Prepare for launch as Movies.ie suggests some atmospheric sci-fi gems to watch before viewing next week’s new release, Moon.
It is the not too distant future and man has solved all of its energy problems with the discovery that an energy rich gas, Helium 3, can be harvested from the surface of the moon. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a miner on a three year contract on the moon’s surface. He is alone except for the helpful robot Gerty (voiced by Kevin Spacey) and in the final weeks of his contract things start to become a little strange; surface communication seems to be cut off, Gerty begins to act strangely and Sam starts to see a mysterious female figure that he cannot explain. Sam soon discovers he is not alone. When you watch Moon there is a strange sense of sci-fi déjà vu; clearly director Duncan Jones has a lot of affection for the genre and if you’re familiar with some of the greats, you can clearly see his influences. With that in mind, movies.ie offers this refresher course in great films of the final frontier.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey
It would be extremely hard to avoid associations with 2001: A Space Odyssey when making a film set on a space station; but then surely that’s a good thing? Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 opus was a design masterpiece and created the definitive look for cinematic space travel. Moon wears this influence on its sleeve (incidentally both were filmed in Shepperton Studios) – the mining station is a clear homage to the interiors of 2001, all gleaming white surfaces. It also showed the potential this beautiful environment has to terrify the audience; as Kubrick transformed the at first benign ship’s computer HAL, into a menacing presence and the beautiful surroundings into a claustrophobic setting.
2. Silent Running
This 1972 film may have passed a lot of sci-fi fans by; it has rarely seen the light of day on television but it is very much worth the effort of getting hold of a copy. The film is set in the not too distant future, when plant life on earth has all but vanished. A preservation effort is underway on a fleet of greenhouse ships orbiting earth. However when orders are given to return most of the fleet to commercial service, one of the workers Freeman Lowell decides to go against orders to preserve his beloved plant life with the help of his robotic colleagues. The film has a wonderful central performance from Bruce Dern and is particularly pertinent in today’s environment.
Wait come back! We aren’t talking about the tedious remake starring George Clooney! If you’ve only seen that remake you could definitely be forgiven for being less than enthusiastic to see the 1972 Tarkovsky original; but trust us, it’s great! Solaris is a far away planet covered in an ocean that seems to house a mysterious alien consciousness. Kris Kelvin is stationed on the base above the mysterious ocean to investigate but soon begins to see his wife Hari, who died ten years previously. The film is not action-packed but is eerie and atmospheric in a way that’s very reminiscent of 2001.
4. Wall E
All of our films so far have shown how the isolation of space effects human beings but Pixar’s Wall E took it one step forward to look at how 700 years of isolation affects the robot hero. After years of treating the planet like a garbage dump, human beings have been forced to leave planet earth. Wall E is left behind to clear up and over this time he begins to develop human like qualities and longs for some company. As usual for Pixar, the film looks beautiful and Wall E is one of the most compelling characters ever animated – surprising giving the fact that he doesn’t talk further than saying his own name and we have to become endeared to him thanks to his actions – but it’s amazing what a big pair of eyes can do to an audience!