Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Midnight Sky

♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

2049. Earth has been ravaged by an unnamed apocalyptic event and leaves it contaminated with ionizing radiation. What is left of the human population seek refuge underground, which scientist Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) deems to be just a delay of the inevitable. Suffering from a terminal illness that requires regular hemodialysis, he chooses to stay behind as the rest of the survivors evacuate their Arctic base. His objective is to contact Aether, the last surviving spaceship on the way back home from a mission to K-23, one of Jupiter’s moons he has studied for a long time and determined to be suitable for human life. The crew, which includes Dr. Iris Sullivan (Felicity Jones) and Commander Adewole (David Oyelowo) are clueless about the planet’s current state and are unknowingly heading back to eventual death. In search of another Arctic base with a stronger signal to contact the spacecraft, Lofthouse stumbles upon a young girl left behind at the base and the two form a bond.

I lost interest halfway through the movie. The film isn't bad but I guess I expected something more like Gravity or Interstellar. What I got instead was an hour or two of Clooney engaged in sappy melodrama in Arctic winter wonderland. The intention to be a psychological tragedy is clear, but the execution is too boring for its own good. The two subplots seem to be so unevenly distributed that by the time the narrative finally focuses on the storyline in outer space, you would've already dozed off. I imagine the source material to be a gripping piece of literature, but the story could’ve been better adapted to film.

In all fairness to Clooney as a director, the scenes in outer space do manage to catch your attention. That scene where Jones is gallivanting on K-23 with Jupiter covering almost half of the sky is like a surreal painting that has come to life. The CGI of the spaceship as well the challenges the crew have to go through are also just so amazing to watch. Had there been more scenes like those, then I would have probably enjoyed this movie more. Or perhaps it is really just meant to be more of a culmination of Lofthouse’s journey not just as a scientist but also as an absentee father?

If anything, what the film does accomplish is pique curiosity about the source material, in this case the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. Perhaps reading it would give the moviegoer a different perspective during a re-watch of Clooney’s onscreen efforts. Maybe it would also be more effective if they elaborated on the event that leads to Earth’s destruction. According to some reviews, the novel chooses to be vague about this as well.  Well, fine, I guess this is more of a fatherhood rather than a space drama after all.

As for the theme of finding a new home for our species outside this planet, there are plenty of other narratives that are more interesting to watch if you just want to tickle your imagination. Reading about the issue can be tedious due to the hardcore concepts you have to tackle while doing so. Watching a movie that humanizes the topic is more enjoyable, unless they end up focusing too much on the human misery aspect, then it just becomes a dragging soap opera of sorts. 

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