In Space, No One Can Hear You Punch Out

2 Aug

We admit that at times we’re a little slow on the uptake, but it just occurred to us that in just about any film where the characters go into space, somebody dies.  Whether it’s our atavistic fear of the unknown, the fact that there is no atmosphere out there, or some other reason, as a culture we’ve got it into our heads that if you go into space, your chances of buying the farm are pretty good.

Don't worry, Keir, you'll live

Don’t worry, Keir, you’ll live

Here’s a sampling of films from the past several decades that feature space travel:

Film                                              Who Dies
Forbidden Planet                     Walter Pidgeon, Krell civilization
2001: A Space Odyssey         Gary Lockwood,  guys in hibernation
Silent Running                           Everybody except the cute robots
Star Wars                                     Everybody on the planet Alderan
Serenity                                        A whole bunch of people
Prometheus                                 Everybody except Noomie Rapace
Gravity                                          Scientist guy and George Clooney

Honorable mention from TV: Any guy who dons a red shirt on Star Trek

OK, maybe we’re making too much of this.  After all, lots of characters get killed off in detective stories, spy films, action movies, and horror flicks. Fair enough, but in those genres, it goes with the territory.  Space travel, we were told as children, was going to be wondrous, awe-inspiring, and fantastic.  Sure, it’s dangerous, but space was the place where we were going to forget about our nationalities, form multi-cultural teams of astronauts, and explore in mutual harmony. Why so much death, then?

The reason may have to do with the fact that conflict and death are the building blocks of drama, and stuff is supposed to happen in movies.  The ‘light show’ in 2001 is groovy, but it’s Hal bumping off Keir Dullea’s crewmates that’s the central conflict of the picture. OK, we get it, but we’d also like to point out that Apollo 13, a fact-based film that we go into knowing the outcome, is a picture that nevertheless manages to be gripping and suspenseful and nobody dies.

As with most of our posts, we don’t really know where we’re going with this. We just think that too many people are getting killed off in space movies, and we want it to stop, dammit.


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