The Right Stuff Review, now on Disney+.
One of my lesser hobbies is reading stories, history, or watching movies about anything regarding the glory days of NASA, mostly Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. If you want a great week of entertainment, start with 1983’s The Right Stuff, 1998’s HBO mini-series From The Earth To The Moon, and right after the Apollo 12 episode, stick in Apollo 13. Really doesn’t get better than that.
And it Disney+ has confirmed that. While I was excited to hear they were going to adapt The Right Stuff into a mini-series, based on the first two episodes, I’m more than a little disappointed.
The original movie, while a bit long, never feels its length. It puts grace and artistry and understands the story wasn’t just about shooting up some men into space. It was about who was willing to put their life on the line to basically test some new technology that had never been proven to work. One set of pilots represented by Chuck Yeager felt it was not really being a test pilot. So there was a friendly, somewhat unspoken rivalry there.
While Yeager and co continued to test planes going ever faster, the Mercury seven were all about going ever farther.
The 1983 version told these various stories elegantly, mostly by focusing only on Yeager, Alan Shepherd, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, and Gordon Cooper. Deke Slayton, Wally Schirra, and Scott Carpenter mostly fade into the background. This is a shame but understandable in the confines of a major motion picture.
So I was hoping that the show, with the extra time that 8+ episodes of breathing room would allow, would have a lot more info on those astronauts and more of the background at Edwards AFB. Instead, Yeager is gone completely. The same astronauts are focused on and the pacing and editing are really confusing and frustrating.
The actors are fine, with Jake McDorman as Alan Shepherd doing the best job but they all look way too much alike. Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn and Sam Shepard all have great character and uniqueness that this cast can’t touch. Ok sure, this is a TV show and Disney isn’t exactly swimming in it these days. Thanks, coof coof.
But still, that really doesn’t explain away the breakneck pacing and hectic editing. Why are they moving so fast? They pick the astronauts so fast and none of the great moments of going through the testing is really shown.
The whole thing so far just falls flat. I might give the next episode a try and see if it evens out. But so far I can’t really recommend it. It really pains me to say it too.