Sunday 3 March 2024

Netflix And Chill: Spaceman (2024)

A sci-fi drama that makes good use of Adam Sandler in another of his impressive dramatic turns, Spaceman is an American film that feels like an ill-judged remake. It isn't an ill-judged remake, actually being based on the book, "Spaceman Of Bohemia", written by Jaroslav Kalfař, but it's very interesting to find elements here that weren't changed to keep the whole thing feeling more obviously American in origin.

Sandler plays Commander Jakub Procházka, a cosmonaut who is due to investigate a large dust cloud just beyond Jupiter. He is far from home, all alone, and suddenly not receiving any messages from his estranged wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan). There has been a message sent to him, one telling him that Lenka is leaving, but Jakub's commanding officer, Commissioner Tuma (Isabella Rossellini) decides to hold it back, figuring out what is best for Jakub's mental health and wellbeing. Maybe it's too late for Jakub though, considering that he starts to wonder if he's hallucinating when he encounters a telepathic spider-like creature that ends up being named Hanuš (voiced by Paul Dano). This encounter leads to a number of conversations that force Jakub to face the reality of his decisions and emotions.

The second feature written by Colby Day, Spaceman is a deep well of ideas and potential that is sadly never as good as it should be, and a lot of that feels down to the writing. Day doesn't do anything wrong by the characters, but the one idea being focused on is a bit too slight without adding more to it, making the 107-minute runtime feel overlong as a number of the main moments between Jakub and Hanuš feel repetitive and unconstructive, especially while the former fights against his own regret and sorrow.

Director Johan Renck has no other features in his extensive filmography so far, but one look at the many music videos and TV shows he has worked on shows someone who should have been given a film project many years ago (he's worked with Chris Cornell, Madonna, Kylie, and David Bowie, as well as being at the helm of episodes of The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Bates Motel, Bloodline, and all 5 episodes of the absolutely astounding Chernobyl). He assembles a solid cast here, gets some lovely cinematography from Jakob Ihre, and a fine score from Max Richter, so it's a shame that the material is lacking that special something.

Sandler is very good in the lead role, no surprise to anyone who has been appreciating his dramatic work throughout the past couple of decades, and Dano is an excellent foil for him, enquiring and commenting with a fairly flat and monotone voice highlighting their position as an impartial viewer keen to explore the loneliness of a fellow traveller. While Mulligan is also very good, she's stuck playing a woman who is often shown in memories and visions filtered through the eyes of the main character, making her feel like someone who is never fully real. Kunal Nayyar is also very good, playing a technician named Peter, and both Rossellini and Lena Olin are given just enough screentime to remind you that other people are trying to support both Jakub and Lena, and there is a wider world beyond our stranded cosmonaut and his, in a way, stranded wife.

Spaceman is good. It's worth one watch. But it's not one that I can see many people revisiting, and I don't think many people will love it. There's too much wasted potential, and it brings to mind one or two superior sci-fi tales, at the very least, that you could say cover very familiar territory. I know many people, like myself, who won't mind wandering through that kind of landscape though.


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1 comment:

  1. I think Sandler would have had a better second act for his career if after Punch Drunk Love he'd done more serious work instead of going back to the dumb comedies that were his bread and butter.