With Claire Denis’ new sci-fi drama “High Life” slated to be out this April, we’ve continued the recent trend of space-related films being released. The documentary “Apollo 11,” has received much praise from space history buffs, is still in some theaters, yet has already found its way online, too. Only seven months ago, Damien Chazelle’s first non-music-themed feature, the biopic “First Man,” premiered. The film was a little more than decent, yet quickly forgotten by the time awards season broke through. And we’re soon getting another astronaut biopic with Noah Hawley’s “Lucy in the Sky,” starring Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, and Dan Stevens, though there still hasn’t been an official release date confirmed.
Space movies are an intriguing trend because there is usually a market of people who are fascinated by the idea of an atmosphere so far away. Given the solid pull these films have, it’s perplexing when a straight-forward film like “First Man” under-performs, but it’s not terribly surprising when the dark and sad “High Life” turns people away. Fortunately, space biopics like Philip Kaufman’s “The Right Stuff” (1983), Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13” (1995), and HBO’s mini-series “From the Earth to the Moon” (1998) still hold up because they’re not only fairly accurate, but also have a lot of heart and wonderment.
Then there is the classic cinematic space fiction such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and the “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” franchises, whose fan bases continue to grow with each decade. Even when the latter two have polarizing additions to their series, like Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” (2017) or Bryan Fuller & Alex Kurtzman’s TV show “Discovery” (2017- ), they still somehow find enough viewers to make up for the negativity.
The string of space flicks seems to be a trend since at least 2013, starting with Alfonso Cuaron’s visually stunning “Gravity.” The next year followed with Christopher Nolan’s hyped “Interstellar” (2014) and James Gunn’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014). There was also Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” (2015) and J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” (2015), along with Gareth Edwards’ “Rogue One” (2016), Justin Lin’s “Star Trek Beyond” (2016), and Theodore Melfi’s “Hidden Figures” (2016). Oh, and we can’t forget “The Last Jedi” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017), or “First Man” and “High Life.”
I don’t know how long this galactic trend is going to stick around, but let’s hope “Lucy in the Sky” and “The Rise of Skywalker” end on a high note.