Favourite Space Films To (Re)Watch
Dissection & Reflection's top space features to (re)watch in honour of the European Space Agency announcing a new round of astronaut selection.
Article written by: Alexandra, Christiana, Mario and Obin.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
written by Alexandra
"2001: A Space Odyssey" is a very inquisitive space movie, a behemoth that unfolds slowly and heavily in highly saturated aesthetics. Stanley Kubrick's directional masterpiece, co-written with Arthur C. Clarke, based on his short story, "The Sentinel". According to Clarke, who mentioned it in his diary, Kubrick wanted to create a film that would make people feel emotions such as "wonder, awe, even [..] terror". Indeed, all of these emotions, and others, can be experienced watching the film- there is a baseline of terror that grows with every unsettling scene: when hominids attack their own, when AI is too "human", or when we see the different stages of a person's life. It is a mind-boggling film and one that aims to explore the concept of life and where humans stand in the universe.
Star Wars (1977)
written by Christiana
A spectacular odyssey to the frontiers of the galaxy, “Star Wars” is a glorious cinematic revolution bound to bring people together through its polyvalence. Not only did it provide stellar visuals and became one of the most groundbreaking science-fiction films in history, but also George Lucas’ vision was shaped to life by the legendary musical score composed by John Williams. These technical elements serve as a foundation for the out-of-this-world experience that is “Star Wars”, one that will undoubtedly stand the test of time for centuries to come, as we’ll inevitably approach the futuristic dawn of the Resistance and the descent of the First Order.
Event Horizon (1997)
written by Mario Dhingsa
"Event Horizon" (1997) is the kind of space trip that you love to watch, but pray to Heaven that you never actually experience! Directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, this remains his finest film to date. Skipper Laurence Fishburne attempts to rescue any remaining survivors from a stranded spaceship off Neptune, and well, all Hell literally breaks loose.
Originally pitched by its writer, Philip Eisner, as ‘The Shining in space’, this film has more than its fair share of thrills and kills. But special mention must go to Captain Fishburne’s space crew, as they create memorable characters that you care about on this doomed interstellar journey; plus there’s some stunning performances from Sam Neill, Jason Isaacs and Holley Chant.
It also helps that the spaceship itself is staggering to look at, inside and out! As the great Sam Neill hauntingly reminds us in the film, “Do you see? DO YOU SEE?”...
written by Mario Dhingsa
"Moon" (2009) is a perennial favourite , and essential viewing for anyone considering leaving the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s one hell of a ride to leave Earth, but what is it going to take to come back?
Director Duncan Jones may have had only a budget of $5m, but he also had a great script (by Nathan Parker), a superb score (by Clint Mansell - which I still listen to!), and a phenomenal lead (Sam Rockwell), which were priceless. This multi-award-winning film asks some serious questions about who are, and where is our home exactly; but it’s also incredibly thrilling and has some wonderful comedic touches.
“I hope life on Earth is everything you remember it to be,” says GERTY, the onboard computer. And I hope you have as much fun watching this as I did!
written by Alexandra
"Gravity" is a personal favourite. It's a story of grit and resilience, of the will to live triumphing over anything else. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is an engineer whose space shuttle is heavily damaged by debris which killed the crew and destroyed any means of communication with Mission Control. The only other surviving astronaut, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), suggests they try to reach the International Space Station. Misfortune after misfortune befalls Kowalski and Stone in this film which is more than a space thriller. After having been alone in space and brushed shoulders with death, being confined in a small capsule falling towards Earth would make anyone do some reckoning.
The Martian (2015)
written by Obin Nguyen
With a successful Perseverance rover landing on Mars earlier this month, stunning HD photos and a first ever recorded sound on a foreign planet sent back to Earth, Mars never felt closer to our reach. I couldn’t help myself and had to revisit Ridley Scott’s "The Martian".
This film is one of the most scientifically accurate sci-fi dramas about space exploration that is not based on real-life events. The depiction of the main character Mark Watney, brilliantly performed by Matt Damon, feels very believable as he actually acts how a rational astronaut would. His methodical, pragmatic, problem-solving and at times humorous approach, are traits I would expect from an astronaut who spent their lifetime training for such missions.
Considering he was stranded on the Red Planet all by himself with limited life-support supplies and very small odds of surviving, he did not let his emotions get the better of him and did his best to survive. I am highlighting the importance on the portrayal of the astronauts as I felt many films have tended to depict them as rather irrational with compulsive behaviour, who make really unrealistic decisions at times.
The cinematography accompanied with a score composed by experienced Harry Gregson-Williams is simply gorgeous. Mars is shown in its all “red dessert” beauty and highlights the vast lifeless emptiness further empathising the loneliness and adversity our protagonist is facing. All in all, "The Martian" is a thrilling, smart and funny film that deserves to be watched.
Ad Astra (2019)
written by Obin Nguyen
"Apocalypse Now" (1979) and "2001: Space Odyssey" (1968) decided to have a baby together and a few decades later, "Ad Astra" was born - a sci-fi drama directed by James Gray, which tells the story of an emotionally distant astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) taking a mission into the far corners of our solar system. He is tasked with making contact with a lost spaceship that has been linked to violent power surges which threaten to annihilate human existence.
While Ad Astra is predominantly set in space and other planets of the solar system, it’s not only about the exploration of the unknown outer space, but perhaps more importantly it is an odyssey into one’s inner self. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema brilliantly used varieties of colour to depict different emotional states of the astronaut, creating a visually stunning spectacle.
It is always a pleasure to watch Hoytema’s playful use of colours after seeing his work in "Dunkirk" and "Her". "Ad Astra" is a philosophical film examining themes of loneliness, self-exploration and humanity. The story itself may be a bit cliché and the scientific accuracy slightly questionable, but the emotional depth and beautiful cinematography are definitely making up for it.