“Sunshine” Killed My Happiness

When I was in second grade, I started having these really bizarre (to me at the age) dreams about a fellow classmate named Meg. In those dreams, she would exist as some sort of wonderful beneficial thing, and her rare touch was addictive, the ambrosia of life. I remember waking up after each of these dreams with this intense, skin-crawling disappointment that she wasn’t there, and each of the places she had touched me (arms, cheeks, etc) would then feel even worse. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was experiencing my first actual crush, along with the longing and let-down that often accompanies such a trial.

Around the 1:15 time mark of the movie Sunshine, I experienced a feeling eerily similar to that post-dream sadness, and it still sits with me well into the day after. This feeling was born in my realization that the director had destroyed a beautiful work of art that was in its final stages of achieving perfection.

I was primarily recommended to this movie through friends and Netflix, due to my love of the movies Moon and Pandorum. Watching its first hour, I can definitely get the connection to the former, as that sense of isolated claustrophobia really drives down deep in each moment of the film. Moon did a near-perfect job of connecting me on a personal and emotional level with its cast of one (of which there were two). I felt like i was right there, with him the entire time, and when he cried, I cried. In the early part of Sunshine, the effect was the same; when the guy kept repeating “I fucked up! I fucked up!” I wanted so badly to reach over and grab his shoulder in a firm but understanding grip, letting him know that he needs to calm down, but also that I know exactly how much it sucks to make such a human error. And later, when that same guy sees the consequences of his fuck-up, I’m still right there with him. As a member of the audience, that effect, that expression on his face just tore me apart.

But the connection to Pandorum is one with which I can’t agree. Pandorum was a horrific sci-fi thriller, and I knew that going into it. It’s gruesome scenes fit perfectly within the context of its established subject frame. The “something here is killing us and I don’t know what it is” theme was introduced early in the movie’s story development, and everything that branched off of that resulting narrative was exactly as it should have been. In Pandorum, murders and chases and distrust and “run for your life they’re coming!” was all part of the premise, and exactly what I was looking for.

With Sunshine, the introduction of that new theme was so unexpected and heavy-handed as to be anathema to the intense-yet-enjoyable tension that the movie had fostered up until that very moment. Mere seconds after perhaps the most powerful scene of the entire movie, once the computer utters that one line involving the number five, everything the movie had built up was obliterated. The turn towards the slasher chase was unnecessary and unwanted, and I struggled to pay anymore focus to the screen as the movie finished its course – not because I was disturbed by the new delve into gore and terror, but because I was absolutely bored with it. Because my feelings were hurt. By a movie.

Were this any other movie, I would likely dismiss it, and tell my friends to stay away from it. But the buildup and execution of the first full hour of this movie is so wondrous, so compelling that I won’t be doing my heart any justice by telling everyone to avoid the film. So, instead, you should watch it up until the “hall scuffle” scene around 1:10 or so, and then turn it off. Just walk away, think about it, buy the soundtrack (which is simply stunning), press play and then sit down and write out your own ending. Take this story and make it your own.

Then send me the scripts you write, so we can enjoy them together.

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