gosling and stunt coordinator Jim Churchman. “Wrong” looks at the stunts and other elements related to one of the movie’s action sequences. While brief, “Wrong” manages a decent look at the subject matter.
After this we move to Putting You In the Seat, a seven-minute, nine-second show that offers notes from Gosling, Chazelle, production designer Nathan Crowley, special effects supervisor JD Schwalm, and actors Christopher Abbott and Lukas Haas. “Seat” discusses design, effects and photographic choices, with an emphasis on the space flight shots. It becomes a fairly satisfying program.
Recreating the Moon Landing lasts six minutes, one second and brings info from Chazelle, Gosling, Crowley, director of photography Linus Sandgren and actor Corey Stoll.
As expected, this show covers the movie’s attempts to show the iconic moments. It seems a bit more self-congratulatory than I’d like, but it still delivers decent information.
Up next we get the three-minute, 11-second Shooting At NASA, a reel that delivers material with Chazelle, Gosling, Stoll, and Haas. Here we get some thoughts about locations. Don’t expect much substance, as the program mostly tells us how great it was to film at NASA.
Finally, Astronaut Training fills four minutes, two seconds and details from Chazelle, Gosling, Haas, Chandler, Stoll, Clarke and actors Pablo Schreiber, Patrick Fugit, Cory Michael Smith, Shea Whigham and Ethan Embry. This one views some of the actors’ prep, but it doesn’t provide more than fluffy basics.
The disc opens with ads for Operation Finale, Green Book, Colette and Universal Parks. No trailer for First Man appears here.
A second disc offers a DVD copy of First Man. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.
A sporadically effective biopic, First Man works best when it focuses on its impactful space photography. However, the movie lacks much depth and seems more superficial and derivative than I’d like. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture along with excellent audio and supplements highlighted by a fairly informative commentary. First Man becomes a mostly enjoyable but erratic drama.