Warning: Some movie and book spoilers for Gravity, Europa Report, Last Days on Mars and the Martian ensue
Space-themed movies and books always seem to end on a depressing note with humans meeting a nasty death and generally star or feature men. Last year’s space movies were no exception minus Gravity, a film with many positive attributes including a strong female lead and the inclusion of a (SPOILER!) happy ending.
Yes, I know, two of the three Gravity characters (SPOILER!) died and there are arguments about realism but in comparison to other space films released in 2013, it did very well. At least against the likes of Europa Report starring my personal favorite, and the whole reason why I watched the film in the first place, Sharlto Copley. His name may not ring a bell as he’s only been in a handful of movies, including the apartheid-themed sci-fi flick District 9. I mention this due to the irony.
It - Europa Report - has everything a space-film lover could want, though minimal Copley face-time much to my disappointment, and plenty of realism. However, it concludes with a depressing finale that was a personal letdown because (SPOILER!) everyone died.
Then there is the Last Days on Mars starring Liev Schreiber, best known for his roles in X-Men and the Scream movies, and a nearly unrecognizable Olivia (I see dead people!) Williams. While enjoyable in the context of space it goes off the deep end when it comes to being realistic. Though I must admit the general subject or theme, if you will, of the movie was rather unique for this quarter member of the (Hint: I am giving the whole movie away here) zombie family. However, there is a (SPOILER!) not-so-happy conclusion for the entire crew. Not just those wearing red shirts, mind you, but everyone.
Apparently, in space, no one is allowed to be happy or live.
All of this begs the question as to the pervasive need to kill those daring to venture into the final frontier. (He’s dead, Jim!) Whether it is computers and androids turning against their creators, humans eating humans, aliens exterminating people, or little kids wiping out entire alien races. Well, I actually like the spin on the latter and yes, there is a space movie with people eating other people. Just skip that one.
Gravity was our saving grace in terms of space movies, particularly for those of the female persuasion who are sick and tired of Hollywood shoving romantic comedies in our faces. The success of the movie should also send a very clear message to film patriarchs that (SPOILER!) ladies do enjoy subjects other than romance and, no, we did not see Gravity for George Clooney.
Nevermind the irony.
Anyway and yes, venturing into space is highly risky in the real world but must death be the only plausible outcome for fictional characters daring to travel to the stars? Or worse, becoming alien-burger? Which brings me to the whole point of this story (Whew!) and that is an initial reluctance to read The Martian by Andy Weir. Touted as a space thriller, I did the unthinkable as a former librarian, judged a book by its cover of an astronaut caught in a red sandstorm. I surmised this presentation meant lots of people were going to die under very depressing circumstances and the level of realism highly questionable.
Fortunately, The Martian was none of those things. It was a breath of fresh air with lots of humor, chemistry, and math. Not romantic chemistry, by the way, and this coming from an individual who professes to despise all things numbers, too. Yet, had the book been any fresher it would have had a female lead and eventually star Sandra Bullock in a loosely based upon movie version in a theater near you any day now.
In other words, it will star George Clooney but at least (SPOILER!) there’s a happy ending.
Bethany J. Royer is the mother of two munchkins and has a serious case of psychology student senior-itis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.