Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Little "Sunshine"

I'm getting ready to do my annual "Top Movies of the Year" blog and have bumped all of the films that came out in 2007 to the top of my Netflix list in an attempt to see as many films that I missed as possible before the deadline next week.

This weekend Sarah and I watched a movie neither of us knew anything about but, thanks to a rave review in "Entertainment Weekly," it didn't slip past us. Actually I probably shouldn't speak for Sarah because I don't know if she really liked it as much as I did. So I'll just say that I loved Sunshine.

The premise of the film is a little laughable: It's the future and the sun is dying so a crew of folks have been sent into space to shoot a bomb into the sun and jump-start it. I know, I know, I thought the same thing. No wonder I've never heard of it. Sounds like something on the bottom shelf at the video store that my Dad would bring home.

I was wrong.

I'll start off by saying I was grateful this film avoided the familiar trap that so many "a-team-of-scientists/explorers/adventurers-are-sent-into-space/the jungle/underwater" films fall into. Sure the personalities on the team are varied but there isn't the usual Tough Lesbian or Macho Jock or Sniveling Coward or Black Guy in Camouflage character that seems to populate every other film in this genre. And I gotta say, it was refreshing. They were just a bunch of people on a spaceship doing what you would assume people would do on a spaceship. No one chomped on a cigar while holding a machine gun and no one did chin-ups every morning and no one--no one--sported a tough New Joizey accent.

MMmmmm, I'm enjoying the freshness already!

Without trying to sound to punny, there was a lot of space in this film; a lot of time to breathe and some of the scenes that were the strongest were those without words. The director (the same guy who did Trainspotting) let the visuals speak for themselves without feeling the need to over-explain everything to the audience with needless exposition.

The film will no doubt be compared to Stanley Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey and I don't think that's fair. Mostly because I thought 2001 sucked. Big time. I know it's a classic, I know it's on every critic's must-see and best-of list, and I know I'm supposed to like it. But I didn't. In my opinion (which happens to be the one I prefer) it's a long, drawn-out, overrated piece of space poop. If you haven't seen it, let me break it down for you:

Monkeys in the middle of the desert find a big stone...thing. Then suddenly we're in a spaceship and the spaceship gets a mind of its own and decides to take over and kills the crew. The last crew member dies--I think--but then suddenly isn't dead and instead is transported to a big white IKEA showroom and has dinner with some dude. The End.

Confused? Yea, me too. Consider yourself lucky. I sat through the entire 7-hour snoozefest telling myself Ok, this HAS to get better....At some point this will all make sense. Surprise!!! It doesn't and it won't.

Where was I? I got sidetracked a bit but my loathing for the 2001 hype actually makes me angry.

Oh wait, I remember....

Sunshine, though, is good. You're not quite sure what is around the corner and that's a good thing. I had never seen any trailers for it, which any more love to give away everything about the plot whether or not it ruins it for you. It was nice to be in a situation for once where I could relate to the characters because I didn't know what would happen next. And by the end of the film, I had answers. Whether I agreed with them or not or whether I liked them or not, at least I had them.

Here, a few days after seeing the film, I still find myself thinking about it, contemplating the characters I met along the way and the decisions that were made on their journey. And it's been a long time since a film did that. And that's the true test of a good film, I think. Not only did I enjoy the couple hours I spent watching it, but it also provided residual enjoyment. And that's something a group of apes grunting at a stone monolith can never do for you.


Jen said...

Great. Another movie I now want to see that I will not be able to watch in Japan. Unless I want to spend Y2000 to try to read lips as the Japanese subtitles drown out the English.

Brad said...

I agree...2001 sucked and I LOVED Sunshine...