Netflix’s new space-drama about astronauts on a two-year mission to Mars naturally peaked my interest because I love space. Outer space, cyberspace, personal space… I love it all! However, as the title of this blog series should indicate by now, I hate everything about Netflix.
Warning: Spoilers Abound
Prior to writing this, I looked around for other reviews on the movie and the general theme was “is it worth watching”. Forgive me for saying, but if you’re so pressed for time that you have to ask a question like that, you’ve done something wrong in your past and maybe should be addressing that instead of watching movies. But I digress. Critical consensus, for what it’s worth (nothing), is that Stowaway is a “good movie”. I could write a whole other post on how little that phrase tells anyone about something’s quality, but let’s press on.
There’s very little backstory to Stowaway, which in retrospect might set viewers up for the discovery that there’s very little closure. The end of the film is by far its worst part even though it’s (allegedly) supposed to be emotional and thought-provoking. In reality, anyone who has seen more than a handful of these films (think Sunshine if it were written by someone who can’t write) will see the final sequences coming virtually from the beginning of the film.
After a run-of-the-mill launch sequence which is admittedly quite good, the crew discovers that a pre-launch technician had an accident and passed out in a sealed compartment of the ship. There’s some speculation that perhaps it wasn’t an accident but this is never addressed. Given how this character reacts throughout the film, I believe it was an accident. While wrestling the passed out technician (sorry I’ve already forgotten everyone’s names and I’m not going to look them up because that’s how I roll) from his compartment, the CO2 scrubbing system becomes damaged. This is the crux of the whole film.
Eventually via some blah dialogue back and forth and half-hearted attempts to do things I wasn’t completely paying attention to, the crew comes to grips with the fact that the system is not repairable and there’s only enough life support for 3 of the 4 astronauts (including the stowaway). Well, almost everyone comes to grips. Anna Kendrick’s character refuses to believe the situation is hopeless and persuades the captain to let them have 10 of the 20 point-of-no-return days to figure out a solution. This is where I figured out how the movie was going to end. Any time you have a character who goes out of their way to save one person at the expense of everyone else, that bitch dead.
The 3 original crew members have a secret meeting about all of this (which apparently never strikes as odd to the stowaway) and decide not to tell the stowaway because knowing he has 10 days to live might make him less than able to contribute. I agree with that part of the plot. But Jin from Lost, being Asian and thus incapable of emotions (Netflix only cares about racist casting decisions if they involve African Americans) tells him anyway and gives him a needle with which to kill himself. Anna Kendrick, in a brilliant move, stops him right before he commits suicide and essentially dooms the crew.
So, some stuff happens, none of it works because if it did it wouldn’t be a movie, and Anna Kendrick pops out the airlock in the middle of a solar storm to fill an O2 canister from some backup supply that’s inexplicably located at the far end of a half-mile long assembly of beams. She succeeds, drops the canister into the ship, and the camera fades to black as she looks at Mars in the distance and her breathing becomes belabored.
Moral of the story, don’t try to save anyone because in the end you’ll have to die just to keep a few people alive. Except they might still die. That part isn’t addressed at all, so the ending just feels pointless.
My thoughts are mixed. I didn’t hate the movie, I watched it with mild interest (I was also studying at the same time) until the end and even rewound a couple parts I didn’t catch. I don’t do that often so I know I cared a little bit. That ending though. It just made me feel like I wasted my time watching the first three quarters of the movie because I knew it was coming but I stuck it out anyway, hoping someone would surprise me. You can’t make a surprising movie on Netflix though, they’re very formulaic on what they approve.
I didn’t find this one to be as “polit-icky” as many of Netflix’s other movies. They still tick all the racial and gender boxes, of course. Two strong female characters, one being the captain. A black man plays the stowaway. And the closest this film gets to an antagonist is Jin from Lost even though at the end of the day he’s still a good guy he’s just trying to do the logical thing because Asians are Vulcans. Still, there weren’t any coded messages about how men are trash, white people are evil, etc. Perhaps now that Derek Chauvin has been convicted we can all go back to not having to pretend we care about race.