Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: Get ready to go back into space

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Thanks to the success of Gravity, a bunch of space movies are blasting into theatres in the coming years. Dominic Corry is over the moon.
Matthew McConaughey is set to star in Christopher Nolan's new film 'Interstellar'. Photo / YouTube
Matthew McConaughey is set to star in Christopher Nolan's new film 'Interstellar'. Photo / YouTube

A lumbering, dull-witted beast at the best of times, the contemporary Hollywood machine loves nothing more than pre-determined success. And by the industry's Cro-Magnon reasoning, that usually means attempting to replicate other successes.

Which, as any casual cinemagoer is all too aware, often results in a deluge of wannabes arriving in the wake of a particular kind of movie breaking out at the box office.

The net effect is a lot of cruddy films, but occasionally this blunt logic can be cause for mild excitement. Especially when a film as awesome as Gravity is as broadly successful is it was.


Sandra Bullock in Gravity.

The most gratifying aspect of Gravity's universal success is how the film has been recognised as a maverick venture on the part director/co-writer Alfonso Cuarón, who fought tooth and nail against conservative studio feedback to get it made on his terms.

Cuarón's steely resolve plays a large role in the narrative of Gravity's smash hit status, to the point where the notion of allowing directors more creative control over big budget genre films may actually seem fashionable to the studios. Hey, a guy can dream.

At the very least, it means we're gonna see a bunch of space movies in the coming years, and that alone has me, ahem, over the moon.

Over the past few decades, there have been several spikes in what I'm going to call 'contemporary' space movies, which I see as films rooted in something resembling the actual space programme i.e. not Stars Wars or Trek, or similarly outlandish fantasies like the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.

Watch the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy below:

Video

The first wave came predictably in the wake of the first Star Wars film in 1977, and featured cult classics like Capricorn One and Oscar-winning prestige pics like The Right Stuff. And stinkers like Spacecamp.

In 1995, there was Apollo 13, the success of which surely played a role in the existence of 1998's duelling meteor films - Deep Impact and Armageddon - and 2000's duelling Mars movies - Mission To Mars and Red Planet. Those latter two I consider to be highly underrated. Space Cowboys also came out in 2000. I do not consider Space Cowboys to be underrated.

In the time since then, we've only had Danny Boyle's overlooked Sunshine and the stellar doco In The Shadow of The Moon (both 2007) to get excited about, but thanks to Gravity's worldwide domination, that's very likely all about to change. The resulting films may not all scale such giddy heights, but I'll take a wannabe Gravity over a wannabe Twilight any day of the week, pal.

As Gravity wasn't anticipated to be the massive success that it was, the ripple effect will take a little while to really take hold (the plagiarism usually begins before a hit is even released), but there are already some films in the pipeline that seem all the hotter for coming after Cuarón's masterpiece.

The first big obvious one on the horizon is Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, which was being planned long before Gravity hit it big, but now can't help but seem like an extremely well-timed, equally-fascinating follow-up.

We know little about the film beyond the broadest of strokes, and I love how the latest trailer sustains a massive sense of mystery.

Watch the trailer for Interstellar below:

Video

Another upcoming project that began life before Gravity, but which has its fate inextricably linked to the film, is The Martian, which currently has Ridley Scott attached to direct and Matt Damon in the lead role.

Based on a recently published book by space enthusiast Andy Weir (it was first available as a free digital download on his website two years ago), it's easy to see why people are linking the film to Gravity - The Martian is also a thriller about a solo astronaut going from one life-threatening situation to the next. In this case, the astronaut (laconic and resourceful botanist/engineer Mark Watney) has been left behind on Mars by his crewmates, who think he's dead.

I just finished reading the book, and it positively drools cinematic potential. Even more so than Gravity, it adheres very closely to existing technologies and it has been lauded for its technical accuracy. But it presents a much more macro storytelling opportunity than Gravity - for one thing it takes place across a few years, as opposed to a couple of days.


The Martian by Andy Weir.

I highly recommend you check out The Martian if you haven't already - it's a cracking page-turner that taps deeply into the heart-stirring, on-the-crest-of-humanity side of space travel. It's the kind of idealistic story that really makes you want humanity to rededicate itself to space travel in a major way. Here's hoping Ridley doesn't mess it up!

There isn't a trailer for it yet, but the intriguing-sounding Space Station 76 is sure to tap into some of that spacey goodness.

I'm crazy excited for the Wachowski's Jupiter Ascending, which was recently pushed to early next year, but that doesn't look like it'll come close to qualifying as a 'contemporary' space movie. Still, it looks way awesome, and at least features Earth, which is nice. I'm from there, so I will be able to relate.

Watch the trailer for Jupiter Ascending below

Video

We still know very little about Brad Bird's shrouded-in-secrecy 2015 Disney film Tomorrowland, but I am holding out hope that it will feature space travel in someway.

Next year also features a little movie currently known as Star Wars: Episode VII, which will probably have some space in it. Again, these are not related to Gravity in any way, but space is space.

Also, if you really liked Gravity and haven't seen Sunshine, definitely check it out.

* Amped for more space movies? Favourite 'contemporary' space movies? Read The Martian? Think it'll make a good movie? Comment below!

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