Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Future is so Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades...

...ok, I don't want to get into the habit of doing movie reviews in a technology/society column - in fact, this may be the only time - but Danny Boyle's recent entrant into the SciFi genre, "Sunshine," is absolutely worth a mention. Boyle, who scared the living bejeezus out of us with "28 Days Later" - as well as made some of us swear off of drugs for life with "Transpotting" - takes us (literally) into the heart of the sun and humanity with a time honored tale: take a few humans (8, to be exact), give them a purpose in life, throw them into a crucible and then watch what happens.

It has been many, many years since I have seen a film that qualifies as (what used to be called) "hard science fiction." There are no monsters here - other than those we create for ourselves - and there are no fantastical elements. This is pure, unadulterated technology + people. (Hence, ripe fodder for this column.)

It is some time in the future - the when doesn't really matter, because it isn't that far off - and the sun is growing dim. Desperate times call for desperate measures - and humans concoct a way to essentially re-light good old Sol using a nuclear bomb the size of Manhattan. Two problems: 1) it requires a crew "on site" to place it and set it off, and 2) they tried once before and that crew was never heard from again. Ready, set...go.

The science here is really quite good - although speaking as an ex-astrophysicist - it would take more than a huge nuclear bomb to "jump start" a star, nearly everything else in this film is completely within the realm of reality...including the method the Icarus II uses to get close to the surface of the sun. The effects are unapologetically exact, and the film maker assumes - rightly so - that if you can't keep up with what's happening, the hell with you.

In a time where people's conception of science fiction consists of giant alien robots coming to earth disguised as trucks and cars, Sunshine is a breath of fresh air in a genre gone seriously stale with simple, easy-to-understand (not to mention: absurd) plots.

...I now return you to your regular scheduled blog.

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