“Sunshine”

Usually I’m the early adopter in the household. Any new gadget that comes down the pike, I’m willing to give it a shot. But when iTunes started their new movie rental feature, I was the last person in the house to try it. Maya watched two films on her birthday with her friend, Jackie. Julie watched Romeo + Juliet last week, and me? Well, I finally rented a film I’ve been wanting to see since it was released. Before I get into the film, I’m happy to report that iTunes worked great! The film started right away and I didn’t have any annoying pauses while the stream buffered. Sadly, the film I saw wasn’t all that great.

Sunshine, is the work of Danny Boyle (who made 28 Days Later, Trainspotting and others). He’s an interesting director because his films tend to vary in subject — which means he doesn’t really “fit” into one genre. But he does have elements that tend to make their way into his films. For example, he’s very fond of the gross stuff, terror, and characters who inhabit worlds that are always tense. Sunshine satisfies all three criteria for a Danny Boyle film — and for 3/4 of the film, it’s quite an intriguing film. The story is fairly simple:

1. Earth’s Sun is “dying,” leaving our planet in a perpetual winter state.

2. A space mission is launched to “reignite” the sun with “all the fissile material left on Earth.”

3. A crew of 7 is tasked with flying to the sun in a ship called “Icarus II,” launching the “payload” (i.e., the bomb that will reignite the sun), and then making the trip back to Earth.

4. This is the second mission to fly to the Sun. Earth lost contact with “Icarus I –” the first mission to the sun 6 years prior.

5. From the outset, there is tension among the crew that centers on food, air, and fuel needed to make the trip.

6. A distress signal from Irarus I is heard when Icarus II gets to Mercury, and it is decided that they will alter their heading to rendezvous with the ship in order to find out what happened to the crew and to see if they can launch its “payload” as well — since they are not certain that the bomb Icarus II is carrying will do the job.

7. They watch a distorted video of the captain of Icarus I taking about God and why humanity is not worth saving. The crew of Icarus II is baffled, but they still head toward the derelict ship figuring everyone is dead, but they can still salvage the bomb and use it.

8. An accident happens en route to Icarus I resulting in damaged heat shields, a destroyed “oxygen garden,” the death of the ship’s captain, and a ship’s engineer who gets suicidal (he caused the accident to the heat shields).

9. Once they connect with Icarus I, part of the crew goes over to investigate. And that’s when the film shifts gears from “mission to the Sun” to a horror film.

It’s was at “step 9” when the film lost me. Not that I didn’t understand what was going on, but I felt the whole “only survivor of Icarus I” plot line was unnecessary because it added so little to the drama. In fact, it made what could have been an interesting tale of emergency space travel and the psychological toll it takes on the crew, into a laughable finale that involves a murderous freak. It’s like the filmmakers didn’t trust the story would take audience to a satisfying end, so they injected a “Big Bad” into the mix just the goose the suspense level. Alas, it didn’t work.

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