Sunshine is a relatively hated movie. Sort of. I guess. I actually have no idea, but from what I’ve seen, people are on board until the introduction of the hypothetical Sun jump starting bomb, and that’s the moment people start to leave, and if you’re going to leave, the final exit is the moment when the irradiated former-Russian-space-captain-turned-irradiated-solar-demon.
But I love it. I agree that it’s unexpected, and maybe Danny Boyle should be publicly flogged for not setting up the supernatural turn better, but I think thematically it makes sense. First, we have the most obvious literary allusion in the history of literary allusions: the Icarus II, the ship of our brave scientists and engineers trying to save the planet. Already we’re in the territory of myth – Icarus is famous for his wax wings that melted when he flew too close to the sun – and as such we already know that this is the second expedition to attempt to reignite our dying sun. We’re in myth, and already we have two failed Icaruses (one of Greek fame, and the ship that literally flew too close to the sun): the odds of failure great, and the cause unknown.
Despite being populated by rational men and women of science, the movie feels very religious, as if the craft is staffed by priests and adherents. In fact, the staff psychiatrist begins to literally worship the sun as they get closer, spending more and more time in the sun viewing room slowly lifting more and more of the protective restrictions. When the voyage captain dies fixing a broken panel on the exterior of the ship – being fried by a solar flare brushing the ship’s protective shield – the psychiatrist’s central concern isn’t that his captain is facing death, but what it looks like being swallowed by the sun. In fact, when stranded in the lifeless hull of the original Icarus, he opts for suicide by being exposed to an unfiltered view of the sun from a distance closer than Mercury. It’s clear the sun isn’t just a ball of gravity compressed hydrogen, but a (at least somewhat) conscious god, Earth’s original deity, and even when impaired, is terrifying, unknowable, and more than a little indifferent to our planet’s situation.
This realization is what undid the crew of the prior Icarus: realizing that god is indifferent to our fate, and maybe it’s better if we die. Proximity to the sun creates paradox and instability – Icarus II’s computer can’t even figure out if the bomb works – and that’s why I can’t help but love this movie.
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