Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Space Station 76 (2014)

If you were expecting Anchorman in Space from first time director Jack Plotnick's feature Space Station 76 you'd be sorely disappointed. This riff on the 70s depiction of our space age future is much more subtle a comedy than Will Ferrell's spoof classic. In fact this is a very dry comedy, drier than a ship's biscuit even, with laughs that are played dead straight by its cast, making the production more akin to Abigail's Party meets Star Trek.

The basic premise of the movie is one that cleverly understands the notion that Gene Rodenberry's seminal series and film franchise was essentially little more than a space opera and as such details the lives of loves of the crew on board the Omega 76 Refueling Station. There's Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson), a mustachioed ultra 70s man with a drink problem and a propensity for staying in the closet.  Engineer Ted (Matt Bomer) has an archiac artificial hand and is married to the material and passive aggressive Misty (Marissa Coughlan) who spends more time with the ship's resident computer psychiatrist Dr. Bot - who offers such sage automated advice as "I’m going to adjust your dosage of valium to.... As much as you like" -  than she does her 7 year old  daughter Sunshine (Kylie Rogers), a bored latchkey kid forced to wander the endless gleaming white corridors of the space station with a melancholic air to match her perennially unanswered questions.  The smooth (silent) running of Omega 76 is somewhat shaken up by the arrival of the caring new Lieutenant Jessica (Liv Tyler) who begins to take an interest in everyone's well being.

As a child of the 1980s who avidly sat through things like Star Trek, the original Battlestar Galactica, Doctor Who, Space:1999 and cheesefest films like Battle Beyond The Stars and Disney's The Black Hole, I can appreciate the 70s vision Space Station 76 lovingly pastiches. That notion of a future so unimaginable yet essentially consisting of consumerism, leisure activities and technology largely akin or at least one step further to the time the production was made (thanks to not very imaginative production teams) immediately strikes a nostalgic chord with me and makes this a wryly funny experience. The humour and enjoyment within the piece is especially enhanced by the authentic 70s space age period design and costume detail as well as the knowing cameo from 2001's Keir Dullea (it's very clear that Plotnick is influenced by Kubrick) But ultimately it is the satire of the 70s New Age and the Me Generation, along with the ennui, keeping up with the Joneses preoccupations and general isolation of 70s suburbia, transplanted to the science fiction genre which makes this a rather satisfying redux of 1976.

Glorious design detail and a cohesive approach glow in Space Station 76 in a manner which outshines the occasionally flawed mixture of deadpan absurdity and poignancy. I can understand why this was likely a miss rather than a hit for some, but I've a feeling that, personally, Space Station 76 may grow on me with rewatches.

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