2021 Oscar Reviews: The Midnight Sky

For the past several years, I’ve attempted to watch as many Oscar-nominated films as possible, and for the past two years I have written reviews of each film and posted them to this blog. Alas, I always run out of time and cannot see everything. This year’ ceremony has been delayed, and I started reviewing before nominations were announced, giving me a decent chance at wide coverage. Today we cover…

The Midnight Sky

[1 nomination for Best Visual Effects]

Welp, ladies and gentleman, we’ve reached the point in this exercise where I’ve managed to get through most of the heavy-hitters and am sweeping up all the little 1-nomination films in categories I don’t care about. Prepare for these reviews to get much shorter and more dismissive. The first of this year’s reviews in the Best Visual Effects category goes to George Clooney’s The Midnight Sky. Amazingly, in most years the visual effects category is where I’m most likely to have heard of the film before, since it’s where the Hollywood Blockbusters tend to wind up. But in this case I hadn’t heard of any of the nominees except Mulan. I’m guessing there’s some sort of pandemic-related rational for this, but I don’t care what it is. Anyway, on to the film itself!

This movie was a total slogfest. I was so bored. I didn’t care what happened to any of our characters, which is a good thing, because very little actually happens to our characters. Here’s the whole plot for you (which may sound familiar because it’s also the entire blurb you read while clickign through Netflix looking for something to watch): George Clooney (with a pretty badass beard- highlight of the movie!) is a terminally-ill scientist at one of the poles (I don’t remember which one). The entire world is ending due to some sort of toxic radiation. He walks over to a different arctic/antarctic? station with a big antenna so he can tell some astronauts to go back to Jupiter’s moon instead of trying to land in armageddon. The astronauts meanwhile are trying to figure out why nobody is reaching them. Some ice hits their spaceship and they go fix the spaceship. Then they can talk to George Clooney. End of movie. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. In fairness, I guess I should add that we get a couple flashbacks to Clooney as a young scientist, he finds an abandoned young girl who accompanies him on his walk, they have some adventure during their walk, and the astronauts have ongoing banter on what to name a baby. Plus one of them dies! So there’s slightly more to it than that. But not much.

Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of space movies. I mentioned in a recent review that when I was in film school, we had a list of movies we weren’t allowed to make because they were all so similar, and acted just as catalysts for people to show off how cool their version of the prohibited subject was. Animators weren’t allowed to do robots because they were both too easy, and too overdone. One kid decided to do a robot movie anyway, because “when they see my robot, they’ll be so impressed!” Nobody gave a shit about his robot. This is how I often feel about space movies. I do not care how cool your spaceship or your alien planet looks. Your spaceship and alien planet are a setting. Nothing more. Give me a plot I can give a shit about, and maybe we can talk. The Martian, for example, was a great space movie. That was a clever survival tale with smart witty writing and a legitimately engaging protagonist. The Midnight Sky was the polar opposite. Yes, the space scenes were well done. And Clooney had a kinda cool underwater scene back on earth. But I couldn’t help but wonder why so much time and money went into creating the beautiful space effects for THIS MOVIE of all movies. Nothing would happen for the longest periods of time. At one point out astronauts start space-walking to fix some equipment. I totally zoned out. Zoned back in several minutes later. What had changed in that time? Literally nothing! They were literally still just wakling over to the equipment. So infuriating.

ANYHOO, the movie wasn’t nominated for anything except for Visual Effects, which makes total sense cuz it had nothing going for it except for the effects and the inappropriately-prestigious cast (constant award nominees Felicity Jones and David Ayelowo, plus super yummy Kyle Chandler? What a waste of talent.) So what did I think of the effects themselves? They were fine. It looked like the space people were really in space. We’ll see how they compare when I see the other nominees.

But I will end with some legitimate praise! Don’t want to be a total Debbie Downer, after all. There was one scene that did legit impress me. One of our astronauts gets hurt and starts bleeding. But… we’re in space! The blood droplets just float around in midair, which was pretty spooky. They’re trying to comfort the victim, meanwhile a giant bubble of blood goes floating past her face. Doh! Then they’re all just stuck in this room as more and more blood floats all around them like Satan’s demented snowglobe. It was definitely an impactful visual. Of course, the characters all did very stupid stuff in this scene that slightly ruined it. The guy trying to administer CPR is trying to apply pressure while floating in the air (aren’t you idiots SCIENTISTS? You can’t apply pressure while floating! You’re just pushing youself off the wound!). Of course she’s bleeding to death with you idiots on the case! Still, it was a pretty cool scene, and I wish I could find better screenshots of it.

FInal review: Suepr boring. But if you like looking at space movies and don’t care about plot, then this might be the flick for you.

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