The very first film in the history of sci-fi showed a mission to the Moon and another archetypal and timeless – beyond genres – movie narrated a… space odyssey. It is thus easy to understand the scope of the vision, but also the difficulties (or even the comparisons) Christopher Nolan had to face with his «Interstellar». What follows is a list of 25 films that paved the way towards the evolution of this journey, beyond the borders of our galaxy…
Christopher Nolan’s «Interstellar» has been one of the most highly anticipated «event movies» of 2014, taking us back to the sub-genre of sci-fi cinema which, since the early 1900’s, has been exploring the unknown universe, its possible interpretations and the human kind’s hopes of creating new civilisations when the Earth becomes unsustainable. The space travels and the explorers of the Moon and various (imaginary or not) planets were glorified in the 1950’s, providing visions but also threatening to destroy the – so called – «American Dream» which featured as the main social prototype for development and prosperity on our planet.
The following list (in chronological order, to avoid potential bloodshed!), consists of 25 film titles from 1902 to today. In it, there are some films which may not be the groundbreakers or the best of their kind, yet they influenced their genre and the pop culture, they became reference points, they suggested something original, they belong to the «cult» sphere or they found the farcical elements of the «fashion» of the space missions, which seems to be back, judging from last year’s «Gravity» and from the critical and audience acclaim for «Interstellar».
So, please, make sure your oxygen levels are sufficient for the journey and… we have a blast off!
TEXT: Elias Fragoulis
ILLUSTRATION: The Comeback Studio
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Katerina Andreakou
It’s the mid-22nd century and technological evolution has allowed the human race to colonise other habitable planets, deep inside the galaxy. The explorative spacecraft Dark Star has been wondering in space for the last (boring) 20 years, its mission to eradicate unstable planets that can put the life of any of the colonies in danger. Something like a sci-fi slacker film, this is John Carpenter’s first feature which became the frontrunner of the genre’s parodies (one can easily identify references to the «Space Odyssey» and George Lucas’s «THX 1138»), even defying its ridiculous budget of just $60.000!
The Nostromo crew has already discovered the existence of the lethal «Alien» (in 1979), and here planet LV-246 has now its own human colony, called Hadley’s Hope. When their communication with Earth ceases, the spaceship U.S.S. Sulaco, manned with a group of selected marines with heavy artillery, heads off to investigate LV-246. Also on board, there’s Helen Ripley, whose only mission is to exterminate the alien creatures of the first, iconic film of the sci-fi genre. Cameron takes over Ridley Scott’s terrifying masterpiece and turns it into a… violent war machine, thus influencing subsequent films like «Starship Troopers» (1997). Oscars for visual and sound effects.
Huston, we have a problem! The classic docudrama, which was nominated for nine Oscars and won two (for editing and sound), follows the dramatic mission of three astronauts to the Moon, who are in danger of losing all power and oxygen after an explosion in space. NASA gradually cancelled the scheduled root of the spaceship and fought hard for the crew’s safe return to Earth. Howard directed his film with the utmost respect to the real-life events, making it a rather sombre one to watch, yet perhaps the most accurate (both technically and scientifically) we have ever seen on the big screen.
Confident that she has discovered radio signals from an alien species who is trying to contact Earth, a scientist finds a way to decode them, only to face about 60.000 pages of plans and instructions to build a mysterious machine that will allow a single passenger to make the ultimate journey of «acquaintance». The story was written by Carl Sagan, who later on made it into a novel, inspired by Kip Thorne’s studies (also an advisor and executive producer for Nolan’s «Interstellar»!) on a journey into spacetime through a wormhole. The film also touches on the subject of the conflict between science and religion, in terms of God’s existence, more seriously than any other film of the genre.
In 2047, the spaceship Event Horizon sends signals of its existence in space, seven years after its disappearance. A rescue team investigates what happened to its crew, only to find traces of a terrifying massacre! Their facts show that the Event Horizon passed through a black hole, referred to as a gate to another dimension of total chaos and evil (also know as Hell…). A horror sci-fi film reminiscent of… «Solaris», its early test screenings freaked out its audiences due to its excessive gore, making it a really tough editing process (cut down from 130 to just 96 minutes!). It went on to face negative reviews and a complete wash-out at the box office. Time to reconsider?