Press your spaceface close to mine

A Love Letter to Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine”

Posted by Sunday on Feb 27, 2008 at 7:52 pm in Movies

Dear Sunshine,

Hi. We’ve never met, but I’ve seen you around. Actually, I’ve seen you around a few times. I hope it’s not creepy or anything, but… I just can’t stop watching you. You don’t have to say anything, but, I think I love you.

There’s a scientist named Anjana Ahuja who had a lot of bad things to say. She’s a solar physicist, see, and if there’s one thing that certain uptight scientists love to do, it’s to point fingers and guffaw at science fiction. Because it’s not real. Which is very insulting to them, as you can imagine. How dare someone make something up! You see, Sunshine, we both understand something very important about scifi: explaining every little thing will ruin the whole project. When Ahuja gloatingly points out that there is some kind of unexplained gravity on board, well, I have to ask her, what would you have us do? Fake some atrocious-sounding pseudoscience? Oh, I get it – you wanted Mr. Boyle to make up something so that you could poke fun!

Oh, and do you want to know what Anjana Ahuja thought you were missing, Sunshine? Sex. To be precise: “a space bonk.” I like a scientist with her head on straight, I tell you what.

See, the simpler things get, sometimes, the better. Many folks had a hard time with the crew’s ability to “reignite” the sun with a mere Manhattan-sized bomb. Impossible! True. But what kind of bomb is it? Does anyone go out of their way to say, “We have to fly this perfectly standard nuclear bomb into the sun“? What if – just bear with me – what if it isn’t a regular bomb? What if it is adequate, for the sake of our story, to reignite the sun?

What people seem to be expressing is that they don’t want to actually be watching fiction. Dr. Chris Lintott of Oxford University called your science “complete rubbish.” Well… yes. It’s as if somewhere along the line these people were told to watch this very real footage about some folks who fly to the sun. You can see why they are so hurt and disappointed. (Lintott later says “This is an excellent film – great fun if you want to see an adventure story.” – what in god’s name did he think he was watching?). And where were all these people when The Core came out? I take that back; if they were anything like me they were getting started on a 17-day heroin binge.

You and me, Sunshine, we understand each other.

What I really want to say, Sunshine, is thank you. Thank you for:

  • not having the women wear make-up.
  • making every single person both flawed and heroic – in other words, regular people.
  • having a spaceship that both looks and maneuvers like we should expect a near-future ship to.
  • having all the technology be perfectly reasonable (with possible exceptions being artificial gravity and ultra-mega-bombs) and even clever (i.e., the iPod-like personal ship communicators each of the characters carried on a lanyard).
  • not making the speech-capable onboard computer either woodenly stupid or a woodenly jokey.
  • not casting Michelle Yeoh in a role where she has to spin swords (though she does that very well) and instead letting her just act.
  • refraining from a space bonk.
  • making the one girl who cries also a calm and capable scientist.
  • making the tough guy also smart.
  • making the selfish coward capable of redeeming himself in a crisis.
  • showing our sun as it really is: monstrous, mesmerizing and complicated.
  • having an dope soundtrack.
  • being inspired by the great grim space thrillers of the last 30 years and for adding to the oeuvre.
  • despite critics’ impassioned grousing, thank you for having a great villain – one could write the story without a half-melted trans-dimensional megalomaniac, but then it would have just been a movie about some scientists tossing a bomb into the sun unimpeded, and what the hell kind of movie would that be? One with more sex, no doubt.
  • having some of the coolest sets since Soderbergh’s Solaris.
  • almost making me forgive Danny Boyle for letting someone else direct fuck up 28 Weeks Later.

With much adoration and longing,

Captain, GalacticMu

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February 27th, 2008 | Movies

One Response to “A Love Letter to Danny Boyle’s “Sunshine””

  1. Chris Says:

    I was asked to comment as an astronomer; to an astronomer, it’s hard not to notice that the science is, well, ‘complete rubbish’. That’s different from saying I didn’t enjoy the movie (which I did), but it does matter. The emotional impact of the film came partly from the fact that we believe this is our world we’re watching – otherwise why does the shot at the end of the Sydney Opera House under snow have such an impact? To me, that’s completely undermined by the fact that physics appears to work differently in the sunshine universe.

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