The Midnight Sky

At the end of everything, at the Barbeau Observatory in the Arctic Circle, among the snow and ice and under the stars he has devoted himself to, with blue and white pills and blood dialysis and whisky, Augustine Lofthouse is dying and so is the world. The last man alive, his final duty is to get a message to the Aether, the expedition returning from K-23, to tell them that the world is uninhabitable and that the crew must not land, but the equipment he has access to is insufficiently powerful.

Aboard the Aether, they have already realised that something is wrong, unable to raise communications with mission control nor any of the relay stations which should have taken over should there be a malfunction at the primary, but under Commander Adewole they remain calm, the first stage of their mission a success, the newly-discovered moon of Jupiter habitable and the colony ships ready for departure as soon as they report back.

Directed by George Clooney who also co-produces and stars as astronomer Augustine Lofthouse, The Midnight Sky is adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel Good Morning, Midnight, and it can only be presumed that something crucial has been lost in translation, for what remains is a void as unwelcoming and cold as the space between the planets, screenwriter Mark L Smith’s characters so two dimensional they could have been sketched by Edwin Abbott Abbott without violating the rules of Flatland.

An object lesson in why those who are not well versed in science should not attempt to weld their character drama to that genre regardless of their doubtless good intentions, like Ad Astra it uses the setting of deep space exploration for a man to explore the vacuum of his life, the critical decisions he has made which have set him on an unalterable course and the mistakes which cannot be reversed, and like that film it is a maudlin mess of clichés and non-sequiturs.

From the unexplained devastation which has swept the entire Earth faster than any signal could be broadcast three weeks before to the previously unsighted Jovian moon sufficiently large to maintain a breathable atmosphere which is presumably thick enough to protect from the intense radiation given off by that planet, the science is so bad it can only be wilful, Lofthouse noting the importance of the stars for navigation yet the Aether with all its advanced technology suddenly unable to position itself following a brief system malfunction while on a preset course between two large astronomical bodies visible to the naked eye.

The only pleasing aspect of the whole the organic superstructure and iridescent solar panels of the Aether and Alexandre Desplat’s homage to Alan Silvestri’s score for the infinitely superior Contact, the egregious shortcomings could be overlooked if the dramatic power of The Midnight Sky was sufficient to distract yet the plodding pace encourages consideration of every discontinuity, crises tacked on to the parallel voyages of Lofthouse and the Aether then resolved because something has to happen to keep the audience engaged if not astonished at how the terminally ill Lofthouse does not immediately die of exposure after falling through the ice into the Arctic waters.

The Midnight Sky is streaming on Netflix now



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