Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sunshine. Again.

A couple of years ago, I watched and...well, I wouldn't go so far as to say reviewed, but I certainly did write about Danny Boyle's Sunshine. For some reason, I've been wanting to watch it again.

I think part of it was the recent Solar Dynamics Observatory launch. (SDO is going to be gathering up to 1.4 terabytes of data every day). And playing with Solar Stormwatch (where you can watch video and help detect solar flare activity). And the release of the 3D Sun iPhone app (near realtime solar storm and flare data on your phone). Basically, there's been a lot of cool sun related science going on lately. It's all very exciting if you're into astronomy and science. And for those of you who were unsure, I am really into science and astronomy.

I'm generally willing to re-watch a movie that I haven't enjoyed. I'll give it a second chance. I'm always willing to admit that outside factors can impact my subjective enjoyment of a movie. There have been many times where I've liked a movie much more on subsequent viewing than I did on the first. Event Horizon and Star Wars: Episode III come to mind right away.

Now, it's worth noting that I don't remember liking Sunshine as much as I claimed to in 07. I remembered it being an ok movie, but nothing spectacular. Certainly not on par with Boyle's previous movies like Trainspotting and 28 Days Later.

Sunshine is a very pretty movie that, unfortunately, doesn't make a lot of sense. So much is just unexplained in terms of what is actually going on in the movie. Why is the sun dying? The sun should be mostly stable for a few billion years before becoming a red giant. What happened to make it burn out? Why does it take 16 months to get to the sun? If we can send a probe to Pluto in less than 10 years with current technology, then in the future world of sun bound space ships, we should be able to move faster than that. How does the ship have gravity? Seriously, what is the source of gravity on the ship? Instead of taking a few minutes to work in explanations for this, Boyle thrusts the viewer into this world where they should just already know what is going on. It makes for a very confusing experience at times.

One of the DVD's high points is a commentary by Dr. Brian Cox, a particle physicist, professor at the University of Manchester and one of the scientists working on CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Dr. Cox was also a science adviser to Danny Boyle in Sunshine's pre-production. His commentary is great. It manages to fill in a lot of the gaps from the movie itself and is very informative and entertaining.

Of course, the low point of the experience is that for the movie to really make sense, you need an explanation from a particle physicist.