“The Midnight Sky” left audience members wondering if they had actually put on Interstellar instead.
“The Midnight Sky” gave viewers a glimpse into what evacuation would look like if Earth became inhabitable with its release on Dec. 23, riding one of the peaks of America’s COVID-19 pandemic. It was truly upsetting to see amazing cinematography and exceptional score wasted on a film that is basically like every other space film that has been released in Hollywood.
To begin with the good, the cinematography and score of the film are monumental and enhance the watching experience of the film. Alexandre Desplat, a musical composer who has worked on films including “Harry Potter” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” wonderfully crafted the music to properly lead the audience through heartbreaking moments in the plot and terror-driven explosions in different scenes. Desplat has an ear for what instruments to include in scenes and how to drive audience members to truly engage with the movie. In one particular scene where Augustine is awoken and realizes that the shelter is sinking, Desplat uses violins to mimic the feelings of anxiousness, fear, and terror and is made to be background noise to the diegetic sounds of the scene. By making the composition less noticeable than the actual diegetic sounds of the shelter sinking, an underlying fear is stirred in the audience, a mark of Desplat’s excellence.
Furthermore, the cinematography of “The Midnight Sky” was out of this world — literally. VFX were a constant crutch in this film, helping to aid the producers in completing the different world landscapes and the spaceship. “We built the spaceship in virtual reality. You could walk on it, design shots as if walking on the spaceship, so we could understand what parts we need to build and what we could do virtually,” George Clooney quoted in an IndieWire article. The use of VFX shows promise for a new way of directing films. By building a set online, directors and producers are able to more accurately project movie budgets, set design, and set parameters without pressing financial stressors in the meantime. This was a major breakthrough by “The Midnight Sky,” setting a precedent for other filmmakers.
The biggest issue with the film is that the narrative lacks originality and the glamour of a new idea. “The Midnight Sky” is essentially another film where a space team goes to an undiscovered planet to try to find refuge for the people on Earth. There’s nothing very exciting or new with the plot, making the film lackluster beyond the production aspects. A major fault with the narrative is the lack of elaboration of too many different plot points. There is never an outright explanation or understanding from the audience of Augustine’s illness, or an explanation as to what actually took place on Earth. While the omission of details or extraneous explanation of these plot points might have been intentional on the writer’s part, it takes away from the urgency of the film. When audience members understand the issues characters face, empathetic anxiety from the audience members is projected onto the character. This means that there is more of an emotional connection with the audience to the film when they understand the risks of their characters. The film could have greatly benefited from further exploration of the K-23 planet or an expedition by Clooney’s character of the deteriorating Earth. These different aspects make a film more original, new, and exciting.
Lastly, although there are not many characters in the movie — 9 to 10 recurring characters within the whole production — there is still a lack of diversity within the cast. It is not enough to put two black actors amongst white actors in a film and claim diversity. A trap that many film casting directors get caught in is the idea that including black actors (and a small number of them at that) gives the film a diversity green light.
“The Midnight Sky” proved a wonderful feature film to listen to and look at. However, beyond the cinematography and the score, the film ended up being just another in a long line of Hollywood remakes.
Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo
Streaming Release Date: December 23, 2020
Image courtesy of Polygon.