Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sunshine: yet another totally implausible sci-fi film

After reading this review of Danny Boyle and Alex Garland's (28 Days Later) new film Sunshine I will definitely NOT be watching this film, either in the cinema or on DVD, and I recommend you give it a miss too.


Sunshine imagines a near future when the sun is dying and a solar winter has enveloped the earth. To save humanity, an international crew aboard the aptly named Icarus II sets out towards the center of the solar system to deliver a nuclear device to re-ignite the sun.

Leading the expedition is the levelheaded Captain Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), but the Icarus II's secret weapon is astrophysicist Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy), responsible for the ship's payload—a "stellar bomb" containing the earth's remaining supply of uranium and dark matter—whose detonation would create "a big bang on a small scale," as Capa promises, and "a new star born out a dying one."

There are just so many things wrong with this plot that its impossible to cover them all.

It's also a highly theoretical mission, based on as yet unconfirmed physical theories of supersymmetry. But no matter, Boyle, Garland, and the film's scientific advisor Dr. Brian Cox—who is currently working on the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator—care less about scientific rigor than scientific metaphor in their film.

Unconfirmed theories of super symmetry? It sounds like it based on the random techno-babble of the scientifically illiterate, with absolutely zero physical theoretical basis at all. And are we supposed to believe its impossible to have metaphors in anything that is actually scientifically accurate?

Forgetting plot machinations for a moment, Sunshine excels most at illuminating the mysterious elemental beauties of the universe.

Argh! How can it illuminate the mysteries of the universe if its based on absolute nonsense and totally ignores real science? The universe is wondrous, but what we really know about it, and how we can work it out, and what is still not known, is the truly amazing stuff.

Making some crap up doesn't illuminate anything, frankly it obscures the truth and diminishes just how awe-inspiring reality really is. And as a work of fiction it is really lazy. A decent writer could produce a plot that could still largely adhere to scientific accuracy and yet be an interesting work of fiction. Sure, science fiction will go beyond modern science or change aspects of it but the more implausible and inconsistent you make it the worse it is.

This is a common problem with most big-budget science fiction films, as science fiction they're really bad. There is a fair bit of really good written science fiction, but it seems like the movie studios want the lowest-common-denominator special effects laden or action-based their execs can understand. The elegance of either accuracy or a well-crafted story need not apply, it seems.

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