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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was a “duplex,” a complex sonnet form “organized into seven, two-line stanzas. The second line of the first stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the second stanza, the second line of the second stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the third stanza, and so on. The last line of the poem is the same as the first.” Hopefully, this attempt fits the bill.)

What has a beginning must have an end,
And no one can see it until it arrives.

Though no one can see it, we still comprehend
The subtle impermanence of our own lives.

Impermanent, yes, but our lives leave a mark
Upon those who follow the traces we leave,

And so we must leave traces here in the dark
And give without knowing who else will receive.

For no one has known who will follow their wakes;
No great name of history read the next page.

The page being written no doubt has mistakes,
But let them inform the next coming of age.

The next age that comes is another’s to tend.
What has a beginning must have an end.

MPA rating: PG-13

The Midnight Sky is an odd installment in the sci-fi genre, combining bits of post-apocalypse, survival, space exploration, and emotional introspection into an aspiring whole. Based upon the novel Good Morning, Midnight and directed by star George Clooney, it’s essentially two separate films that come together toward the end. In one, Clooney plays dying astronomer Augustine Lofthouse, who chooses to remain at an Arctic observatory as an unstated catastrophe destroys the earth with radioactivity. He finds a young girl left behind as well and takes her on a snowy journey to another weather station so he can warn a spaceship of the disaster before they reach Earth. The spaceship is the other half of the plot, in which five good-natured astronauts (including Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, and Kyle Chandler) return from an exploratory mission and naturally run into unforeseen dangers.

I liked both halves of this slow and somber drama about the near-end of humanity, but I’m not sure they quite fit together. A twist connecting them is quite moving the more I think about it, but my initial reaction was more confusion than pathos. Still, the acting is strong across the board, with Clooney especially excelling as a grizzled man weighed down by regret, and his journey across the Arctic with a quiet little girl was oddly reminiscent of Tom Hanks’ turn in News of the World, particularly a part where he loses track of her in a storm. Clooney’s artful direction is evident both on Earth and in a gravity-defying space walk sequence that earned the film a well-deserved Oscar nomination for its visual effects. The Midnight Sky is an overly familiar hodgepodge, and a rather depressing one at that, but its individual strengths still add up to a worthwhile journey for sci-fi fans like me.

Best line: (Augustine, telling the spaceship crew about Earth) “I’m afraid we didn’t do a very good job of looking after the place while you were away.”

Rank: List Runner-Up

© 2022 S.G. Liput
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