In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_5kljgdiaf9qbg0wqbxhfsoemmrz

Time Is Illmatic

An excellent documentary that focuses more on why the Illmatic album came to be than how successful it became. Prepare to be schooled in many…

Thumb_men_women_and_children

Men, Women & Children

A potentially interesting premise is handled so badly that what might have been a provocative drama quickly and irrevocably devolves into the technological equivalent of…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Marooned

  |   May Contain Spoilers

John Sturges' "Marooned" demonstrates convincingly that it will be a long time before a space movie comes along to outclass "2001: A Space Odyssey." Having seen Stanley Kubrick's infinitely detailed sets and special effects, we're no longer willing to settle for conventional models -- no matter how well done.

And having learned a thing or two about space during the TV coverage of moon shots, we're not willing to accept rocket engines that hiss (sound doesn't travel in a vacuum) or an astronaut who can look directly at the sun and not go blind. (The sun, by the way, isn't the small, hard disk of "2001: A Space Odyssey," but a blinding glare -- diffused, I guess, even in a vacuum). Sturges should have hired a better technical consultant.

These things aside, however, "Marooned" works very nicely as an entertainment, and when I was a science fiction fan back in high school I would have liked it a lot. The strange thing about movies like "Marooned" is that they get us involved in the story no matter how much we may pick holes in the technique. Sure, sound doesn't travel in a vacuum -- but how are those three guys gonna get down?

The premise is one that has been in our minds ever since John Glenn's first flight: What happens if the re-entry rockets don't ignite? Do the astronauts simply orbit forever, eventually running out of air? Gregory Peck, as the head of the space program, argues that they do. It would cost more lives to launch a rescue mission, he says, than it would save, But he's overruled by the President (and we never do find out how many plebeian workmen are killed to save the orbiting aristocrats).

A lot of action takes place inside the capsule, where Gene Hackman, Richard Crenna and James Franciscus provide good performances (considering they're strapped down and inside helmets most of the time, which would be murder for a method actor). Hackman, who gradually goes nuts, is particularly good.

I wouldn't dream of telling you how (or if) the astronauts (or some of them, or none of them) get back to Earth. "Marooned" isn't very interesting from a stylistic point of view, and the actors tend to get buried beneath the technology, but it does tell an exciting story, And that, I imagine, was all Sturges (whose storytelling includes "The Great Escape" and "Bad Day at Black Rock") was really trying to do.

Popular Blog Posts

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

Why my video essay about "All that Jazz" is not on the Criterion blu-ray

Bob Fosse's masterpiece "All That Jazz" jumps back and forth through the past and the present, and through memory and...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Tonight is What It Means To Be Young: "Streets of Fire" at 30

An appreciation of "Streets of Fire" on its 30th anniversary.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus