‘Space Station 76’ is an odd film. It’s more about the soap opera social interactions of various characters in a 1970s chic playing around with all the clichés from a drunken captain, Glen Terry (Patrick Wilson), to a dysfunctional family of couples living there in a confined area commonly called a space station. To say there’s a core story, other than living on a space station, throws real confusion into the air, even if gravity is mostly controlled.
Although writer/director Jack Plotnick says it has elements common to ‘Space: 1999’ (1975-76) and ‘2001’ (huh?!), I would have thought ‘Space Station 76’ would have more in common with ‘Dark Star’ (1974), with less humour. It suddenly dawned on me what the space station number actually represents.
I began to wonder if I should be watching it straight or think it was a dry comedy. Well, not too dry, the captain is a sot after all who lives for his booze. It could have done with the laughs that are more obvious from the seven minutes of outtakes on the disk because things are so suppressed in the dialogue. The film is more about social interaction that could apply anywhere although there is a nice moment when a young girl reduces gravity to float about. Saying that, the little girl gets the best cute moments. The film could seriously have done with some winks to the audience even if the characters might not have spotted them.
It’s not helped by having cheap looking effects although when you see how some of them were created in CGI, it’s obvious that they were shifted to be in the style of 1970s as well. If anything, I think it went too far in that direction than do the 70s Science Fiction as it could have been done within that style.
I should explain that analysis was made a little easier as writer/director Jack Plotnick explains the 70s motif in the main 12 minute extra, ‘Zero Gravity: Making Space Station 76’. I would wonder then who he saw as his key audience was unless he wants all of us in our 50s. Having the imagery but little associated with it, just made the film look like it was made on a cheap budget although I doubt if any of the cast involved were hired at the base rate.
I’m not entirely sure what it was supposed to achieve. Having a single writer/director means you’re seeing his vision. It certainly could have done with some more spin. Living through the 70s, I can’t help feel that Plotnick might have got more tongue-in-cheek had he gone for the 60s, especially as he professed an interest in Kubrick’s ‘2001’, although the latter never played the film for laughs, there were a lot more 60s material he could have played around with. Purely in analytical mode, it would have helped had he sent up the situations more. By playing it so straight, I switched mode and saw it straight as well. The acting talent was there but you’ll need nerve to watch it a second time and see if there was any humour that you might have missed.
(region 2 DVD: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 91 minute film with extras. Price: £ 8.50 (UK). ASIN: B00LLZHEDY)
cast: Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler, Marisa Couglan, Matt Bonner and Jerry O’Connell
Subtitles: Hindi, German, French, Finnish, Swedish, Arabic, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Turkish, English, Danish and Spanish
check out website: www.sonypictures.com