One word sci-fi title.

It's a cold Minnesota Sunday so it's warm inside and a little movie marathon to fill the apartment. I looked through my collection of movies and decided I wanted to see Sunshine... and I also decided it might be fun to watch it with some other movies to create a larger story on the Earth of Sunshine. So, today I watched:

Contact (1997)

Gravity (2013)

Sunshine (2007)

Interstellar (2014)

If I had more endurance I would have fit The Martian between Gravity and Sunshine.

Yesterday while watching the documentary on Stanley Kubrick I got to thinking about great directors who dipped their toes into realistic science fiction at points of their careers after they had become established. These films are directed by Robert Zemeckis, Alfonso Cuaron, Danny Boyle, and Christopher Nolan (and throw in Ridley Scott for The Martian).

Contact

I started my day with Contact which is a nice enough movie and I like the idea of a movie based around a giant scientific project. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized today how whiny Jodie Foster's character is written. I don't think it's her fault, it's in the writing. At the first test of the machine she is talking with her boss about him being the "pilot" over her and him being surprised she even showed up. She was happy for him but in that scene she is holding back her frustration that she isn't the one "pilot" in the machine. This is a rediculous sentament for a scientist who is at the biggest moment in human history and science. She should be beaming with excitement that her discovery has actually resulted in such a huge project and that it's moving forward.

What I like about Contact is the images central to the film, the idea of working toward a big beneficial scientific goal, and that what is discovered is a surreal dimension bending event left to interpretation like the Star Child in 2001. In each of these films today there are focal images to the movies that inspire awe. Here, we have three with the machine being the central image. The other images are the bookends of the film, the opening scene pulling out and showing us the universe, and the final scene that brings us back down to earth. The final bookend is Jodie Foster looking at soil in her hand, earth, and pulls out to show us the spectical on Earth of a canyon next to her farm of radio dishes.

How it fits in this series:

This takes place earliest in the series before there is much of a human presence in space beyond the billionare who goes to the space station to die. Humans make contact with aliens who say they will reveal more slowly through time, but their presense is still a mystery to the population of Earth.

Gravity

This film is a series of set pieces set in near contemporary space. Humans have come expanded past the radio dishes of Contact to orbit Earth. Music and sound emphasize the action in this movie that highlights the central image of the film, Earth. Earth looks great here. It is lit up by cities, sunrises and sunsets to look amazing, unlike any other look at Earth from space in film.

How it fits in this series:

Man leaves earth and expands their technology to the point that it destroys the technology in space through space junk attacks. A generation after Contact, Sandra Bullock's character faces the challenges of space after man decides to explore space as the aliens haven't sent their second message quite yet.

Sunshine

This might be my favorite space film. The acting of Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, and Cillian Murphy is great, the music has had a life beyond this barely seen movie in NBC sporting event coverage (and a sound-alike in Kick-Ass), and the story takes us where other sci-fi hasn't before. Into the sun. The sun is the key image of this film in a way that is mesmerizing. It's a figure that brings beauty, death, and madness to the characters before it brings life back to Earth. The early scene where they see the small speck of Mercury passing between them and the sun is moving in an unexpected way. The gold space suits are something unseen in film before, practical to protect from the sun, and creates the story element of having trouble manuvering the extra heavy suit in their centrifical gravity.

How it fits in this series:

A generation or more after Gravity (and The Martian) Man has moved past their orbit (and Mars) to the Sun in an attempt to save the earth from losing energy. In jump starting the sun, the Sunshine crew inadvertently creates farming difficulties for the future generations after the freeze whose soil no longer has the same life in it to sustain crops. In the extra features of Sunshine they explain the bomb the crew uses does not restart the sun but pushes disruptive matter out of the core that was killing the sun. Even though the sun is back to its previous power, the earth was frozen for too long, and science and the space program are blamed not for thawing the Earth but for killing the soil.

Interstellar

This has the most most bone rattling score of all. The central image here, or at least the biggest image here, is the Black Hole. The imagery of traveling through it harkens back to Contact when Jodie Foster goes through the machine and 2001 where Dave goes into the monolyth. It also has the kind of bull shit theme of love being a force in science stronger than anything, but it's not as ham handed as Contact or as critics claimed it was.

How it fits in this series:

It gives us a look at a decendant of Contact's Matthew McConaughey and Jodie Foster characters who obviously have passed an appreciation of science down through the generations to Matthew McConaughey's character here. We also see a decendant of Matt Damon's character from the Martian who has a genetic disorder of being left of lifeless planets, a disorder passed down from their ancestor who needed rescue in Saving Private Ryan. In the end Man is contacted by the Contact aliens once again who advise them on leaving Earth and their defective Sun.

Final Thoughts

The movies fit well enough together, and it was fun to imagine them being in the same universe. I would do this again and definitely add The Martian smack dab in the middle. Contact was the weakest of the movies and Sunshine was a treat to see how well it holds up. I think Sunshine was the high point for me, although Intersteller is close. I think if Intersteller didn't wait so long to get to space I would rank it higher.

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