Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunshine

You haven't heard of the movie Sunshine. That's alright. I just barely heard about it and if it weren't for the fact that someone else downloaded and gave it to me, I might not have seen it, for several reasons I'll get into in a second.

Sunshine is a sci-fi movie from a horror movie director, about a crew of 8 traveling to our dying sun to put a big effin' bomb in the middle of it to...reignite it? (I guess. Whatever.) Without said big effin' bomb, the Earth will freeze and die and blah bloo blee blah.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me go ahead and say that I went into this movie with, jesus, at least half a dozen preconceptions. First, the fact that it is directed by Danny Boyle of the 28 Days Later series fame, and while I can't say that I loved the first movie as much as everyone (and, admittedly, have yet to see the second,) I can recognize a decent piece of cinema when I see it. I was also aware that this wasn't shot on the biggest budget, and I imagine that is a huge limitation when shooting a sci-fi movie about a giant space ship and the sun (which is also kinda big.) Casting doesn't particularly effect me nearly as much as consideration of directors and writers, but I was aware that two of the main actors worked with Boyle in the 28 series, and I think having worked with an actor before helps utilize their talents more effectively. Also, Michelle Yeoh is in this movie! I did not know that, but it is awesome regardless.

Let me also say that I pretty much hate sci-fi movies, and very few of them have any worth in my horror-centric world. Mainly because, in the words of Joe Kelly, there is "too much fiction. Not enough science." And it basically boils down to me obsessing over small, nitpicky details about the science in the movie. Not because I think that everything should be factual 100% of the time in movies, but because real science is often ten times more interesting than anything we could make up. That being said, can we please dispense with the notion that people freeze when they're in space?

Ok. Whew. Having said all that, let me state that on a pass/fail system, this movie is definitely on the pass side, with its main strength lying in its characters and the tension creating by having the fate of the entire world on your shoulders.

Despite the fact that there are 8 people on board this ship, you obtain a very real sense of who each of them are, and because they've been in space with each other for the past 7 years, their completely rational human personality traits explode into full-blown obsessions and occasionally
an outburst or two. In fact, one of the opening scenes features two of the characters fighting over what basically equates to vblogging.

One of my favorite scenes in the entire movie is the second one, where one of the crew members is viewing the sun through a protective window and orders the computer to weaken the protective barrier by something like half a percent to let the light in. The result is that light fills the room and the camera gets a bit wonky and you get the impression that the light is a physically palpable thing, an idea that continues throughout the film. During everything, the light becomes a very real presence and has to be considered before doing anything, since it's like a combination laser/explosion. I hate to get all English major on everyone, but it accentuates the idea that as living beings, we're very intimately connected to the sun. And, being something of an astronomy afficionado, I really appreciated that the opening scene revolved around reverence for the sun. Also, here's a fun fact: Firefox's spellchecker acknowledges the word "wonky" as being correct, but not the word "spellchecker". Weird.

Anyway, the same crew member that enters into the observation room and fills it with light goes on to describe the event to the rest of the crew as a spiritual experience, and throughout the remainder of the movie, every time he's not doing something crewy, he's in that observation room watching the sun. Something weird starts happening with his face that made me go, "Is he shedding?" and you realize that he's literally burning his own skin off with this obsession, but they never mention it in the movie. I loved that, and I'm glad that the same scheme is repeated with a majority of the characters.

If you watch the trailer, they let you know that an extra someone is on the ship and starts sabotaging the whole "save the Earth" deal, and if you watch only the first ten minutes of the movie, it becomes pretty obvious that it's the captain of the previous, unsuccessful ship that mysteriously vanishes. I did not ruin the movie for you. Not even the littlest of bits.

Besides the fact that the captain of the previous ship, who is a crispy religious-fanatic, doesn't really even come into play until the final twenty minutes of the film, and even then you don't really care about him. He's not scary, and every time he's on screen, the camera gets hazy and instead of being creepy it's just damn annoying. Also, speaking as an atheist that actually is afraid that religious fanatics will blow up the sun, I can say that the whole "god thing" sounded pretty forced. Ummm, let's see, we need a reason for this guy to go crazy. How about Jesus? Good enough for me! All in all, I would have loved for his character to be cut out entirely and the ending reworked to allow for more of the crew members going out of their minds. And actually, if that would have happened, I would have loved this movie with the boner of a thousand suns (what?)

What you end up with a movie not about the end of life on Earth as we know it, or religious commentary, or even a movie about astronauts going to the sun. What you get is a movie about people dealing with large amounts of pressure and each other, and trying to function knowing damn well that their measly little lives aren't that important in lieu of larger issues. It's a movie about people, and I dig that, even though the last twenty minutes blew it for me and people don't freeze in space.
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