Sunshine, Directed by Danny Boyle, 2007
Do you know what's worse than watching a simply bad film? Watching a film that comes so close to greatness that you can taste it, only to see that greatness torn away. We got some complaints for leaving Sunshine off SciFi Squad's Ten Best Science Fiction Films of the Decade and truth be told, I did feel a little bad about it. If I could've given Sunshine's extraordinary first half a spot on that list, it would be there, but the film's second half, where it suddenly decides that it wants to be Event Horizon, drags the whole thing down.
The premise is simple: the sun is dying and a team of astronauts must lug an explosive package the size of Manhattan to our neighboring star and try to ignite it again. For a long time, we follow this mission and this crew. We watch their daily lives, where they battle insanity by holding onto every scrap of normalcy they can possibly find. We see them deal with various problems, discuss the mission and repair the ship. It's straightforward and it's oddly compelling. Even if nothing extremely dynamic is going on, the fact that they're on this mission in the first place makes for thrilling viewing.
However, when the film feels the need to introduce a villain outside of the mission complications, the whole thing begins to lose me. Mainly because a cheesy burn victim shot like a horror movie monster is not nearly as frightening as a sun that will fry you instantly or the dark void of space, which will freeze you to death in seconds. If Sunshine had been a movie about the journey, I think it would be one of the great science fiction films. Instead, it's a movie about a Good Guy vs. Bad Guy conflict, so it's just a very good science fiction film.