Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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The high concept of Sunshine is a delicious madness: eight astronauts pilot a ship, Icarus II, to our dying sun where, once there, they will fling a massive explosive into its dying form in the hope that bombing the fuck out of it will kick it back to life.

It's beautiful.

It's also intensely stupid.

Take, for example, the design of Icarus II: it's like an umbrella, floating on its side, and with the protective roof pointed out at the sun to protect the ship from burning up and exploding. The shielding looks, I must say, pretty damn cool when it's alight and burning as it approaches the sun, and makes for a nice visual. Unfortunately, all the protective shielding is part of the bomb that they will drop into the sun, and once that is dropped, there will be no shielding on the ship. According to the script, once the bomb drops, Icarus II is left with four minutes to escape the sun and certain exploded death. Given that this shielding is required from Mercury, and that they've been traveling through space for over a year now to reach it, you might think that four minutes to flee the angry, bombed sun is a bit of a flaw in the logic of this film. Unfortunately, it's not the only one: Garland's script is filled with basic problems throughout, such as why Icarus II needs to slingshot around Mercury to change it's flight path, but can come to a complete stop, move sideways, and go round in circles when it needs. There's also the question of why the omnipotent AI on the ship doesn't pick up on the invasive figure straight away. Then there's the dust. And then... well, look, the list is somewhat extensive, if you give it enough thought. I'm sure shielding only one side of the bomb, for example, when you plan to drop it into the sun is worth a mention. Also, the Earth doesn't look terribly mined out. And so on and so forth.

Yet, though I have this list, I still enjoyed this film. I liked it. It's gloriously stupid, b-grade, science fiction madness. To describe this film is to describe a beautiful, but shallow creature. The kind of creature you love to look at, but which drinks the draino. For example, the scenes of Icarus II approaching the sun, or approaching Icarus I, are lovely. (Yes, there's an Icarus I. Obviously.) The look of the ship is an elegant collection of whites and blues, broken up only when the sun is allowed to flood through. The score is a fine thing--much as the score for Doyle and Garland's previous film, 28 Days Later, was a fine thing, and it's no surprise to find John Murphy listed there. The acting, also, is uniformly good, with everyone, but mostly Chris Evan's of Fantastic Four fame, putting in solid, reasoned performances, where not one of them blinks at some of the logic jumps that their characters make--at the top of the list is Cliff Curtis as Searle, the ship's psychologist, who becomes obsessed with the sun because it's there. The cast is handled in an enjoyable ensemble manner which allows for a nice weighting among the characters, and this is, for all that I have pointed out Garland's stupidity, is the greatest strength of the script, and which allows for it to rise above its logic flaws. My one quibble with the characters, in fact, is that Rose Byrne, and especially Michelle Yeoh, feel under used and lost, as if Garland and Boyle were, in the end, unable to figure how to fit the two female characters of the film into what becomes, perhaps unsurprisingly given the high concept, a boys in space narrative.

Is it wrong of me to single out Garland for the mistakes? Doyle, as director, must take some blame for the idiot level of logic running through the film, but yet, given that this is the case, the final product, in terms of pacing, visuals, and tone, is such a solid, and entertaining little thing that, in many ways, you feel as if you can forgive him. It is as if he has just trusted in Garland to do his research, and to not be too beholden to films such as Event Horizon and 2001, while he himself has closed his eyes to all those influences. In the end, I guess even that is too much of a stretch for me. It's not right to blame Garland for the films flaws, for Doyle is just as much to blame, and the two of them do deserve to be pulled up on the dumb logic that they sunk millions of dollars into, and which further highlights the offensive amounts of money that is spent in idiotic pursuits, while countries struggle for clean drinking water. I know, I know: no one likes that argument. But it's important, because if you're going to sink this money into a film, try and at least be thoughtful, and intelligent, because the money could be spent elsewhere, and on people who need it. Prove that you deserve it for this entertainment.

Yet still, I like this film. I enjoyed it. I'm not going to discuss the plot in any length, because the plot is fairly standard and by the numbers, and there aren't any twists that you won't be able to pick a mile away. But yet, it has an energy to it. It has a style. It reminds me, in some ways, of the energy and vibe that was in David Twohy's Pitch Black and Below, before he ended up in The Chronicles of Riddick, and the stupidity and budget drowned out everything he had going for him. So, if you've got a spare evening, and you're not bothered by this kind of stupidity--in the same way that I am bothered by the historical inaccuracies and racism of 300, of which the tone was, in any way, much nastier given its preaching of freedom and tolerance of all things white--then I recommendSunshine. It's an entertaining little b-grade sci-fi flick.


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