Ain’t No Sunshine

The Bizarro Blog-a-thon(An experiment in theft [or fair use] and editing as part of Lazy Eye Theatre’s Bizarro Blog-a-thon.

In the spirit of the character and the blog-a-thon: Bons Erutluc am so proud that me wrote every word!)


Sunshine and Groundhog Day have a lot in common. In each, we see things we’ve seen before, over and over again. But in Sunshine, this doesn’t describe the plot of the film, but the movie itself.

Start with a brine of 2001: A Space Odyssey, take a bit of 2010, a chunk of Event Horizon, a half-gallon of the whole Alien formula, a quart and a half of Abyss, five cups of Armageddon, a drop of both Solarises — although rather less from the Tarkovsky version — and whipped topping from The Core. And don’t forget to put the cherry on top with Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street, and, voilà!: Sunshine.

Even the music sounds like the Vangelis score to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.*

Generations have seen it before and all have seen it done better.*

'Sunshine': This is not an underwear adThis story about a journey to the center of the sun is a rocket straight into a cinematic abyss. Directed by Danny Boyle, it lacks even a single moment of charm or interest. The story details are impenetrable, and the characters are indistinct and laughable. The filmmaking style couldn’t be more unappealing if it were designed to put off audiences, and underscoring everything is a soundtrack consisting of lingering, spooky chords played on a synthesizer. The sound becomes a barrier, the sonic equivalent of watching the movie through a pane of glass.

The overall effect is the creation of something truly unbearable — and the curious thing is that this unbearableness is apparent from the first portentous voice-over 30 seconds into the film. By then the music is up, the sun has filled the screen and there’s no mistaking it: Sunshine has nothing to offer, and this nothing is going to be offered relentlessly and earnestly, like a holy missive.*

The earth is breathing its last, because the sun is dying: such is the premise of Sunshine, which turns its gaze upon a group of astronauts who have been dispatched to set the problem right. Their task is to explode a stellar bomb, “with a mass equivalent to Manhattan island,” on the surface of the sun. The effect will be, we are told, “to create a star within a star,” a plan that has not succeeded since the union of Vincente Minnelli and Judy Garland.*

Some demographic scheme to appeal to high school kids must be afoot, because most of the crew is ridiculously young. Early in the film, two possible journeys are considered, and the mission’s chief physicist is called upon to weigh in. Hmm, a chief physicist. Whom do you picture? Maybe someone sexy, like Einstein? No, it’s Cillian Murphy, a smoldering 30-year-old actor with the kind of penetrating blue eyes that might arrest your attention as you flip through the underwear advertisements. Nothing against the actor, but the casting is comical.*

The movie rewards you with one laugh early on when physicist Capa (Murphy) and engineer Mace (Chris Evans) break into a brawl and a woman alerts the captain to an “excess of manliness in the com center.”

The sensitive male brought to the brink of androgyny, Murphy’s Capa contrasts strikingly with Evans’ Mace, a guy on perpetual mission mode who injects the film with pure, undiluted testosterone — old-fashioned masculine energy and assertiveness with all the macho narcissism burned away. An unexpected joy in the Fantastic Four film, Evans does more with Mace than provide vivid counterpoint to the more ethereal or proper types surrounding him. He creates the one character who surprises you with depth, maybe because Mace is the one character who doesn’t strain for it.*

We are invited to worship the sun both as lifegiver, for those left behind on Earth, and as a kind of annihilating deity; when one spacewalker drifts beyond the limits of the sunshield and catches a direct blast of solar ray, there is a tiny pffsst, and he boils away to nothingness, like a waterdrop on a stove. I am a sucker for such grandeur, and I wish that Boyle hadn’t spoiled it by turning his film into a mad, overcooked exercise in stalk and slash. Was this the only way to stop the kids from walking out of the cinema? Whatever the case, his change of tack feels jagged with impatience and panic.

Villainy descends upon the spaceship, but so pressing is the question of why and how it got there, and what factor sun cream it must have been lathering on, that Boyle tries to disguise the uncertainty with visual effects, smearing almost every shot into a distorted haze.* The plot twists simply encourage the filmmakers to resort to familiar psychedelic imagery.*

Sunshine’s pictorial richness can’t justify its intellectual pretension or compensate for its emotional malnutrition and dramatic predictability.*

I can’t poke too much fun at the philosophical mumbo jumbo, considering last year’s similarly heady The Fountain made my top-ten list.

Yet Darren Aronofsky, that film’s director, had an unerring command of his admittedly loopy material. Boyle may manage some astonishing visuals, but the overall narrative and the staging of it seem to overwhelm him.

Distressing flickers of incoherence here and there serve as foreshadowing for the chaotic climax, which doesn’t resemble Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as much as it does The Shining.*

Sunshine can be seen as a story about science and religion, about the rational mind and the mad. But at a certain point, like a dying star about to pop into eternal nothingness, the movie can’t be seen as anything — it just implodes.* Sunshine may become the new standard for referencing schizophrenic denouements.*

In essence, Boyle chooses not to embrace the sci-fi genre; he tries to rise above it as if it weren’t worthy of him. This disdain ruined 28 Days Later, and it ruins Sunshine as well.*

Sunshine wasn’t a complete success, true. But The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle is a putz who gave a rave review to Norbit.

And if he thinks Cillian Murphy is too young and good-looking to play a physicist, he should take a look at the film’s science advisor, Dr. Brian Cox!

Why are we talking about Mick LaSalle?

I completely agree with your review. The ending of this film is a particularly jumbled disgrace.

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