/Movie Review – Sunshine

Movie Review – Sunshine

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[Editors Note]: A while ago, when I reposted my original review for the movie Sunshine, we received a comment from one Doug Shearer with his comments on said film. That post can be located here. When I was considering Worst Film Week contributions, I decided to ask Doug if he could whip something up about his most hated film, and he responded by stating he’d love to do a review of Sunshine for us. So, presenting Dougs review of Sunshine, all the way from the USA!. It’s a big one, so grab yourself a coffee or a beer before sitting back to enjoy, okay! Take it away Doug….

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Let us, up front, lay a bit of groundwork, that is to say a whole lot of blame. Seventy percent of the “suck” in Sunshine I park at the door of scriptwriter Alex Garland (for reasons soon to become at least vaguely apparent). The other thirty percent I distribute equally among director Danny Boyle (who, as I understand it, read the first draft of Sunshine on the Tube after Garland gave it to him; I can only (a) hope that Mr. Boyle missed four to six stops on his way home and ended up stranded in Colindale and (b) remind the reading audience that usual Tube activities consist of jostling, being jostled, and staring blankly into a nether distance just past one’s nose. Which is where Mr. Boyle didn’t think to look when reading Sunshine.), the actors (who achieved a rare feat of hive-mind thinking or an even rarer level of intoxication at the pub when they agreed to sign on), and producer Andrew Macdonald.

I’ll never win an Oscar with this….

Technically, there are worse films than Sunshine. Of course I admit that. This just happens to be the film I find the most utterly disappointing and disheartening. The one that gnaws off a tiny bit of my soul every time I think about it.

Supposedly Sunshine offers insights into the futility of hope or of human endeavor (no one lives forever, after all; but where’s the insight in that? I’m not immortal? Well, shock my monkey!) and religion versus atheism, science versus belief. A subtle difference lies, however, between exploring humanity’s relationship with the unknowable and simply playing God. And that’s what Alex Garland does. He plays God. In Sunshine, he plays God like a capuchin on crack.

We could argue that it’s his sandbox, and his characters and settings are his toys, not ours, and that he’s free to do with his toys as he wishes. That doesn’t bode well, however, for either logic or narrative flow, not to mention the hapless misfits who find themselves trapped in The Eight Stooges Star in ‘Saw: The Space Edition.’ If Garland set out to trigger an avalanche of errors, to compose a veritable primer on how to screw up a vitally important task, he did a very good job. If he set out to sell with any degree of believability this story or the characters populating it, he effed the eff up.

Starburst…

Sunshine as a whole suffers from what a very good friend of mine calls “just-’skuz-itis”: Why are the spacesuits so ridiculously huge and clunky (other than the fact that Danny Boyle, in what has to be one of the most misguided moments of inspiration in recent film history, decided that eternally doomed Kenny from South Park made a dandy design template), when the huge clunkiness does nothing special to protect the wearer (and in fact renders said wearer practically immobile and blind in the bargain)? Just ‘skuz. Why is the computer so big, when present trends point toward ever-smaller components? Why is that computer housed in a vertical vat of coolant six feet deep? Why can that computer run a ship with a bajillion moving parts and chat with the human crew, yet prove inadequate to check a course correction? Just ‘skuz, ‘skuz, and ‘skuz. Why are there no spare parts for that computer, when any present-day computer geek can swap out RAM chips, hard drives, or even processors? Why is there now a radio “dead zone” near Mercury– when, in reality, good ol’ Mariner and friends have been sending radio signals back from the vicinity of Mercury for decades? Just. ‘Skuz.

This is all very “2001” isn’t it?

Of course, the list goes on. And I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve gone and neglected the Plot Capsule. In the case of Sunshine, for the many millions of you lucky enough not to have seen it, the story goes like this:

Some fifty years from now, the sun is dying. (Oh, yes it is: Cillian Murphy tells us so in the opening voiceover, and he’s playing Capa, the film’s physicist and resident genius, so he ought to know.) A crew of astronauts, aboard a ship ominously (ironically? sarcastically?) named the Icarus II, are heading out to jump-start our sputtering star with a dark-matter bomb (mm hm) possessing “a mass equivalent to Manhattan Island.” (And we’re not supposed to know this, at least from what the script itself tells us, but if you wade into the DVD commentary or venture onto the Internet [making it necessary for your audience to consult outside sources: certainly a sure sign of a sound script], you’ll learn that the sun is dying five billion years ahead of schedule because a nasty bit of business called a “Q-ball” has wedged itself in the sun’s guts and that Capa and his pals basically have to eight-ball that Q-ball the hell outta Dodge before the Q-ball permanently disrupts the sun’s nuclear groove.)

Paul suddenly realised that the ship had no reversing mirror.

Those of you not still mired in the preceding parenthetical may have noticed the “II” in the previous paragraph. (Orienteering badges all ‘round!) See, a crew was sent out previously on sun-fixing duty; the Icarus I, their good ship, dropped off the radar and was never heard from again. (Why the mission’s planners thought to name it “number one” in the first place is one of those questions that, well– Oh, never mind.)

So what happened to the Icarus I…? And her crew? Are you itching to find out? Are you dying to know? Do you wish I’d never learned to italicize…?

To make a long story short (and mercifully render the remainder of the synopsis in Roman type), our intrepid second team of sun-starters picks up a distress beacon from the first ship somewhere in the neighborhood of Mercury. And– being (creatively) out of radio contact with Earth– they decide all on their own to stop and have a look-see.

Which is when Sunshine goes right off the high rails and plummets to its doom.

Flame on!!

A disclaimer: Human fallibility is fine as far as it goes, but you have to believe that people in a movie would screw up the way they do. To put it bluntly, I’ve never been so frustrated by a script or by the behavior of a group of characters. I’ve never, ever muttered (in the privacy of my own home, I have, in fact, been known to shout at this thing) “Why are you doing that–? What–? What are you DOING?!?” so many times during a film as I have when watching Sunshine.

Another disclaimer: Danny Boyle gets kudos from his fans for being able to master any genre on which he sets his sights. I would modify that. I think he’s not afraid to tackle any genre, and we should give him a shred of credit for his fearlessness– or, conversely, for being unafraid of falling flat on his ass. Keep in mind that both Evel Knievel and Ed Wood were similarly unafraid. Just because you try something doesn’t mean you’ll do it well, and the current philosophy of patting people on the head just for trying is well past its sell-by date.

We might think that this has been a long, tiring voyage for the Icarus II and her crew (the trip has taken something like sixteen months, or so Capa says), and that nerves and discipline have frayed, ala Dark Star, but Garland and Boyle choose to dump us right in at the end of the mission, in the last days leading up to the deployment of the sun-boosting payload, and all they can think to do to convey the tedium and tension weighing on the crew is to show Rose Byrne looking bored as her character, ship’s pilot Cassie, reads, Chris Evans’s character, Mace, in need of a shave and a haircut, and a dumb, slash-fic-friendly brawl between Mace and Capa, who has hogged the space-phone, thereby preventing Mace from making a final call home. This is enough, think Danny and Alex, to excuse the sheer dimbulbery that follows.

Sorry, boys: it isn’t.

Mace, having reaffirmed his commitment to the mission in a visually manly-man way by cutting his hair, immediately fudges that commitment by volunteering phone-hog Capa for a dangerous repair job that Capa, who, as bomb-meister and arguably the mission’s most irreplaceable member (Mace, as befits Alex Garland’s magnificently poor continuity skills, in a later scene notes as much) has no business performing. Which is made even worse by the fact that Kaneda, their captain (a stoic, or stoically confused, Hiroyuki Sanada: it has to be rough when not only is English not your native language but when you’re shooting scenes out of order, in a script that makes little sense to begin with, and a great deal of those scenes involve green-screen), not only goes along with said volunteering, rather than packing Mace, the ship’s mechanic, off to do the repair, but goes out on repair duty, too, instead of sending fifth-wheel comms officer and second-in-command Harvey (a whiny Troy Garity; and since when does a captain say, “You’re second-in-command. You’re not going anywhere.”? That’s the point of HAVING a second-in-command, idiot: DELEGATION. Not in Gar-land, I guess.). Furthermore, going out on shield-repair duty gets Kaneda killed stark-raving-flambe-dead: Boyle and Garland milk his death scene for all it’s worth in terms of sweaty, quick-cut, big-music drama, but when you remind yourself that Kaneda had no business being out there in the first place, it all seems really silly.

But why are they going out to repair the shield at all? ‘Cause a meteorite hit the shield, right? ‘Cause a part wore out and broke from traveling that far through space, huh?

Nope.

Remember that gripe about the computer not being able to check calculations? Grab a cup of coffee or a Coke and settle back: this is gonna get long.

Deep thought.

Icarus I. The first ship. Remember? They hear its distress beacon near Mercury; they see the ship in orbit around Mercury; they decide to stop. Trey, their navigator, screws up the course correction because– yep, you guessed it!– their miracle computer can’t check his math, he wouldn’t dream of asking anyone else to help him check his math (not like there’d be PROCEDURES or anything for changing course– what sort of impossibly important, we’ve-only-got-one-shot-at-this space mission do you think this IS?), and the computer couldn’t POSSIBLY be bothered to model the outcome of Trey’s calculations before they’re executed. (Jiminy Cricket on toast, even the stupidest PC knows enough to say, “Are you SURE you want to do that…?”) So the shield at the front of their ship, the mile-wide multi-paneled salad plate that keeps them from burning up as they fly right at the sun, breaks (but not, obviously, or regrettably, enough to burn them all up right here and now), and they have to go out and fix it– but not before they decide to stop at the first Icarus in the first place, in a delightful scene that goes something like this:

“They’ve still got their solar bomb. Let’s go grab it!” says Capa.

“Let’s not and say we did,” says Mace, and anyone else with an eighth of a brain. See, contrary to the general belief of the five thousand or so people who’ve seen it, Sunshine doesn’t get dumb twenty minutes from the end. It’s dumb from the get-go.  It’s dumb right out of the gate. In fact, I could say that unflinching, unflappable stupidity is one of its greatest strengths. (Consistency is a virtue, no?) It doesn’t stop and get dumb halfway through. It starts out stupid and stays that way.

(To be fair, let me offer a disclaimer: “dumb” can be quite entertaining. “Dumb” has its place in film. I suggest, however, with no humility whatsoever, that that place is not in an otherwise dour movie about the saving of the entire effing world.)

“Capa knows all about sun-bombs! Let’s let him make the decision to stop!” chirps Searle, the mission’s half-baked (literally: like any good doctor, he’s all for toasting himself in the supposedly ailing sun’s mighty rays, the risk of skin cancer be damned. Garland has him mumble bits of nonsense about “seeing” something in the sunlight, but as New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis’s American accent sounded to me like me doing my very worst Jimmy Stewart impersonation, I found it hard to listen to him.), half-nuts psychologist.

“Oh, let’s!” stoically choruses Kaneda, obviously forgetting the “captain” part of his job description, as well as mission protocols, mission goals, the chain of command, and the oh-so-minor importance of gathering input from, oh, I don’t know, the  PROFESSIONAL FREAKING ASTRONAUTS who actually pilot and navigate the good ship Icarus II, the design of which hardly screams “stops on a dime.”

“Oh, shit,” says Capa, uttering the one sensible line of dialogue in the entire film, when he realizes the tonnage of responsibility he’s managed to call down on himself. Soon, though, like any good boy in a Garland script, he’s blundering blithely into the land of just-skuz-itis when he makes the final decision (or, to put it another way, when Kaneda, incapable of making a command decision or of acknowledging input from the rest of his crew, dumps said decision on Capa’s bony shoulders) to detour to the ostensibly derelict Icarus I and make off with the other ship’s sun-spacklin’ payload.

I thought I saw something move over there…. YOU go check it out!

Wait. An aside. I am not a physicist. I cannot cook. To link those two statements, however haphazardly, allow me to observe that physics, like cooking, seems to require a certain amount of careful planning. So when a physicist in a film as much as announces, “We’ll just double it,” with regard to a recipe that involves a nuclear device roughly the size of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, I get concerned.

Which is what happens in Sunshine. Never mind that lobbing even two dinosaur-killing-asteroid-sized bombs into the sun would, in reality, have about as much effect as chucking a toothpick at an aircraft carrier. More apropos to the scenario at hand (that being the one in which we’ve all dutifully suspended our disbelief), never mind the delicate, elaborate, painstaking calculation that must have gone into this grand, world-saving enterprise at all: Capa sells his brilliant new plan to Captain Kaneda with a line worthy of the Bulwer-Lytton contest for crap prose: “Two last chances are better than one.”

(Which is nearly as Bulwer-Lytton-worthy as a later bit of script: “What are you trying to do– remind us of our lost humanity?”, arguably the worst line I’ve ever heard in a film not translated badly from anything else into English. It’s as though Garland ran the dialogue through a program called LameDubbing 2.0.)

But, thinks anyone with that good ol’ eighth of a brain, you can’t have two LAST chances….

And why not stop for your second last (laster? lastest?) chance later? After– or if– your first last chance doesn’t work?

And how are you going to retrieve that second last chance? You’re running with a skeleton crew as it is; are you going to hook the SLC (second last chance) to the FLC (the first– oh, you know the rest) using space-bungees? Do you even have the password to launch the SLC?

Ah, listen to the silly skeptic!

For Sunshine is not just about illogic and sheer inanity (not to mention a lack of discipline that would put most frat parties to shame– and that’s not entirely fair:  your average boozehound with a beer bong on his head exhibits more focus than these ADHD rejects), it’s about PRETTY. And SHINY. And GLITTERY. And LOUD.

Vercase parties weren’t what they used to be.

It’s as if someone at Fox, having waded through Alex Garland’s thirtieth rewrite (and there were thirty-three rewrites; for once I’m not exaggerating), called up the special effects and music people and said, “The script is D.O.A. For God’s sake, do something–!”

To their credit, they do do something. The sun is very bright. The ship is very spindly. It has many moving parts. (We have no idea where we are on the ship at any given time– I think, mercifully, the F/X kids weren’t given a copy of the actual script– but that’s sort of okay: the ability to orient ourselves wouldn’t slow Garland’s stampede of blunders anyway.) Things explode and burst into flame with great aplomb. Space beeps and blips and makes roary-burny noises. (Never mind that “lack of air” idea: the Foley people kindly showed up and put in a whole lot of work, and who are we to tell ‘em that there is no sound in space?) The music is, for the most part, with the exception of two monumentally inappropriate pop tracks dropped like bowling balls onto the end credits, epic and and heartbreaking and magnificent (composer John Murphy was given a copy of the script, it seems– I would give my wisdom teeth to know what movie his script was for.).

Besides GLITTERY and LOUD and all the rest, Sunshine features DEATH. Lots and lots of DEATH. Because death is profound (not). And original (not). And beautiful (if you’re extremely naive, that is, or kind of a perv, or both. Otherwise– most emphatically– NOT). Cillian Murphy has a moment of death-porn at the end that qualifies as the most disheartening (and ridiculous: if it’s all happening in a billionth of a second– and it is, according to “those who know” at the film’s official website– then how can his hand move in “real time”?) movie moments I can recall. Our lesson for the day: You can fudge up your mission all day and all night, but being burned alive is your reward, kids, and it’s GLORIOUS!

Especially if your family and friends back on Earth will never know what happened to you and all your crewmates. For anyone who’s ever had a child go missing, who’s ever had a loved one go M.I.A. in wartime, who’s ever had a family member die alone, watching Cillian Murphy beatifically become one with the light for no good reason whatsoever must seem especially cool. Uh huh. Sure.

The gardener. Hot, really.

In the end, Capa’s undeserved success (for it’s not just about Mr. Murphy’s hair extensions fluttering angelically in the solar breeze in the billionth of a second before he’s flash-fried: Capa does succeed in planting his payload where the sun shines, but more on that below) is nearly as irritating as the failures, mistakes, and shortcomings with which Garland has peppered the script throughout. A great portion of that irritation comes from the fact that Capa’s success is thoroughly by chance: all the planning, all the targeting of that so-called Q-ball, go right out the window in the film’s final minutes as Capa and the payload and the film’s evil guest star (and more on him below) and lovely-but-weepy Cassie (still alive– perhaps a throwback to a version of the script in which she and Capa shared– in a thoroughly not-cliched way, of course– a shipboard romance) make an absolutely uncontrolled plunge into the sun. The world is saved; we finally get to see the world, in fact, for one brief (and very lame and tacked-on) instant as Boyle treats us to a shot of light washing across the wintery field (and– hold on– there’s the Sydney Opera House under about thirty feet of snow in the background: you can’t tell me that the humanity isn’t beyond saving at this point if Sydney Harbour is that thoroughly frozen over) where Capa’s niece and nephew are building a snowman while Capa’s older sister herself views Capa’s final video message (oh, gosh, the poignancy–!) on a Blackberry-type thingamabob.

Anybody laughs they get a bullet, okay?

Here, coincidentally, Garland treats us to his third, and most serious, contender for Bulwer-Lytton glory: “Just remember,” mumbles Capa, from the Blackberry, “it takes eight minutes for light to travel from sun to Earth. So you’ll know if we’ve succeeded about eight minutes after we deliver the payload. All you have to do is look for a little extra brightness in the sky. So if you wake up one morning, and it’s a particularly beautiful day, you’ll know we made it.” Points: One: What if “that” morning happens to be cloudy? Two: What do I look like, Josef von Sternberg’s light-meter? How much “little extra brightness” are we talking here, baby brother? Three: Wouldn’t every single scientist and telescope on Earth be keeping an eye on the sun at this point, measuring its output and whatnot? Wouldn’t they tell us exactly when you boneheads have done your groovy thing (or, as seems more likely, when you haven’t)? And four: Isn’t my ability to memorize crap dialogue truly awe-inspiring? (What gives me an extra little nasty tingle at this point is a gut-instinct sense, as a fellow writer of oh-so-serious-sounding schlock, that for the one and only time in the script, Garland here thought he was being profound and moving. I can practically see the tears welling up in his shark-brown eyes as he wrote Capa’s final message. Heh.)

Which brings us– indirectly, at least– to a question of narrative, or point of view. (Ostensibly Sunshine is Capa’s story, since he gets the mutter-mouthed opening voiceover as well as “last message” time at the end, and he’s the longest-lived of the Icarus II’s crew of dimbulbs, but characterization isn’t Garland’s strong suit, to put it mildly.) Who’s telling the story? And if it’s all conjecture, then why are these idiots exactly that? Why would the official story be that they screwed up for all they were worth, they deviated from their mission, they picked up a guy from a derelict ship who makes Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher look like Mister Rogers by comparison (oh, did I forget to mention that? The captain of the Icarus I, having lived with second- to third-degree burns over ninety percent of his body for seven years, is still alive, and crazy, and he sneaks aboard the Icarus II and starts killing people– messily and clumsily, yes [he is a Garland character, after all, but still]), and then they succeed in saving the world absolutely by chance? Garland, I’m sure, would frown condescendingly and tell me that I don’t understand the “human condition” or “irony” or the “futility of hope” or something like that; I’d respond by saying he wouldn’t recognize “logic,” “plot,” or “common sense” if any or all of them walked up and kicked him in the tits.

See, Alex, I would say, while lacing up my heaviest pair of Marten’s and casting a calculating eye at his burly frontside, your story is not about prevailing in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s about stacking the odds against your characters, then having them stack the odds against themselves, by not allowing them to act according to their training and experience. It’s about creating drama arbitrarily. It’s about having people come that close to failure by having them mess up (which happens, but not, one would hope, on such a preposterous scale to highly trained professionals en masse). And finally it’s about handing them success not because they’ve earned it, or because their training and planning have paid off, but simply JUST ‘SKUZ.

He had the Nazi salute all wrong…

The hugest problem is that Garland tries to present a commonality of experience using characters who are anything but common. In trying to create people to whom we can relate (and here I’m giving him credit I don’t believe he deserves: he seems to have just as much contempt for his audience as he has for the people he writes), he jettisons Kaneda and company’s most essential, defining traits. He ditches all the things that would make them them. It’s an across-the-board dumbing-down: to make them characters with whom Joe and Josephine Average can empathize, he keeps them from being themselves, that is to say the people the nations of Earth would send to save all of humanity. Let’s put it another way: Garland would have us believe that the dream team we would send to save us all would be just as ordinary as the rest of us. In actuality, the crew of the Icarus II would be Earth’s platinum Olympics team, never mind gold; Garland writes them as people you wouldn’t trust to do an Olympic team’s laundry. Certainly, people react in different ways under stress: they grow fearful, they make mistakes, they lose their tempers. But it’s unfair and unrealistic to think that the group entrusted with the saving of all life on Earth would foul up to the extent Garland has them foul up in Sunshine. A degree of up-fudging is fine, if not to be expected, if you’re sending civilian scientists to study a new planet (as in Solaris); it’s not so fine if you’re sending people who are arguably the world’s best astronauts to perform a specific, deeply important task (as in the piece of celluloid folderol at hand).

In short, it’s not a question of what we would do (with apologies to the one or two seasoned space-jockeys or physicists who might be slumming with us here today). It’s a question of believing that Kaneda and his crew are the people we would trust to do this job. Not just this job, in this movie: any team performing any job in any movie. Unless you say up front, “The A-team blew up on the tarmac; these are just some bums we grabbed off the street at the last minute.” But this isn’t The Dirty Dozen. Unfortunately.

So unless you’re a top-level astronaut, pilot, or physicist, you have no business watching Sunshine and thinking (preferably with a defensive, misty-eyed sniff), “I couldn’t have done any better!” Well, of course you couldn’t. And I couldn’t. (That’s an out-and-out lie, actually: I could do better than Garland’s Sunshine bozos, even if I were blitzed-drunk, blindfolded, and locked in a safe. I’m just trying to sound like a humble team-player for the sake of argument.) But Kaneda and his people could. And they should.

Only Garland won’t let them.

Arguably, populating your script with folks who are top professionals and pretty much geniuses could paint you into a corner in terms of generating tension. But having the big, gulpy lion’s share of Sunshine’s drama result from internal screwups is not only frustrating, it makes no sense: these people wouldn’t behave this way. Even if they’re bored, they’ve let their hair grow out or, God help them, they have to read books.

So, what to do?

Have the environment act against them, of course. But Garland gets this wrong, too. The Icarus II is a ship designed by professionals, right? The product of a world-wide engineering effort, correct? Safety features, sturdiness, redundancies, and spare parts galore? Take another gander at the “just ‘skuz” paragraph way up above. The way Garland and Boyle present the Icarus II, it ought to be the cover ship for the updated 2057 printing of Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed.

It’s as though, in watching the science fiction films from which Sunshine blatantly borrows, Garland so desperately sought to avoid cliches that he came to believe that avoidance was an end in itself: he doesn’t replace those cliches with anything. Or with anything that makes sense.

Besides having a ship that breaks– a lot– in most illogically unfixable ways, thinks Garland, let’s see– instead of a practical, commanding captain, I’ll make my captain a guy who lets psychos and alpha-male muscleheads bully him into making decisions– or make his decisions for him. Hell, I’ll even have him be the guy who has to perform drudgework, like repairing the ship’s shields. Repairing the shields should be the job of the ship’s mechanic, but having a mechanic who actually fixes things is a cliche, right? (Remember mechanics Parker and Brett repairing stuff in Alien? It’s been done, baby!) Repairing the shields will also be the job of the ship’s one civilian and only, irreplaceable physicist (I’ll goad him into the repair using a ridiculous “reverse-volunteer” line from the ship’s mechanic and alpha-male musclehead that our indecisive sissy-boy [but NOT-CLICHED. (THAT’S THE IMPORTANT THING.)] captain won’t think to veto, and then toss in a line about how our irreplaceable physicist-civilian has rehearsed such repairs “a thousand times in high Earth orbit”– what?— and everything’ll be fine, even though he’s practically quaking in terror as they suit him up). (And here you thought all you’d have to do is sit around thinking deep thoughts before you push the “Go, Bomb, Go!” button, right, Capa, you pretty-boy yutz? Not in my movie!) No way will the ship’s navigator think to run a simulation or ask someone to check his math before he makes a vital course change, even though– JUST ‘SKUZ– the otherwise all-powerful computer can’t help him with the maneuver — man, BOW before my superior originality, plebes! The doctor will be a sun-worshiping whacko– Wait: has the “whacko” thing been done? To be on the safe side, let’s have him mumble nonsense about “seeing” stuff “in the light.” My God– Cliche, Away! New from the makers of Lysol! And the pilot woman will be a weepy, cringing little thing. Not a trace of Sigourney Weaver-style spine anywhere! (As a precautionary measure, let’s make her the “conscience” of the crew, too. Maternal instinct: it’s a female thing, yeah? And not at all a cliche.) Will she speak up about how difficult, stupidly dangerous, and flat-out inadvisable changing course to rendezvous with that other ship will be? What movie are you watching, kid? Unlike that lippy shuttle pilot you saw in Aliens, this little missy’ll know to keep her yap shut ‘til it’s time to talk killing someone to stretch the oxygen that I’ll manage to write out of the movie in an especially inspired fit of JUST ‘SKUZ.

And the greatest cliche I’ll avoid: the sending of an intelligent, seasoned, disciplined crew to complete this mission. Been done to death, that competence thing!

The problem is, Alex, that one isn’t a cliche. You would send intelligent, seasoned, disciplined people– the best of the world’s best– on a mission like this. You wouldn’t send the gaggle of neurotic drama queens we see in Sunshine. You could still kill all of them (the smart, seasoned ones, that is; killing the crew presently on view in Sunshine really has “shooting fish in a barrel” stamped all over it): something can cripple their ship, destroy their life support, but that something must come primarily from the environment, not from within them.

What on EARTH am I doing here?

In the end, Sunshine left me asking one hollow question: Why’d they have to be so dumb?

I know some of you liked it. The soundtrack works overtime to make the thing seem profound. And those of you who saw it with decent projection, or on uber-duper HDTVs on Blu-Ray in the latest permutation of Dolby, can say you liked it ‘cause it looked pretty. And it sounded pretty.

In other words, you liked it for the same reason it’s so monumentally, disappointingly, depressingly dumb:

Just ‘skuz.

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Doug Shearer is one of those guys who has a passion for classic older films. He brings his warmth and humor to our pages with a small selection of thoughts on films you might not have seen, or perhaps need to revisit.