No one knew what to do with Sunshine back in ’07: not the critics, who lauded its visuals but hated its horror-movie ending; not the studios, who couldn’t decide which aspect of its multifaceted plot to sell; and not the American audiences, who made a movie with blockbuster-level scope and effects into a flop with a $3.6 million domestic gross. From our ideal hindsight perspective, though, Sunshine looks remarkably prescient. Sci-fi movies stalled out in the mid-’00s after the Star Wars prequels bludgeoned the genre into the ground with CGI and monotonous acting. But the genre saw a revival soon after Sunshine with Avatar, and appears to have entered an exciting new phase of relative realism with Gravity, Interstellar, and the upcoming The Martian, a phase that Sunshine would fit right into. Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) and written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later…), Sunshine strikes a chord right between Interstellar and Gravity, achieving a marvelous blend of fantastical space imagery and survival science. It’s a chord no other sci-fi movie has struck this decade, so it’s really a shame that Sunshine was only just ahead of its time.
Quicker take: Sunshine might blind you with science, but it’s worth it in the end.