A simple sci-fi story that feels a bit like it’s been done before while still being well made and effectively moving. The bleak outlook with only the slightest glimmer of hope puts it at odds with Interstellar, one of my favorite recent sci-fi pieces, but that actually works in its favor. We’ve had plenty of hopeful space stories; I’m down for one where we totally fucked up and there’s only a very slight chance that humanity can survive beyond the end of the movie. Considering it’s 2020, that feels more realistic. Maybe 2021 will be hopeful.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “George Clooney now employs a younger actor to play his character in his like 30s, but I think he overdubs the actor’s voice with his own creamy Nespresso tones. It creates a bit of a creamy Nespresso disconnect, though, because Clooney’s voice is pretty iconic and sounds wrong flowing from the non-Nespresso spokesperson mouth of Ethan Peck.”
“Is that what you think we’re doing out here? Committing suicide?”
It plays fast and loose with the source material, but Alex Garland and company have still crafted a challenging, remarkable piece of science fiction that digs into humanity’s sense of self and asks substantial questions.
My VHS cover pull-quote: “Replicates your cells and doesn’t stop until you are something new! -Nick Perilli? Natalie Portman? Who are we? Who are any of us? What is next?”
And with that line that has appeared in a myriad of other films like it, the ball begins to roll in Jeff Nichols’s straight sci-fi effort. In many ways, Midnight Special feels like Spielberg making Cameron’s The Abyss, and I can’t imagine anyone would (nor should) take that as a criticism. But Nichols has obviously taken many cues from directors before him here, even if his rural Americana vibe and affection present in Take Shelter and Mud (both “better” films) remains intact. Most everything works, though. The kid has an apt young-Culkin quality to him, the plot is indeed soulful, and the effects are just understated enough. Plus, the actors — Michael Shannon in particular (as always) — really help sell everything that’s happening.
My VHS cover quote: “Not since Star Wars VII has there been a science fiction film featuring Adam Driver.”