February 21st, 2008
(The following tips are directed toward Danny Boyle’s 2007 film Sunshine, which, though described in some reviews as “the thinking person’s” sci-fi thriller, seemed to require significant lack of thought on the part of both filmmakers and viewers.)
1. If your characters are on a mission to re-ignite the sun, thus saving Earth, do not name their spaceship “Icarus.” This simply makes them look dumb. If the first Icarus mission fails, do not name the movie’s second spaceship “Icarus II.” This makes us think your characters are so moronic that they deserve to die.
2. Please allow your characters to have some distinguishing personality traits. Yes, we know that in a dire, life-threatening, potential-world-saving situation, people are under stress. But this usually does not eradicate their individual personalities to the point where you can only tell the men apart by whether or not they have beards. Think about “Firefly” and Serenity: no one has beards. Many characters have the same skin color. And you can tell them apart because they have personalities.
3. Include space cowboys.
4. If your characters have no personalities, but some of them have beards, do not make those characters shave their beards. Then we really can’t tell them apart.
5. If you are going to feature some character who has gone mad and lost his humanity and basically become Reaver-ish, you should include some explanation for why he’s been able to survive for six and a half years without skin. We’d be willing to accept that staring at the sun makes people supernatural if you actually pursued this as a theme, rather than using a mysteriously invulnerable character as a plot device to add conflict when oxygen-deprivation, possible failure, and certain death are not enough.
6. If you decide to use oxygen-deprivation as a major plot point, then do not then have your characters fight inside a huge bomb that appears to be pressurized. People do not usually need to breathe inside bombs.
7. If you’re going to have all your characters eat with chopsticks, couldn’t you just go ahead and make them space cowboys who swear in Chinese?
8. Give us some decent dialogue.
9. Did I mention space cowboys? Or at least space rhinos?
10. No cheesy Apollo 13 “hero music,” please.
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