We Gave Science Fiction One Last Chance; the Environmentalists Ruined It

We gave science fiction one last chance this weekend with a viewing of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. One would think that given my appreciation of comic books that I’d be a big fan of science fiction. False. The problem for me is the allegory problem. Growing up, I found the overarching cold war allegory written into sci fi to be hokey and predictable, to say the least. Annalee Newitz has written a persuasive post over at i09 arguing that since 9/11 there’s been a change in science fiction – now we’re obsessed with the desert (terrorism); the security state (terrorism); the destruction of New York (terrorism/who cares?/go ahead/please). As interesting as it ever got was Star Trek: Deep Space 9, aka, The Food Court on the Edge of the Galaxy. I loved that show, even when… no especially when Avery Brooks hammed it up. The episodes actually comprised a fun, complex, exploration of Clinton era politics, the aborted Israeli decolonization of Palestine, capitalism, secularism v. religion, all coupled to the explosive melodrama of a food court. Quark would always get up to such shenanigans when his replicator broke. With Deep Space 9, there wasn’t a sense that an allegory was being used just because producers were afraid of expressing their point of view, which, aside from the market need to produce blockbusters every year, often seems to be the point of these productions. Apologies to Fredric Jameson, but science fiction is really not very interesting.

In Sunshine, the sun is going out. This is even worse than the cold war or 9/11. It’s an environmentalist allegory. Environmentalism is hypochondria taken to the infinite power. Every environmentalist I’ve ever met has been a nearly deranged germ-a-phobe, which is why, I suppose, environmental friendly toilet-paper is an especially vexing question for the movement. They want to just use their hands but they just can’t!

Anyway, someone forgot to tell Danny Boyle that the sun is a renewable resource. I genuinely loved Boyle’s 28 Days Later. Sure, there’s no such thing as zombies (another environmental allegory), but I could suspend my disbelief there. With Sunshine, it was impossible. The sun is not going out, and even if it were going out, no, sorry, but the people of earth would not be sending astronauts (the crew of the Icarus) to the sun to reignite it with a nuclear bomb. That is beyond stupid.

Chris Evans, master of his craft

Oh, did you think I was going to do a deep analysis of this film? How the hell would I do that? There’s no there there. Chris Evans is one of the worst actors working today. Clearly he’s trying to expand his acting range, but this role this seems to be a step down from the richness of London, where he gave one of the best dramatic speeches ever delivered by a leading man:

So we’re in an argument, I keep pushing her. I was pushing her, and I was like, “How big is he?” you know, “How big is he?” and she was like, “Let’s not make an issue out of it, Syd,” and I said, “No, fuck that! Tell me how big he is!” And she says, “10 1/2 inches.” Yeah, you believe that shit? […] But it really fucked with me, you know, it fucked with my head, knowing that this guy is in LA with the only woman I love, fucking her with 10 1/2 inches! I’m chasing her around like a little fucking puppy dog, doing anything and everything I can to get her back! AND IT CRUSHED ME! IT STILL FUCKING CRUSHES ME!

Unfortunately, science fiction does not lend itself to powerful speeches about impotence or 10 1/2 inch dicks, which is another tick in the minus column.

It should go without saying that following a long sci fi tradition, the minorities, of course, die first. I think the order goes Japanese guy, Indian guy, White guy (the spoiler), Chinese Woman, and then the other white people (no black people).

The end of the film is implausible and incoherent. One of the many things I can’t stand about science fiction is the necessity for memorizing the ship lay-out in order to understand the plot. This was beautifully mined for laughs in the great Star Trek parody, Galaxy Quest, but unfortunately with Sunshine the film is cut in such a way that you would seriously have to have had looked up the specs for their ship online to figure out where the nuclear doo-hickey was before going out to see the movie. Since Boyle dispensed with the ship tour in order to cut the length of it, passive viewers such as myself had to suffer through the last fifteen minutes and pretend like we knew what was going on. I seriously thought everyone was dead and the movie was over at least three times. I wish I had been right the first time.

Harsh? Sure, maybe. But we answer, you can never be too harsh when it comes to science fiction.

The crew of the Icarus may have been “the last best hope for mankind,” but to me they were the last, worst, thing to happen to science fiction. I think my genius cat, George, summed it up best with his yawn:

This is what George thinks of your sci fi

2 Responses to “We Gave Science Fiction One Last Chance; the Environmentalists Ruined It”

  1. Tucker Stone Says:

    My Australian work friend went on a heroic drunk, hit Kim’s Video, and woke up at home with Bela Tarr stuff, a box set of that I Am England guy, and Sunshine. He came to me on Monday, with actual fear painting his rugged, heavily bearded face and asked me to take Sunshine off his hands, as it was the only DVD in his burgeoning collection that was, as he put it “utter shit.”I laughed as I tenderly stroked his brow and told of him of a similar moment in my life, when I realized after watching I Am Curious Blue that I was a damn fool. Then I sent him, and his Danny Boyle, off to finish a Jill Sander ad.It was, what I now know, my first magnificent bastard moment.

  2. darknessatnoon Says:

    I’m glad you didn’t keep the dvd. I gave my copy away (yes, I spent money on it … ‘fuck you science fiction fans’!) to the dorky IT kid at work. I’ve written it off as an investment in an unhacked workplace.I’m flattered, but I bet you’ve channeled your bastard a few times before Danny Boyle came along. There was something pretty bastardly in your series of “bad movies by Great directors” posts.You make me want to mention my first serious magnificent bastard moment in an upcoming post, but by doing so I risk coming off as a huge asshole. Fuck it. Who reads this thing anyway?

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