Tonight, I went to see Sunshine with Maynard, Kristen, and JD. It was playing at the West Portal theater, so we just walked down. I enjoyed myself, but, as said many times before, I always enjoy myself at the movies.
Sunshine suffers from a fatal, tragic flaw. In many ways, it is the same flaw that Spielberg’s AI had, and just like AI, there is a point where the film should end (or start to close), and does not. You’ll know the point only long after it’s past, however.
Well, that’s not fair. AI had a solid ending: the kid finds the blue fairy under water, the ferris wheel falls on top of him. Roll credits: we have an awesome, Kubrick-ian story about obsession and how it destroys a person, it’s a tight, well-done story, but also a tragedy. But El-Spielbergo doesn’t make tragedies like this, so we have to introduce an element that doesn’t really work (alien archaeologists) to over-stitch an already closed plot.
That’s what happens in Sunshine, in many ways. Only we don’t get to the perfect ending of the Blue Fairy; it’s more like we introduce our pointless element just as Haley Joel Osmet enters the water. Too soon.
Up until then, it was brilliant.
Here’s the deal.
The story worked best up to the point that we introduced the crazy captain on board Icarus II and we went from a tense, disturbing, psychological story about man vs. environment and man vs. himself and turned into a slasher flick.
In the version of Sunshine in my head, the airlock blow out was caused by Michelle Yoeh’s character. She did it, knowing that they could only keep four people alive, and knowing that there was one suit, and knowing that they’d send over Cappa (It wouldn’t have been the medical doctor chick as she wasn’t “hard” enough for that).
At that point, we have a further great voyage into psychology as we pull together the fact that we’re ultimately going to die, fighting ourselves, and fighting the environment (the failing ship). It doesn’t matter exactly what happens – the navigator still kills himself, fine. The doc and Cappa figure out that the horticulturalist engineered the airlock break, and we have a bunch of great drama. Maybe the doc flips out and kills the botanist. Who knows?
In my mind, I don’t have to deal with a crazy dude who has no value to the story. The story is not about crazy religious nutjobs. The story is not about self-sacrifice: these guys are astronauts. This is what they do. Johnny Storm was totally believable when he was hard as nails about completing the mission: exactly like I expect a military-trained NASA pilot to behave (not so much with the “this blood is on your hands” shit, but whatever).
We had some great problems with the shield, with the psychology of “bathing in sunlight” – all sorts of things. Just say that the crew of Icarus I went crazy and killed themselves. That’s fine; I’ll believe that, they’ve already shown that it happens.
So sad. The film was totally awesome up until that point.
One other thing, though: the voice-overs. Totally unnecessary, like Harrison Ford’s voice-overs in Blade Runner (later removed in the director’s cut). They felt tacked on in order to explain some fairly obvious things to a dumb-ass American audience. Why tell me at the opening that the mission is to restart the sun with a giant bomb in a voice over, when I’m just going to learn the exact same thing from character dialog and context within the first five minutes anyway?
Danny Boyle is not a sloppy filmmaker. Think back to 28 Days Later. How much “set up” was the viewer given? None. Zero. It wasn’t needed. See also: The Beach. See also: Trainspotting. See also: Shallow Grave. He doesn’t do set ups. That was added after screenings and probably demanded by the money.
Makes the film lesser.
At any rate, it’s a fun film for the tension of the first half, and the visuals are really well done. I’d say “wait for DVD” but honestly, I don’t know how well the sheer awesomeness of the sun graphics will translate to a TV screen and not a movie screen.
The biggest problem I have now is that I have the chorus from an old Alice In Chains song, Sunshine, stuck in my head now.