Unlike the 1983 movie adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s book — which deftly cut between the celebrated astronauts and the unheralded exploits of test pilot Chuck Yeager — the focus here is squarely on the former. Yet with more time to fill, the series is as much about their personal lives as their escape-the-bonds-of-Earth exploits.
“It’s not my world down here,” Glenn, who genuinely loves his wife, says amid the latenight pool parties and carousing.
This latest “The Right Stuff” is also, in some respects, a media story, since the astronauts made a deal with Life magazine, which branded them heroes and sold the romance and patriotism surrounding the space program and NASA for fun and profit.
The tradeoff is a requirement to sustain that wholesome image. That’s a struggle for Gordo Cooper (Colin O’Donoghue), who is estranged from his wife (Eloise Mumford) and must patch things up, or at least create the appearance of it, to stay in the program.
Adams and McDorman are both exceptionally good, so much so that they largely eclipse the other astronauts, pitting Shepard’s drive to be first against Glenn’s grasp of the big picture in terms of what’s at stake.
Granted, one can rightly argue that Philip Kaufman’s original movie, which ran more than three hours, admirably covered this particularly terrain, questioning the need for this more drawn-out, generally dutiful retelling.
Objecting to Hollywood remakes, however, is a pretty futile endeavor. Besides, the best answer here is that there’s enough room in space — and nostalgia for the daring souls who first braved it — to accommodate more than one version, as long as the production has the you know what, as this mostly does.
“The Right Stuff” premieres Oct. 9 on Disney+.