Fifty Shades of Grey

The Cast.

The Cast.

Fifty Shades of Grey is an American space adventure film based on a book by Patrick Bailey and Larry B. Williams and inspired by the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Directed by Harry Winerfrom a screenplay by Clifford Green (as W. W. Wicket) and Casey T. Mitchell, the film stars Kate CapshawKelly PrestonLarry B. ScottLea ThompsonTate Donovan, and Joaquin Phoenix(credited as Leaf Phoenix).

This is a movie that has received an awful lot of hype, from a novel that has recieved an awful lot of hype.  The movie is set of course in the happy days before the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s image became tarnished, although it has now enjoyed a resurgence of reputation since the shuttle retirement.

Four teenagers, Kathryn, Kevin, Rudy, and Tish, and a 12-year-old boy, Max, go to space camp at Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida for three weeks during the summer to learn about the NASA space program and mimic astronaut training.

SpaceCamp received mixed to negative reviews with only 40% of critics giving it positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Critic Roger Ebert gave it a one and half star rating and saying that “Our thoughts about the Space Shuttle will never be the same again, and our memories are so painful that SpaceCamp is doomed even before it begins.”[]

Variety says that “SpaceCamp never successfully integrates summer camp hijinks with outer space idealism to come up with a dramatically compelling story”,[] while James Sanford of the Kalamazoo Gazette responds “Not exactly out of this world”.

Website At-A-Glance gave the film an even worse review, “It’s tough to accept this movie’s premise. A bunch of kids are given a tour of the Space Shuttle as NASA is testing its engines. An accident happens, and they, along with their guide, are launched into space. Once up there, can they be talked back down? Add an annoying, seemingly sentient robot into the mix. Add the standard “two dimensional character development” arc, where each member of the cast overcomes his or her single character trait/flaw by the end of the story. Add gobs of sap, gushiness, and boredom. Mix well, and you’ve got a first-class mess.”

Wikipedia describes the movies synopsis as:

Four teenagers, Kathryn, Kevin, Rudy, and Tish, and a 12-year-old boy, Max, go to space camp atKennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, Florida for three weeks during the summer to learn about the NASA space program and mimic astronaut training.

The movie is based on an actual existing space camp where bright young things go to learn about Space under the tutorship of NASA.  Here we follow the the exploits of one team of campers, coached by a female astronaut (Kate Capshaw) and her ground-controller husband (Tom Skerritt).  The kids certainly aren’t all angels, but of course despite differences they learn to work together and solve the crisis and be All-American-Heroes.  One huge problem in this film is the lack of realism.  We are constantly asked to believe the unbelievable, especially in light of the Challenger tragedy of 1986.  I won’t go into that here but suffice to say it is a wonder this film has gathered so much momentum and hype, even if the event was decades ago.  In fact setting the film in 1986 seems to serve no real purpose other than an excuse for shoddy effects (reusing old kit) and cheap nostalgia reasons.

Things we are asked to believe:

  • Kids, who are so well trained during their summer vacation (according to a line in this movie, anyway) that they actually could pilot a space shuttle.
  • The movie actually asks us to believe that NASA would let real kids sit inside a real shuttle while real rockets are test fired.
  • Robots in 1986 or even now are basically completely sentient, conscious, and annoying.

It certainly appears that the filmmakers had complete co-operation from NASA; real shots from the shuttle interiors and exteriors are present.  One wonders how this has been managed since the shuttles have been retired, but there you go.

The film never successfully integrates summer camp hijinks and tomfoolery with outer space idealism to come up with a dramatically compelling story. A thriller it may be but it is hardly thrilling, or funny for that matter.  The dialiogue is cliche-ridden, actors like Kate Capshaw fail to inhabit the role of ‘scientist’ with any success, and kids like Tate Donovan as the shuttle-commander in training, and Lea Thompson as the would be pilot neither look the part of act it.

I fail to see what the hype was all about actually.

2 out of 10 Doubloons.

Doubloon

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