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Magellan (2017)

At a loose end in London on the Bank Holiday Monday last week, I decided to try the Sci-Fi London film festival and wandered down to Stratford (much nostalgia for Worldcon planning meetings in 2013-14) to try this Kickstarter-funded movie. I saw some familiar faces in the audience, which was very nice.

The film is about an astronaut sent to investigate alien signals coming from the outer solar system - moons of Saturn and Neptune and the dwarf planet Eris - and the tensions that arise between him and Earth (i.e. NASA and his wife). It looks and sounds beautiful. Purists may argue that the sunlight in the outer solar system will be much dimmer, or that liquid methane doesn't behave like that, or that we know the rocks on Triton will be different, but I am enough of a Doctor Who fan to appreciate the effort that is made to make an alien landscape look alien. The soundtrack was great as well.

However the script has numerous massive holes in it. The mission team at NASA seems to consist of just three people, one of whom is the U.S. Secretary of Defence, and they don't seem to have internalised much about communication with astronauts on long missions (particularly how to handle spouses). Our hero discovers that his landing shuttle has an AI with its own voice for the first time when he gets into it to carry out his first landing. The ending literally veers off in a completely new and unforeshadowed direction. The cast do well enough with this material, but one feels it may not be playing to their strengths.

Still, it was a welcome diversion for an evening.

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