Sunday, April 14, 2024

“SPACEMAN”

THE STORY – Jakub Procházka was raised by his grandparents in the Czech countryside after being abandoned as a young boy. He works as a scientist before trying to become the Czech Republic’s first astronaut.

THE CAST – Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan & Paul Dano

THE TEAM – Johan Renck (Director) & Colby Day (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 107 Minutes


“Spaceman” is the latest Netflix original in a long line of films with intriguing concepts that do not creatively live up to their own potential. Directed by Johan Renck and based on the novel “Spaceman of Bohemia” by Jaroslav Kalfař, the film attempts to tell the tale of the ‘world’s loneliest man,’ isolated by a year-long solo space mission and the corresponding breakdown of his marriage. Starring Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan, and the voice of Paul Dano, “Spaceman” has the makings of an exciting science fiction drama but ultimately is bound by an unremarkable script and bizarre pacing.

When a mysterious purple cloud appears in the sky, the entire world enters a new space race in order to be the first to reach it. Adam Sandler plays Jakub Procházka, a Czech astronaut who leaves his wife behind to achieve his dream of being the first to reach the cloud. Sandler has always had a tender vulnerability in his acting style, particularly in recent years. “Spaceman” is no exception, and he is able to deliver a remarkably heartfelt performance from a lackluster script. His dialogue is not terrible, but its message is overly simplistic and obvious. The same cannot be said for Carey Mulligan’s character, Lenka, who is given some of the most egregiously dull and clunky dialogue I’ve ever heard. Mulligan tries her best to shock some life into the words and is occasionally successful. Still, overall, the character is nothing more than a plot device to prop up her husband’s character arc.

The relationship between the two characters is the film’s focal point, and in concept, the exploration of their breakup is engrossing. Unfortunately, the second act is stuffed with bland montages of their love story, narrated by Paul Dano’s Hanuš, tasked with driving home the moral of the story without an ounce of subtlety. Hanuš is an extra-terrestrial spider-like creature who has fled an attack on his own planet and is fascinated by Jakub’s loneliness. Dano’s voice performance is a real highlight of the film, and the creature design of Hanuš is good. Dano can combine his earnestness with just enough peculiarity to make him believable as Hanuš, a creature curious about humanity and as old as time. The scenes between Hanuš and Jakub are entertaining; their dynamic is funny in its awkwardness and develops into an unconventional friendship. At first, Jakub resists Hanuš, afraid and repulsed by him. His loneliness quickly overcomes his fear, and the two begin to engage in therapy-like discussions about Jakub and his wife, with Jakub initially reluctant to open up. Their relationship is quite an obvious metaphor for the marriage between Jakub and Lenka. Still, it is sweet nonetheless, as the film creates a moving journey about their friendship.

Despite its slow second act, Renck establishes enough emotion that the ending is quite moving. Sandler and Dano create a genuine bond throughout the film, resulting in a climax wrought with emotional tension and stakes for both characters. It’s a shame these stakes were not established earlier; too much time is spent ruminating on the relationship between Lenka and Jakub, and the ending feels slightly rushed. The visual effects throughout the film are well executed but are ramped up in these final scenes into something quite spectacular, more in the realm of a Christopher Nolan film than a Netflix original.

It’s difficult to ignore the Netflix of it all. Netflix originals are known for having a specific look, generally due to the required technical specifications enforced by the streaming service. “Spaceman” is not immune to that visual style; some of the scenes on the spacecraft look like they could be straight from “Stranger Things.” Despite this, the creative team and the director build a visually captivating story. The production of the spacecraft is meticulously designed, with care taken to make the space feel isolated and lived in while ensuring that the physics is accurate. The flashback scenes are filmed with a lensing effect to mimic the physical effects of a black hole, foreshadowing what is to come while expressing the distortion of Jakub’s memories. This creative decision is interesting, but it belongs in a film that should want to take more risks than “Spaceman” does.

Ultimately, the issue with “Spaceman” is its story lends itself to a far more gripping approach than the filmmakers are willing to commit to. Its visual style is attractive, and the performances are decent, but they have little to work with as the story builds to an intensely emotional climax that arrives too little too late. It’s all a shame as this had the potential to be quite remarkable.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The performances from Sandler and Dano carry the film, and the visual effects are remarkable in places.

THE BAD - The script needed a lot more work, and the pace really slows down in the second act.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Visual Effects

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The performances from Sandler and Dano carry the film, and the visual effects are remarkable in places.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The script needed a lot more work, and the pace really slows down in the second act.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-visual-effects/">Best Visual Effects</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"SPACEMAN"