Space Station 76

space_station76Director: Jack Plotnick. Starring: Liv Tyler, Patrick Wilson, Marisa Coughlan, Matt Bomer. USA, 2014. IMDb: 4.9. Budget: roughly 1 million. My rating: 2.5/4. Retrofuturistic black parody, Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station.

– Warning. Dr. Bot must remind Misty not to become… too close to her therapist bot.
– I’ve gotta be close to somebody.
– We must keep this professional.
– Don’t be so cold.
– I must maintain objectivity.
– But I feel like…  I just feel like you and I have really been going through it here, you know? I feel like I have really been connecting with you. You know me.
– Emotion overload.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– I’m a leg man, you know?

(a discussion between 2 guys about newly arrived female crew member)

 

Can you imagine the future with corded telephones and colonies on orbital space stations, VHS cassettes and interstellar travel? If you can’t, Jack Plotnick did it for you. ”Space Station 76” is a 1970-s version of the future that never came. And “Space Station 76” has one of the best A.I. ever. Seriously.

 

What I liked. It’s actually easier to describe ”Space Station 76” by saying what it isn’t.

 

It’s not exactly a comedy – at least, not if you understand modern comedy only as ”21 Jump Street” or Seth Rogen-like comedy. It’s more of a Jim Jarmusch vs Wes Anderson on a 70-s space station-like film. Deadpan humour. You never know when the characters are actually joking – well, probably except for the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot, the true gem of the film.

 

It’s not really a science fiction, or, at least, not in first place – the film mostly mocks its retrofuturistic sci-fi setting and ridiculous 70-s costumes, but in a nice and elegant way. It’s not a pure parody – the film really cares about its characters, never using them just as subjects of ridicule. It’s not an art-house movie – the film is not that experimental and distant from the viewers. Last but not least, it has R rating and uses it smartly – no dick jokes, but deadpan humour. The scene with the frozen dog was just nuts.

 

Combination of all this makes ”Space Station 76” pretty unique – and as it often happens with movies of  this kind, the audience hardly got it. ”I wanted to explore what it was like to be a child growing up in the summer of the 70s, which was my experience, but I wanted to tell it in sort of an artistic way by setting it in the future as we had imagined it would be in the 70s”, said Jack Plotnick in an interview.

 

There’s a weird funny episode when Liv Tyler’s character, Jessica (who just arrived at the space station) and Matt Bomer’s character, Ted (who has been living there for a while with a psychotic wife) are trying to approach each other and having a meaningful intimate conversation. Ted has an artificial arm that sometimes goes out of control. When Jessica, following her romantic impulse, puts Ted’s arm on her heart, the hand goes rogue and starts to squeeze Jessica’s left tit. All of this showed with in a deadpan manner, finishing with Jessica finally saying ”I think I should go now”.. If you like that kind of humour, you’ll find ”Space Station 76” brilliant.

 

Visually it’s a beautiful film. You may accuse it of anything but the style. It really squeezes most of its tiny budget, citing 70-s science fiction classic like Logan’s Run and Star Wars. And Dr. Bot, oh! That’s the quintessence of artificial intellect and a good parody. It reminded me of another oddball movie ”Dark Star”, the episode when Sgt. Pinback was trying to convince the Bomb N. 20 not to explode.

– I need to tell you I have just been feeling… so much better since we started treatment. I mean, like, even just my dreams  have just been better. You know, like, I haven’t been having all those feelings… and I’m just really feeling in the now.
-Feelings can sometimes pull one out of the now and put them in the then. Live in the now, not in the then.
– I don’t wanna be in the then. I wanna be in the now.
– Talking about the now can put one in the then.
– I don’t want to be in the then, I want to be in the now. I wanna move forward…
– Don’t move too far forward, you’ll be out of the now. Not too far forward.  Stay in the now.

(Misty visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

– What are you thinking in the midst of this silence?
– Actually, I was thinking about smoking.
– Cigarettes contain carcinogens which may cause cancer in carbon-based life forms.
– Right.
– You are a carbon-based life form… therefore, cigarettes may cause cancer inside you.
– Thank you.
– You’re welcome.

(The captain visits the robotic psychologist Dr. Bot)

 

What I didn’t like. Space Station 76” is at times uneven, especially in the first part. The photography, the acting, the music – all is well-crafted and you feel the movie was made as a passion project, but it’s the screenplay that occasionally sags, running out of fuel – maybe because it was written by 5 different people? Some scenes intended as funny left me perplexed. Some felt really unnecessary. Some plot lines got lost in the middle and didn’t get the development. A more carefully crafted screenplay would really help the film. It’s especially seen in the first half of the film, with the second being more juicy and concentrated.

All the actors created memorable and bright characters – maybe, even too much, as at times they seemed little bit too monotone in their role, like playing the same note over and over. Of course, it was intended as a part of the movie’s style, but a little more versatility wouldn’t harm the film. Liv Tyler (superhero satire “Super“, sci-fi “Robot & Frank“, “Armageddon“) was a nice exception to that, as her character was actually alive, with doubts and flexibility. It was great to see Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl in “Watchmen“, “The Conjuring”) who added a weird touch to the film with his pseudo-sexist obsessions.

The production. The project was originated by Jack Plotnick at his house while experimenting with his friends and favourite actors. This is his debut film, but Plotnick is by no means a newbie – he is in first place an actor with 20+ years of experience (”Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, ”Drawn Together”, ”Wrong”).

Worth watching? Decide by yourself. ”Space Station 76” is an interesting project, but definitely not for everyone. If you like weird and touching humour of ”Super”, ”The Lobster” or ”Defendor” combined with a retrofuturistic sci-fi look on the 70-s, definitely yes. I started to watch it with bias but learnt to appreciate it more and. Visually stylish and delicate, ”Space Station 76” still leaves weirdly good aftertaste, even far from being perfect. It’s an odd little movie that is trying to find its own tone.

2.5/4
Watch also: if you want too see a weird sci-fi comedy, have a look at “American Astronaut“, “Dark Star” or “Kin-Dza-Dza“.

ТRON / posters

While the sequel rumours with Jared Leto involved keep on circulating, here is an awesome double retrofuturistic poster by Eric Tan for “TRON” / “TRON: Legacy”.

tron-original-vs-new

Plus some supercalifragilisticexpialidocious unofficial artwork.

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TRON artwork by Sam Hetherington.

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By unknown author.

***

Here I made a comparison of various TRON designs and here I talked about the lesser-known but absolutely brilliant 2003 installment of this fascinating universe.

TRON, TRON 2.0 and TRON: LEGACY comparison / sci-fi designs

As if I haven’t published enough posts about TRON universe just recently, here’s more of it. A quick comparison between ”TRON” (1982 movie), ”TRON 2.0” (2003 videogame) and ”TRON: Legacy” (2010 movie).

TRON designs comparisontron COMPARISON

(Am I the only one who thinks the images on the right look…just a little duller?)

However, the latter disc designs are an exception. They look pretty cool.

tron COMPARISON3Because the old version just makes me think of mosquitoes…

mosquito

The light cycles look awesome too. In all versions.

TRON designs comparison

Note that in 1982 they didn’t wear a helmet when riding the light cycle, but just the same helmet as in any other scene. The same applies to 2003.

tron COMPARISON5

Let’s hope for the sequel, it seems we have all grounds for it now.

 

The Black Hole / posters

BlackHoleLores

Very sweet retrofuturistic poster.

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The original 1979 poster.

The Black Hole” was the the first Disney movie with a PG rating. “At $20 million, plus another $6 million for the advertising budget, it was at the time the most expensive picture ever produced by Disney. The movie earned nearly $36 million at the North American box office, making it the 21st highest-grossing film of 1979″, says Wiki.

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Another original 1979 poster.

I really loved this comment to the post by Wolfman which just says it all: “One of my favs as a kid and still love it with a passion. The effects and print still hold up today. I watched it on blu-ray a few years back. Has to be one of Disney’s darkest movies, well that and The Hunchback of Notre Dame!! “Hellfire” jeepers. Two of the best robots too. Who couldn’t love Roddy Mcdowall voicing VINCENT and Slim Pickins playing the broken southern BOB. Incidentally I’m posting a mix later of a robot music mix i’ve done featuring those two and few other robotic friends from film.”

TRON 2.0 / sci-fi designs

I guess most people reading this post have watched (or at least have heard of) “TRON“, a 1982 movie produced by Disney and starring Jeff Bridges. It wasn’t successful at first, but it was a visual masterpiece with a very original and distinctive style, that had foreseen a lot in the technology development that came later.

The film had a commercially successful sequel in 2010, “TRON: Legacy“. Most of you have heard for sure of this one too.

But not many know that there was another release in 2003 and it was considered for a while an official sequel to the original 1982 film, just to be later declared non-canon right before the release of “TRON: Legacy” in 2010.

20170927_093914

This is how Internet was imagined like in 2003.

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The kernel and the antivirus guards.

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The virus has corrupted the system.

Here’s some background. In 1982, “TRON” performed worse than Disney expected – $33 mln box office with a $17 mln budget… The film didn’t appeal to the major public at its time since in 1982 the computers were not as wide-spread as now. It was too early. With years the film gained a cult following though… and it took just about 17 years before somebody started to consider making a sequel/reboot. In 1999, there were rumours that Pixar was interested. But the thing didn’t work out. And for a film, a much bigger budget was required, thus too much risk… So in early 2000-s Monolith Productions (“No One Lives Forever“, “F.E.A.R.“, “Blood“) initiated developing something else.

 

It was a 2003 videogame, “TRON 2.0“, and not only it contributed to and developed the TRON universe in a significant way (you bet it did, with +20 hours of gameplay vs 96 minutes of film…), but it successfully solved the main problems from which both movies suffered. The characters, the plot, the story.

It wasn’t my intention to write a game review, so I will just sum up main points:

  • Main characters were voiced by the same actors as in 1982 movie – Bruce Boxleitner and Cindy Morgan.
  • Sid Mead, who worked on designs of “Aliens” and “Blade Runner” developed the new “light cycle” designs
  • “TRON 2.0” is a very rare case when the game was developed not as a cash-in
  • The music, or rather the electronic ambient soundtrack, perfectly fits the digital world. It really makes you feel like you are inside, among the bits and bytes.
  • The style is a mix of a quest, role-playing game and action
  • It goes without saying that the visuals were stunning
  • Just like the original film, the game didn’t sell well, although it received excellent reviews and with years gained a cult following too. But for the most public it was something too original. It wasn’t a pure action, it wasn’t an RPG, and finally it wasn’t just a faithful adaptation of the original film, but the development of it, maintaining however the essence and the spirit.
  • Like the best cyberpunk game “Deus Ex” (2000), the world is full of details, secondary and tertiary characters, dialogues and it’s just up to you how deep you want to enter this world.

Due to an extensive gameplay and the technologies present in 2003 in our real world, the game expanded the whole concept of what it means inside the computer. You will find yourself sneaking through the firewall, literally portrayed as a giant red wall, escaping the disc format and fighting the viruses by joining your forces with a local antivirus program. Heck, there is even a level when you are transported to a PDA (anyone else here still remembers palmtops?!). Obviously, that level features a very minimalistic design and limited space. 😊

 

What happened next? Disney finally had the guts to develop a real blockbuster, with a score by Daft Pank, $170 mln budget plus Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles. “TRON: Legacy” received mixed reviews, but who cares, because it grossed $400 mln worldwide, thus being the first commercially successful product in TRON universe (although I am sure Disney expected much more). The film for praised for special effects, but you can also find it often in various top lists of missed opportunities. And I can understand why – it suffered from exactly the same problems as the original film.

 

The future of the franchise is unclear right now. A spin-off animated series “TRON: Uprising” premiered in 2012. Some sources say that “on February 28, 2017 during a Q&A session with Joseph Kosinski, he revealed that Tron 3 has not been scrapped, instead saying it was in ‘cryogenic freeze’. A few days later, it was reported that Disney is supposedly looking into rebooting the franchise with Jared Leto attached to portray a new character named Ares, who originated from the Tron 3 script. Disney has not officially announced as to whether a reboot is officially in development.”

Here I did a comparison of various TRON design versions.

P. S. Read an interesting opinion about Disney and their attitude towards TRON here: Disney/BVG didn’t have the balls to stick by their product and see it through the rough times…

tron1982