Some say because mankind began,
Someday we’ll meet our end.
It’s borrowed time we spend.
Now centuries or more before
That fateful day arrives,
We fear for future lives.
We doubt if such is simply fate.
Should we rage if we could
If that good night be good?
Inevitable it may be,
Yet life is valued right
By how its owners fight.
Is saving life postponing death?
Then may death hesitate,
However short the wait.
MPAA rating: R (for language and some violence)
I’m a little embarrassed to have fallen behind on my Blindspot series this year, only now getting to May’s pick. Though, in my defense, I have been busy graduating and looking for a new job in web design, so I think that’s a reasonable excuse. Oh, and I discovered a funny little show called Parks and Recreation, which has kind of distracted me from my typical movie-watching schedule. Even so, I’m trying to catch up this month, and Sunshine made for a welcome return to my Blindspot picks.
I was familiar with Sunshine’s music long before I had any intention of watching it, even placing it at #49 on my list of Top 50 Movie Scores. Much of the electronica from composer John Murphy and the band Underworld is complementary for a sci-fi film but unmemorable, yet “Adagio in D Minor” is an immortal cinematic track as far as I’m concerned, serving to heighten the emotion of two visually striking scenes.
There’s more than the score, though, to make Sunshine worth watching, not least of which is the diverse and recognizable cast, all astronauts aboard the Icarus II on a mission to save mankind by reigniting the sun with a giant bomb. Cillian Murphy seems to be the lead as Robert Capa, a physicist in charge of the actual payload, while the rest of the crew include Michelle Yeoh, Benedict Wong, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada (Lost alert!), and Chris Evans, who was between superhero roles at the time. Actually, it’s telling that five of those actors have made their way into superhero movies, and wait(!) Hiroyuki Sanada is supposedly cast in the next Avengers movie so it’s probably only a matter of time before Garity and Curtis make the leap too. The characters aren’t much more developed than the crew of the Nostromo in Alien (which wasn’t much when you think about it), but the actors do well in giving them distinct personalities and methods, though it was odd to learn that a lot of background information on each one was thought up yet intentionally left out.
I tend to enjoy the science fiction genre in general, and Sunshine had many of the ingredients I like, from intelligent problem solving in the face of disaster to a foreboding, often claustrophobic setting, plus a few creative subtleties, as when pictures of dead crewmen are momentarily glimpsed in the glare of flashlights. The script was also thought-provoking as it repeatedly put the characters in life-and-death positions in which the death option meant the death of mankind. As for the plot, it reminded me of a cross between the Firefly episode “Bushwhacked” (searching a derelict ship with a crazed danger on board) and Alien: Covenant (picking up a distress signal that jeopardizes the mission, though Sunshine had a better reason for their following of said signal). I know some have criticized Sunshine for how the last third suddenly veers into slasher-style horror, but it didn’t seem incompatible with what came before and, if anything, strengthened the parallels to an Alien movie.
Directed by Danny Boyle, Sunshine has a lot in its favor, which makes its fate as a box-office failure even sadder, but it’s also far from perfect. It’s hard for me to fault the grand spacefaring visuals, but there were multiple scenes where I just wasn’t sure what I was looking at, whether because of the unique design of the ship or because the scene was drowned in sunlight or shielded in darkness. This is the only Blindspot I’ve watched twice, the second time with my VC, who had the same trouble but still enjoyed it, and I did find it easier to understand on the second go once I knew what was happening. Coupled with that objection is how the “monster” of the film was kept semi-concealed, not through shadowy editing but through camera distortions that just became overused.
In addition, for a film about the potential end of humanity, there’s very little spiritual dimension to it, only reminders of man being “stardust” and some religious ramblings of a madman. I always find it weird when disaster or apocalyptic movies seem to intentionally avoid or demonize religion, since that’s where many a mind goes when death draws near, and the fact that Cillian Murphy reportedly “converted” to atheism due to this film reveals how coldly unspiritual its underpinnings are.
Despite these qualms, Sunshine was still a sci-fi journey worth taking, buoyed by strong casting, effects, and music. You could almost say it’s a better Alien movie than most of the Alien sequels, and that’s without any aliens. While its fatalism can get heavy and its visuals require some thought to decipher, this is one more corner of science fiction I’m glad to check off the ol’ to-watch list.
Best line (showing writer Alex Garland knew his influences): (Mace) “We should split up.” (Harvey) “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea….” (Mace) “You’re probably right. We might get picked off one at a time by aliens.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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