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Ryan Gosling, Damien Chazelle and Neil Armstrong's sons defend First Man's omission of lunar flag-planting moment

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Aug 31, 2018, 9:00 PM EDT

Star Ryan Gosling, director Damien Chazelle, and Neil Armstrong’s sons are defending some early criticism of First Man, which claims the movie is being unpatriotic by omitting the iconic American flag-planting moment. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin deployed the U.S. flag upon the surface of the moon after being the first men to set foot there in 1969, widely considered to be one of the most significant moments in American history.

Following an online backlash, Rick Armstrong and Mark Armstrong released a joint statement (via Variety) with First Man author James R. Hansen on Friday saying: "We do not feel this movie is anti-American in the slightest. Quite the opposite. But don’t take our word for it. We'd encourage everyone to go see this remarkable film and see for themselves."

However, Chazelle also spoke out on Friday, specifically denying that it was a political move, and highlighted that the film shows the American flag standing on the lunar surface. He explained: "To address the question of whether this was a political statement, the answer is no. My goal with this movie was to share with audiences the unseen, unknown aspects of America's mission to the moon — particularly Neil Armstrong's personal saga and what he may have been thinking and feeling during those famous few hours."

At the Venice Film Festival where the film debuted on Wednesday, Gosling (who plays Neil Armstrong) also responded to questions about the omission. At a press conference (via The Telegraph), when asked if the move was purposely un-American, Gosling said Armstrong's accomplishment "transcended countries and borders."

Gosling, a Canadian, also joked that he "might have cognitive bias," adding: "So I don't think that Neil viewed himself as an American hero. From my interviews with his family and people that knew him, it was quite the opposite. And we wanted the film to reflect Neil."

Much of the criticism surrounding the film and Gosling's comments have, of course, surfaced on Twitter. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: "This is total lunacy. And a disservice at a time when our people need reminders of what we can achieve when we work together. The American people paid for that mission, on rockets built by Americans, with American technology & carrying American astronauts. It wasn't a UN mission."

The film focuses on the epic undertaking of Armstrong (who died in 2012 at age 82), the mission, and the years it took to make the landing a reality, from 1961 to 1969. In their statement, Armstrong's sons doubled down on the film's "human" and "universal" messaging, adding: "Of course, it celebrates an America achievement. It also celebrates an achievement 'for all mankind,' as it says on the plaque Neil and Buzz left on the moon. It is a story about an ordinary man who makes profound sacrifices and suffers through intense loss in order to achieve the impossible."

Aside from this criticism, early reviews of the film have been seemingly (inter)stellar.

First Man rockets into theaters in the U.S. on Oct. 12. What's your take on the discussion regarding the flag? Let us know in the comments below.