The months are flying by, it’s already April… can we just call it a year and give Danny Boyle every possible March 2008 award? Might as well get it over with.
Sunshine is a Jules Vernean voyage extraodinaire for the 21st century, a space adventure, a meditation on light and optics and color. It is simply a gorgeous film.
In some ways it made up for what I was hoping The Fountain would partially be. Aronofsky’s film was very “zen” and depicted contact with a star as a basically passive affair, but Boyle’s expresses the intensity — physical and spiritual — of such an unfathomable experience.
Ever since reading Out of the Silent Planet I have wondered whether it would be possible to make a film about “space” that portrays it as a positive conception rather than a negative one, but it always seemed visually impossible to me. But I believe Danny Boyle has actually succeeded in capturing something like what Lewis described when his protagonist is en route to Mars:
But Ransom, as time wore on, became aware of another and more spiritual cause for his progressive lightening and exultation of heart. A nightmare, long engendered in the modern mind by the mythology that follows in the wake of science, was falling off him.
He had read of ‘Space’: at the back of his thinking for years had lurked the dismal fancy of the black, cold vacuity, the utter deadness, which was supposed to separate the worlds. He had not known how much it affected him till now — now that the very name ‘Space’ seemed a blasphemous libel for this empyrean ocean of radiance in which they swam.
He could not call it ‘dead’; he felt life pouring into him from it every moment. How indeed should it be otherwise, since out of this ocean the worlds and all their life had come? He had thought it barren; he saw now that it was the womb of all worlds, whose blazing and innumerable offspring looked down nightly even upon the earth with so many eyes — and here, with how many more! No: space was the wrong name. Older thinkers had been wiser when they named it simply the heavens.
For me, Sunshine was a glimpse into what such a transcendent experience might be like — though Boyle does not portray it as necessarily having positive results.
But I should probably say Sunshine might not be for everyone: I bumped into one of my friends at the theater who is doing an MA in Science Fiction, and he hated the film. He said it was terrible science. I observed as soon as you say “reigniting the sun” in the premise, plausibility becomes a non-issue.
He seemed to be saying Boyle had failed to achieve his stated intention, in the director’s Q&A following the screening, to take the movie in the direction of “hardcore” sci-fi, with more NASA in it than Star Wars. But in fairness to the director, the three primary influences for Sunshine he cited were Tarkovsky’s Solyaris, 2001, and Alien, which I think is an accurate representation of the various aspects of the film.
I haven’t read a word of print about the movie, so I don’t know if critics are hating it or loving it, but let me go out on a limb and declare Sunshine one of the best five “space” movies, full stop.