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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Get Lost in Space

Written by Jon Williams

I’m admittedly late to the party on this one, but I finally got around to watching Gravity recently. I wanted to see it in theatres, and now I’m even more irritated with myself that I didn’t. In HD on a big-screen television, the film looked utterly incredible…I can only imagine how breathtaking and immersive it was on a giant silver screen. All the technical awards and accolades the film won for its production and presentation were well-deserved.

Of course, humanity facing adversity in the course of space exploration is a plot device that has been explored time and time again (with Interstellar being the most recent example). The movie Gravity most reminded me of in that regard was Apollo 13, the dramatisation of the ill-fated 1970 NASA mission to the moon. Although Apollo 13 was based on a true story, boiled down, both films have similar plots: a group of astronauts go into space on a mission that is soon marred by catastrophe and they have to attempt to return to Earth under increasingly harrowing circumstances. Interestingly, both films feature Ed Harris (voice only in Gravity), who also stars in another acclaimed movie about astronauts, 1983’s The Right Stuff.

Another film along somewhat similar lines is on the horizon. The Martian, starring Matt Damon, is slated for a November 25 release into theatres. Based on the popular novel of the same name by Andy Weir, it’s not about an alien from the Red Planet, but rather about an astronaut abandoned there after an accident leads the rest of his crew to assume he is dead. Actually only mildly injured, he must then use what few supplies he has available in an attempt to survive long enough for a rescue mission to be mounted from Earth. This brings to mind, to a certain extent, the sci-fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, about a human born on Mars coming to Earth for the first time (although I suppose that’s actually the exact opposite of space exploration).

Some movies play on our fears of finding hostile (or at the very least dangerous) alien life on our forays into space. The successful Alien franchise has been built on this premise, and a new Alien film by District 9’s Neill Blomkamp is in the works. Then there’s Apollo 18, a found-footage film that posits one more crewed moon landing after the Apollo 17 mission, one that found a very good reason why no one has landed on the moon since. Another in this vein is Europa Report, in which a crew is sent to explore the possibility of water and life on one of Jupiter’s moons.

Of course, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to tales of humans venturing into space. There’s much more to explore, including the wide range of Star Trek shows and movies, Moon, starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, and, of course, 2001 and 2010. So tell us about some of your favourites, or what’s popular with your patrons, in the comments section below.

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