Rates: * * * 1/2
Why Did I Watch It? On David Sims’ list of 30 underrated films to rewatch.
Fifty years into the future, something has gone wrong with the sun: it’s fusion engine is sputtering, and the earth is being turned into a snowball. In best movie tradition, our only hope is to send a volatile team on a craaaazy space mission; physicists, engineers and astronauts who have to drop a giant nucelar bomb into the sun’s core to kick start it back to life.
Danny Boyle’s lively sci fi is short on likelihood, but long on fun. Borrowing heavily from Alien, 2001/2010, and a million well worn space adventure tropes, he has crafted something without the more serious trappings of his inspirations, that plays best as a straight up yarn.
And as a people versus environment survival movie, this is actually very good. The visuals are impressively stylised while not losing sight of realism, and this makes for some gripping scenes as the mission goes haywire and things start blowing up. Space is well captured for what it is: a very hostile environment for human beings.
Chris Evans is the standout from among the cast: an early role for him in a big movie, as a blunt pilot who always puts the mission first. The rest are solid more than standout, although it can be hard for actors in a movie like this, where the visual spectacle is so much of the show.
Where the film stumbles, for me, is the final act.
Everything about introducing an actual, human villain is wrongheaded; the idea is unnecessary, and the execution is rubbish. It turns what had been a gritty movie about endurance and ingenuity into a silly genre mismash, splicing horror onto sci fi to the diminishment of both. And the appearance of this evil character is groan inducingly daft: he has spent so much time bathing in raw sunlight that he has not only gone crazy, BUT YOU CAN NO LONGER FOCUS ON HIM!! Boyle had toned down his penchant for hyperactive camera nonsense up to this point, but he runs wild for the finale, which is a shame. It makes for a very limp, unsatisfying conclusion, to what is otherwise a pretty rollicking trip.
Still: love that Murphy has to ride the bomb into the sun, And LOVE how the inside of it looks, like something out of an expressionist fever dream. If he had only done this solo, without an evil beastie on his tail, this would be close to classic status.