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We open this week’s episode with an anecdote about how Harry’s mother spotted Danny Boyle’s Sunshine in the library and, on the strength of the title, brought it home in expectation of watching a light, uplifting family movie. Possibly set in space. What she and our youthful co-host almost certainly weren’t expecting was bleak, exposition heavy psychological drama that takes a hard turn into horror in the third act.
Psychological scarring aside, this story might illustrate why Sunshine was a tough sell from a marketing perspective. It’s not an easy movie to pigeonhole – it’s more thoughtful than a typical sci-fi thriller, but still leans into some fairly generic action-thriller tropes, particularly during the last half hour. Summing up the plot is equally difficult without giving too much away; the international trailer spends more time on the film’s showy visuals than it does indicating what the movie is actually about.
Hard to categorise and lacking any real box office bankers in the cast, the movie unsurprisingly bombed at the box office on release in 2007, failing to recoup its $40 million budget despite generally warm reviews. In light of slow-burning word of mouth hits like Arrival, would the film be more likely to succeed today?
To be clear, Sunshine is not as good a movie as Arrival by any means. It’s packed with the kind of plot holes and bad science that are liable to drive nerds into apoplexies, and the introduction of a generic, borderline nonsensical psycho killer in the end undoes a lot of the smart, subtle character work that characterises the first hour. But in its ambition, the uniqueness of its premise and Boyle’s consistently stunning cinematography, it certainly merits comparison. We left the film with a lot of questions – many of which we go into in this week’s podcast – but ultimately appreciated what it was trying to achieve, even if, like Icarus, Sunshine doesn’t quite stick the landing.
Check out this week’s episode of Beyond The Box Set on iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, aCast, Google Play and various other podcast hosting channels to hear our fantasy sequel pitches, our Sunshine drinking games and our alternative readings. If you like what you hear please consider hitting subscribe to get a new episode direct to your Podcast app every Friday morning, and leave us a nice review – it really helps new listeners to find our show.
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