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April 7th, 2007

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09:51 am - Sunshine
Sunshine is a good old-fashioned SF film, from Alex Garland and Danny Boyle. It's about a ship travelling to the sun, to sort of reboot it with a big nuclear device. It's all the journey of the space ship, with a small cast in a small(ish) set. Compared to most of the garbage that's on at the cinema these days it's a great improvement, and except for the central premise it more or less makes sense; nothing about it was jarringly wrong. In fact it is nice to see a space journey of eight light minutes being accurately portrayed as an immensely difficult challenge which takes several years to complete.

The computer graphics are good and essential for conveying the huge killing forces with which the crew are trying to grapple. The big concern is to keep the huge Shields (physics of these left unclear) in between the ship and the sun. You never forget the immensity and power of the sun.

I thought the film was possibly too edited down. It was 1 hour 40, and I think it could have been extended to two hours or more. Some of the events seemed rushed and I thought we didn't get to know the people as well as we might have. A problem, compared to Alien for instance is that these are the elite of the Earth so of course they are not a bunch of entertaining misfits, but heroic geniuses under a lot of strain. In that respect, more like 2001 than Alien or Event Horizon.

I think those three films triangulate on this one. Almost everything in this film can be rooted in a science fiction tradition - what a computer voice sounds like, the interactions between airlock and vacuum, fire in the hole etc. - which we almost feel is a history of space flight, although none of it has really happened. I thought many of the shots were meant to evoke those precursors, plus Silent Running, Solaris, and even Dark Star.

2001 explains the divine by science (the creator of mankind is an alien space being) while Event Horizon asserts that physics is theology (people are damned to hell for going faster than light). This film is about feelings of awe at the majesty and divinity of the Universe, particularly as embodied by The Sun, but it is an atheist film. In that respect I think it is a riposte to Event Horizon. Many of the characters are struggling with private issues around god and damnation. Interestingly a religious reviewer (Mark Kermode) says that it is religious (that review is worth reading) but I think it aggressively isn't.

Paradoxically that leads to a feeling of deflation at the lack of supernatural resolution - there is no deus ex machina, or zombie ex inferno - the end is the end.

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[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)
I was at the Danny Boyle interview at the NFT a couple of weeks ago, and he talked about the religious aspects of the film (link to a transcript is here, the relevant bit is at the bottom of the page). I remember him talking about sun-worship, that it would be impossible to get that close to the sun and not want to fall down and worship it to some degree. The bit at the end (which I won't talk about here to avoid spoilers!) is supposed to embody that. But he also says, I see from the transcript, that he's mostly leaving it open to interpretation, so I don't think it's absolutely an atheist film - certainly not in the agressive way you're talking about. Boyle also spoke about "the appalling arrogance of science," which would also support a more agnostic viewpoint.

Anyway, I agree with you that the film is more like 2001 than Alien, although it definitely has its moments - it had me on the edge of my seat in a way that 2001 never did.
[User Picture]
Date:April 7th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
I think there may be a difference between Boyle and Garland (agnostic with relgious nostaligia, vs atheist). And that kind of tension between writer and director can be a good thing for a film.

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