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Micrówave user not visiting
Delilah, on Medium Power
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Posted: 21 Sep 07, 17:37 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

It's 2057, Sol is about to fail, and placing a gigantic nuclear bomb on the surface of the sun will restart our star and save Earth. OK, I buy the premise; but what comes next makes no sense. First, the spaceship that delivers that gigantic nuclear bomb has a crew, rather than being automated. This means the ship must come back. Traveling to the sun is easy because you're going downhill toward the center of the solar system's gravity. Coming back from the sun's surface is hard to imagine in propulsion terms -- it might require, say, a million times as much propulsion power, and hence fuel mass, to return from the solar surface as to get there. Even if return power were not an issue, having people aboard would make the ship far bigger, more expensive and more complicated than an automated vessel. Plus, why would a crew need to accompany a bomb? Apparently the entire crew is there simply to press a button labeled RELEASE GIGANTIC BOMB. Next, the spaceship built to deliver the megabomb is the second of two, the first having been lost mysteriously, very mysteriously. As the second of two nears the point of danger, it receives a distress call from the vanished first ship. (Derivative-plot note: This is exactly the story line of the excruciatingly bad sci-fi flick "Event Horizon.") Ship 2 decides to find Ship 1. The course changes are executed not by a navigational computer but by a distracted crew member who must push a bunch of buttons really fast and makes a mistake that -- oh my gosh! -- places the whole mission in jeopardy! In 2007, Hertz rental cars offer automated guidance. In 2057, a super-advanced spaceship upon whose success all humanity depends will have computer navigation, not be steered manually by a harried pilot who must press a bunch of buttons in exactly the correct order.

But what really drove me nuts about "Sunshine" were the scenes in which an astronaut tends plants in the onboard hothouse that produces all the crew's oxygen. This scene betrays the producers' lack of knowledge of rudimentary science. Plants do make oxygen that mammals breathe, though most atmospheric oxygen comes from marine biology, not land plants. At any rate, huge numbers of land plants would be required to exhale enough oxygen for a single person. This isn't a problem on Earth, where plants outnumber mammals by a spectacular multiple. But on a spaceship, a garden perhaps the size of an urban park -- maybe a plant biologist could calculate this exactly -- would be required to release enough oxygen for eight crew members. The little hothouse depicted in the movie is nowhere near large enough to provide oxygen for the crew. At one point, after a bunch of plants are killed in a contrived scene, two characters fight over one single plant -- one plant would produce maybe enough oxygen for the smallest species of vole. Compressed or chemically generated oxygen would make far more sense for a spaceship than a garden. Please, Hollywood producers, offer us sci-fi movies that rise to the level of 16th-century scientific knowledge.

Now tell me Flash Gordon wasn't a good movie.

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Posted: 23 Sep 07, 08:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Interesting review. You make a good point, that Hollywood (altho this was a British film, right?) frequently sacrifices science for plot convenience. But this is far too easy a way to critique the film, and I disagree with your comparison to <Event Horizon>, tho I agree that was an excruciating flick. But not as excruciating as <Battlefield Earth>, even if Travolta's character busted out the electric boogie it would be vomitous. <Flash Gordon> with the Queen soundtrack is Oscar-caliber drama compared to <BE>. I suggest a better comparison for <Sunshine> would be George Clooney's <Solaris>. After all, doesn't the term 'science fiction' announce to the audience some liberties have been taken with the facts?

I enjoyed <Sunshine> -- for me it wasn't so much about the science, but rather deconstructing the cultural perception of safeguarding life and protecting our environment, since space exploration is essentially the zenith of the military-industrial complex. Americans especially must be cognizant of President Eisenhower's warning on this subject from January 1961...and how prophetic history proves him to be. The conflict between nature and technology is complicated by the whims of human desire. The decision to pursue the ghost-ship from the first mission, underscores the blind ambition to preserve and protect life at all costs in the culture of the characters aboard the second ship, and the mission they are expected to accomplish. Nature is expected to follow certain rhythms, while technology is expected to follow a program. Hence the novel idea that plants serve some kind of purpose aboard a spaceship -- again, I don't think the purpose of putting plants on a spaceship is there to reinforce the viewer's impression that the movie is scientifically accurate, but has more to do with underlying themes in the plot. Even in a supposedly controlled environment like the spaceship, the humans can't protect the plants from disaster, much like the situation on Earth requiring the first mission, then human nature goes haywire (gee! surprise!) and the second mission launches.

You're absolutely correct, Microwave, that the science is truncated in this film but <Sunshine> could have earned more points from me in this area by at least even briefly mentioning something about what's actually going on with Sol, right now, in reality. Solar flare activity on our sun is a very important issue, because the radical increase in solar flare activity over the next 1000 years could render Earth unable to support life. If your initial reaction to this is 'so what -- that's not in my lifetime!' Keep in mind this appears to be the same mindset as many politicians, whose only priority is expanding empire and exploiting other peoples to take their natural resources. You could go so far as to say in a work of science fiction such as <Sunshine> that sanity or logic is a precious natural resource (paging Dr Spock...). Possibly, the most important resource. But my point is this, changes in the ionization of the solar wind could rip apart our atmosphere, eventually tearing it off the planet. Thus, reigniting the source of our ecosystem's life is a noble goal worthy of epic treatment. At the very least, poetic license.

The survivor from the first mission was irrevocably transformed, scarred, mutated by his experience, and perhaps the Sol viewing room in each ship has some kind of counter-point role compared to the greenhouse room. They gaze in wonder at the awesome source of impending destruction, and use a bomb to fend it off. This dramatic irony is delicious and satisfying to fans of sci-fi. But the plants of the greenhouse room-- which could even represent Earth in microcosm-- naturally need sunshine for photosynthesis, so what is it, exactly, that the movie is saying? Perhaps, the complex relationship between humanity and our environment is first driven by our impact upon e

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Posted: 23 Sep 07, 12:29 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I found it a little hard to comprehend that the original Icarus' captain had survived on his own for seven years in the condition that he was in. That is one tough cookie!

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john bodega
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Posted: 23 Sep 07, 12:51 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That sounds like an utterly ridiculous movie. Surface of the sun missions...... Jesus Christ, I'm not even going into why that's something you wouldn't make a movie about unless you were 8 years old and your leading actor was a Magneto action figure.

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Posted: 23 Sep 07, 16:07 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Micrówave wrote:

It's 2057, Sol is about to fail, and placing a gigantic nuclear bomb on the surface of the sun will restart our star and save Earth.

This first bit already says enough about the movie... *rolls eyes*

We got the Cosmos rockin'!

We got the Cosmos rockin'!

We got the Universe rockin'!

We got the Cosmos rockin'!

We got the Cosmos rockin' to the mighty power of rock'n'roll!