Last night I watched the movie Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle (the same one who directed 28 Days Later) and starring Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, and Rose Byrne, among others. The movie was good (with beautiful music) but about a fourth of the way into the movie I realized that I don’t like space movies. At all. Setting a movie in space has become the equivalent of putting a cornfield in your movie. Nothing good is going to come of it. My proof? Here goes:
WARNING: To make my point fully, there will probably be some spoilers in here. So if you haven’t seen the movies I mention and don’t want to know what happens, you’ve been warned.
First the movies set on a spaceship:
Sunshine: It’s 2057 and the sun is dying. The solution? Fly out there and send a nuclear bomb into the sun. The resulting explosion will create a new star and warm up Earth which is in the midst of a very long and very cold winter. The ship loses contact with the Earth early on in the movie (uh-oh!), then they discover the distress call of the previous failed mission and decide to alter their course to check on the old ship (oh no!) and then they split up to try and find out what happened to the crew (aaah!). It’s not too hard to figure out things are going to end badly.
Event Horizon: The spaceship Event Horizon was sucked into a black hole on its maiden voyage. Seven years later, it mysteriously reappears and the Lewis and Clark is sent out to discover what happened and whether anyone survived. They find the ship and discover that the Event Horizon was pulled into an alternate dimension of pure evil, which is now somehow contained on the Event Horizon. Oh, and did I mention the crew of the Lewis and Clark has been forced onto the Event Horizon due to catastrophic damage to their ship? Right. I think we all know how this is going to end.
Alien (and the sequels, spin-offs, etc.): A mining ship lands on a deserted planet after receiving an SOS signal. While exploring the planet, the crew finds a whole bunch of eggs, one of which attacks a crew member and knocks him unconscious. They bring him back on board (baaaad idea guys) and then realize the SOS signal was not actually a cry for help but instead a warning to stay away (oops!). The parasite hatches and runs wild over the ship.
Movies where bad things come from space:
Armageddon/Deep Impact: Big rocks from space are on a direct course with Earth. Oh no! Armageddon has a crew of rough and tough men flying straight to the asteroid to blow it up. Sacrifices are made, lives are lost, but in the end Bruce Willis saves the day. Deep Impact stars a pre-Frodo Elijah Wood and that’s really all I remember about that one. Oh, and there’s a really big wave when the comet hits. Lots of people die in this one, since apparently in the Deep Impact world, the comet can’t be blown up. The poor Earthlings are stuck trying to hide in underground shelters.
War of the Worlds: This is actually really creepy. Originally a book written by H. G. Wells, War of the Worlds tells the story of a Mars invasion. I’ve seen the more recent movie starring Tom Cruise (a pretty good adaptation, actually) but not the older one from 1953. There was also the famous radio adaptation from Orson Welles that supposedly caused widespread panic. The scariest thing about this story? We lose. We lose bad. No weapons or skills we possess are able to make the slightest effect on the Martians. Not until they breathe our air and our germs, do they show weakness.
Independence Day: Now that I think about it, this one is clearly based on War of the Worlds. Aliens in high tech ships come from outer space and make it pretty clear that they aren’t here to make friends. There are so many side stories in this movie it’s hard to keep track of them all, but its got Will Smith in it. And Bill Pullman as the President. And eventually that scientist guy from Jurassic Park (Jeff Goldblum!) realizes that a computer virus can take these guys down.
And the general bad stuff just happens away from Earth movies:
Serenity: Based on the really popular Firefly series, Serenity was made to tie up some loose ends from the story and provide a bit more closure. Throughout the movie and the series the cannibalistic Reavers are a constant threat, plus the ruling government is hiding some pretty nasty secrets of its own. And there is the mystery surrounding two of their passengers.
Red Planet: Mars again. And a stranded crew struggling to survive in a hostile environment. I don’t really remember this one that well except that I think I kinda freaked out my new friends in college when I suggested we watch it on the SciFi channel. (Or was that Event Horizon? Hmm…) Anyways, people die. In ugly horrible ways.
Apollo 13: Scary because this was based on a true story! Yikes! Astronauts on a routine flight to the moon develop a problem with their spaceship and then desperately try to return home. Sure it ends well, but that movie is about 2 hours of stomach turning tension. I can’t handle it.
Some honorable mentions: Mars Attacks! where we get pummeled by the Martians again and Doom where a pre-Eomer Karl Urban plays a Space Marine sent to a research facility to investigate strange happenings. Gruesome killings ensue.
Well, that’s a pretty good sampling of how scary space is I think. Although perhaps I’m not being entirely fair to Space. Sure, there really aren’t too many space movies where good things happen, but most horror movies happen in remote, isolated areas like heavily wooded mountains, empty deserts, etc. So I suppose film makers just love the fact that space provides them with the perfect isolated environment for humanity to go absolutely crazy.
I’ll leave you with the scariest thing I’ve ever seen to come out of space.
The stuff of nightmares.