Review: ‘The Real Right Stuff’ revels in the heroism of the first American astronauts

The Real Right Stuff

Recently, in reviewing the recent Disney+ / National Geographic series The Right Stuff, I commented that while it was competently made, the new adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s seminal book didn’t really bring anything new to the table, or the story. In hindsight, that may have been unfair. It’s true that the story is not new and that I have seen it before, but it did at least bring us the story of seven men rather than seven heroes.

The Real Right Stuff, a documentary about the same seven men and the Mercury Space Program, is in some ways a perfect follow up to that series. Using previously unreleased stories, audio recordings, and footage, it takes an in-depth look at the first American men to fly in space and what they had to go through to get there, and casts them once again as heroes.

In effect, the mini-series and this documentary form two parts of a whole. The former giving us a closer look at the men themselves, and the latter giving us a more complete overview of the mercury program itself.

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‘The Right Stuff’ tells a story we’ve all heard before

The Right Stuff

The story of the American space program of the 1960s and 1970s is one of the most well-told stories in recent history. This new adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff joins 1983s film adaptation, HBO’s 1998 mini-series From The Earth to the Moon, and 2016’s Hidden Figures, and that’s just if we are talking about the Mercury program.

The ground is well-trodden, but it’s a story we keep coming back to because it’s a story of achievement and a time when the country banded together behind a common cause for the public good. Sure, that goal was beating the Soviets, but the implications of the space program are so far-reaching that maybe that doesn’t even matter. Because the ground is so well-trodden though, each return to it must bring something new whether it’s the visual jazz of First Man or the behind the scenes story of Hidden Figures, something new or extra needs to be brought each time.

Herein lies the issue with this new version of The Right Stuff. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

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