Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Thursday Movie Picks: Astronauts

This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is astronauts. This is an area I'm very prolific in, being an experienced science fiction writer and having a long history with the genre. That seems simple enough. The only problem is deciding which three to select for this theme. I've got so many to choose from. It's hard to narrow it down to three, but I've got to find something.

Destination Moon (1951)

If we're going to be discussing astronauts, what better place to start than to look at the original astronaut film. George Pal's Destination Moon is often labelled as the film which really launched the science fiction film. By today's standards, it might not seem like that great a film. The story is pretty thin, and serves mainly as an excuse to provide what amounts to an hour and a half lecture about space travel. However, in its day, this was radical. Pal was one of the first to realize that audiences were interested in the possibilities of space travel and science. They even brought in then-acclaimed author Robert Heinlein to ensure the film was realistic (the effects are a bit dated, but most of the science holds up pretty well). Also worth noting is that Destination Moon was made almost twenty years before the actual moon landing, and they fact that they came as close as they did to predicting what would actually happen is quite impressive.

The Right Stuff (1983)

To continue the theme I set in motion with Destination Moon, it seemed appropriate to also include a movie about some of the first astronauts. Okay, technically this film is about the first American astronauts (the first person in space was a Russian, Yuri Gagarin, who entered orbit in 1961) but it does deal with the beginnings of space exploration. There is a lot of ground covered in this film, which begins with Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier in 1947 and ends just before the start of the Apollo Missions.

Gravity (2013)

This may seem like an obvious choice, but it is a very well-made film. It obviously draws on a lot of older science fiction movies, with plenty of references, homages, and inside jokes (fun fact: look in the background when Ryan is on the ISS; at one point you can see a picture of the famous shot from A Trip to the Moon). It is definitely a tense film, but also one that reflects a very different view of space travel. Unlike the more adventurous tones of Destination Moon or The Right Stuff, Gravity puts heavy emphasis on the less glamorous side of working as an astronaut. From the opening moments we see that working in space can be dull and tedious, but it also shows the dangers of the profession as well.


  1. Great picks! I haven't seen the first two though they seem impressive. Gravity was an amazing film, loved the visual and technical work for it.

  2. I've only seen Gravity and it is fantastic. Over the years I've had several chances to watch The Right Stuff and passed in favor of something wlse. Might have to pull the trigger on that one.

  3. I've only seen Gravity, which I also choose. It's okay if it's a safe pick, it's such a well made film.

  4. I've only seen Gravity and it's fantastic. Everything was just perfect.

  5. I LOVE The Right Stuff so much. Just a wonderfully engrossing picture from start to finish, along with Apollo 13 my favorite movie in this genre.

    I have seen Destination Moon but so long ago I don't have much memory of it outside of thinking it was a decent film.

    Visually Gravity was tremendous but it didn't grip me the way I hoped it would.

    I poked around to find more obscure titles for the week and came up with these three:

    Capricorn One (1977)-While awaiting the launch of the first manned flight to Mars the command center realizes too late to abort that a malfunction in the support system will kill the astronauts during the journey. Needing a success to continue the program the astronauts are whisked away to a false lunar surface in the desert and the entire mission faked. When the spaceship burns up on reentry and the hoax is at risk of being exposed it becomes a cat and mouse game as the astronauts fight for survival.

    Silent Running (1971)-All botanical life on Earth has ceased to exist, ecologist/astronaut Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern) oversees a greenhouse on an orbiting space station to preserve various flora and fauna for future generations. Assisted by three robots and a small human crew who see no value in maintaining the forest, Lowell rebels when orders arrive to destroy the greenhouse in favor of carrying cargo, a decision that puts him at odds with everyone but his mechanical companions. Lowell and his robots are forced to do anything necessary to keep their invaluable greenery alive. A quiet and meditative take for the most part on the shortsightedness of the human race.

    The Reluctant Astronaut (1967)-Agoraphobic Roy (Don Knotts) runs the kid spaceship ride at the fairground but his father hopes for better and applies to NASA for him. Surprisingly he’s accepted…as a janitor. After many crazy complications Roy ends up in space as the title pilot! If it sounds preposterous, it is but then it’s a Don Knotts comedy after all.

  6. I haven't seen the first two and always wanted to see The Right Stuff but haven't yet. I have no love for Gravity. I found it downright silly in certain spots ( she is new to all of this but yet can operate a Chinese satellite) and , aside from the special effects which were great, I don't care for it at all. I know, I'm in the minority.