Wednesday 20 July 2016

Space Station 76 - mini review...

What's it about?
Domestic drama and workplace comedy meet ... in outer space. A refuelling station somewhere in the vicinity of Earth in 1976, to be exact. A closeted Captain pines for his lost love, a down-trodden maintenance man struggles with marital disharmony, a young girl has to come to terms with death and her Valium-addicted mother, and the new girl on the scene finds herself stuck in-between it all. Infidelity, gossip, rampant materialism, and visits to a two-foot-tall robotic head-shrinker ensue.
Who would I recognise in it?
Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Matt Bomer, Jerry O'Connell, Keir Dullea.

Styled after the sci-fi greats of the 1960s and 1970s, from films like "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Silent Running", to hand-crafted low-fi sci-fi TV shows like "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century", we find ourselves in an alternative 1976 (or thereabouts, we must assume) with all the kitsch fashion, facial hair, and smoking around children to match...

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Even with the dark-sounding subject matter hinted at above, the film is remarkably light-hearted, striking a suitably 70s bittersweet tone. It's the future ... but stuck in the past. Jessica (Tyler) is the ships new First Mate, struggling to find her place in the galaxy, while Captain Glenn (Wilson) drinks on the job and dives head first into denial. Injecting 1970s era women's lib, experimentation with pot, and social oneupmanship with a wry sense of humour, Space Station 76 displays heart, brains, and wit. Indeed, small robots - like the ones we were promised in toy adverts in the 70s and 80s - mill about the station serving drinks, wiping away crayon marks, or dispensing pop psychology and high doses of the new 'it' pharmaceuticals.

As if the film - based on a stage play - wasn't already entertaining enough, the production design and special effects are second-to-none in their nostalgic vibe. Distant blue and pink 'stars' (light bulbs) streak psychedelic lens flares from the distance, model shots reign supreme, VCRs record hologramatic transmissions, and the ship's Bridge is a sea of blocky digital readouts and silver switches. In some ways the film is quite out there, but at the same time its quirks are handled with a subtle flair.

This flick, from 2014, has quite possibly flown under your radar - and, indeed, it had slipped off mine until I stumbled across its premiere on SyFy - but it comes as highly recommended viewing. If you were into "Moon", you'll dig "Space Station 76". Great.

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