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
A team of… deep core drillers passes through a rather haste training at NASA (!), as they need to leave for an emergency space mission, in hope that they will be able to prevent a massive asteroid to collide with Earth and eradicate us! The #1 worldwide box-office hit for 1998, in the style of Jerry Bruckheimer’s colossal productions, this film may have allowed its cast to wear real astronaut NASA suits, yet NASA screened this to its recruits for entirely the wrong reason: it was a test for them to find as many inaccuracies as possible! They eventually counted at least 168.
During a… geek conference, the stars of «Galaxy Quest», a TV sci-fi drama that got cancelled…18 years ago, are approached by a group of real aliens! Believing these faded, second-class actors were featured in a documentary, rather than a drama series, they will ask for their help to save their tribe and planet! Both a parody of and a tribute to the whole mythology and pop culture adoration of «Star Trek», and with a plot reminiscent of «This Island Earth» (1955), this film was initially intended to be darker, yet the screen tests showed that it worked far better as a wacky comedy, so they had to fire up the editing room! Oh, and the Trekkies love it!
In a faraway future when the energy crisis has crippled Earth, planet Pandora seems to have all the necessary sources humankind had been seeking. In order to explore Pandora’s biosphere, which has a poisonous atmosphere for the human organism, the scientists use avatars, in the shape of Pandora’s natives, the Na’vi. A paraplegic ex marine will substitute his dead twin brother and he will become the hero… of the wrong camp. The film’s story existed since 1994, which was not the case back then for the technology required by Cameron to film it. It went on to become the biggest box-office success of all time and win three Oscars out of nine nominations, for cinematography, art direction and visual effects.
It is 2035 and the oil crisis has forced humankind to seek energy sources even outside of Earth. A lunar mining unit of the alternative fuel helium-3 is the place where the astronaut Sam Bell has been working in solitude for the last three years, looking forward for his contract to expire. After having recovered from an accident, Sam realises that, sitting at the vehicle’s steering wheel, still motionless, is… himself! With a rescue team en route to the Moon, Sam is trying to figure out who his original self and who the clone is. Or are there even more perhaps? A minimalistic, yet cerebral submission from the United Kingdom, with an already strong potential of a future cult status.
A medical scientist and NASA engineer is about to conclude her maiden voyage in space, when her team gets attacked by masses of satellite debris, destroying everything in their path, including any escape vehicle and any hope of returning to Earth. An instant classic, even without the seven wins out of the ten Oscar nominations it received, Cuarón’s film is a masterclass on technical skills, as well as the finest audience experience, as it faced the abyss of space in 3D, floating beside Sandra Bullock’s sole «castaway». It became the eighth biggest worldwide box-office hit of 2013 and it will certainly be a tough act to follow for any similar future films of the genre.