Sunday, March 25, 2007

An Icon Is Born

Cillian Murphy in SunshineRemember HAL? The suddenly-sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick's towering opus '2001: A Space Odyssey' that (or should I say 'who') realizes that, perhaps, it's not necessary to take orders from human beings anymore. If you think of HAL what do you remember? That silky voice with its blend of apathy and superiority? Maybe. People imitate it when they want to make fun of something that's blindly foolhardy in a grand manner, or when they forget their password and can't get into their computer.

For me, it was that eye -- the red sensor through which HAL watched (maybe 'monitored' is a better term) the world. I loved how that camera lens represented HAL so well -- malicious in the most subtle way due to its red color and unblinking stare -- yet passive aggressive, suggesting that, if there is any tension, it's your fault because (look into my eye) I'm as calm as can be. It's your fault you human being.

Danny Boyle's new movie, 'Sunshine', strikes me as similar to '2001' in that it's a very visual movie and has the same quietude about it. The trailers I've seen promise a movie that's dazzling to watch but also inward-looking, philosophical, and designed to make people think and generate some discussion (I think it will).

But, I've notice something that strikes me as a bit peculiar. There's one still that seems to be representing this movie -- somewhat strange for a film with so many incredible effects-driven sequences. That image is the one of Cillian Murphy looking out of some kind of portal. It's effects-free, does not imply action, and is meditative, and thus is not a natural choice for a sexy new sci-fi thriller. His expression is hard to read -- perhaps it's fear, perhaps hope, or resignation. But, one thing is sure -- it's a quiet, thoughtful composition. Yet, this image is the one generally selected to represent 'Sunshine' on websites and blogs. (This supports the growing notion that second-tier online content [i.e. the blogger] affects what plays well and what just sits there). I can't believe this image is the one the producers and the guys in Marketing wanted to rep this movie. I mean, wouldn't they prefer the one below? Nice -- cool, shows how much money was spent. But, it doesn't have the quiet humanistic power of the one of Murphy above.


Why would the image of Murphy be preferred? I'm guessing it's the basic difference between the world of the sixties and society today. I'm guessing 'Sunshine' has a much more brass-tacks approach to philosophy than Kubrick's masterpiece and is designed for an audience that has to deal with problems that did not exist on the same scale or had the immediacy in the sixties as they do today. 'Sunshine' seems more real than the intellectual and somewhat sterile '2001', and I think this is exactly what today's headline-weary audience is looking for -- quiet reassurance.

'2001' is certainly a great accomplishment. The effects are astounding, especially considering when they were created. That story, though… Just a bit off-putting -- it keeps even the most enthused viewer at arm's length. If 'Space Odyssey' were released today it couldn't connect with an audience. It's just too esoteric, especially that mind-bending ending. What would the average teenager today say when asked, 'So. What was 2001 about'?

Enter 'Sunshine'. With its unpretentious title, Rock-and-Roll effects, and (it would seem) a story that's both philosophical and has popular appeal. 'Sunshine' has a shot at becoming the new reference for sci-fi movies -- both fun and entertaining, and much talked-about for years to come. Right now, the online buzz is pegging the meter. 'Sunshine' looks like it will be a hit and have people arguing the meaning of life -- quite an accomplishment in today's market -- and I'm thinking that still of Cillian Murphy will become an iconic image for a new generation. HAL


sunshinedna said...

the excellent post on 'Sunshine'! I thought I'd let you know a bit more about that Cillian picture!

There have now been loads of images released of the actors in Sunshine. A year ago there had been only 12 images released- one of each of the cast members with a white background, one of Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans, one of the whole cast minus Troy Garity and the 'Cillian Portal' photo. I believe it was used in Empire Magazine and as soon as it was printed in the magazine I put it online. As the months went by more and more photos were released. Still, for some reason, that one turns up.

The Searchlight marketing department hasn't decided that that photo represents the film... People online have!

Personally, I would say this screengrab from a trailer best represents that scene! ;)

Alan Green said...


Thanks for the comment and info. Haven't been able to hit your links (site must be down for a while). Will try later.

There does seem to be a lesson here -- the boys in Marketing don't have all the answers.

We're seeing some mainstream media take a beating while second-tier blogs get a stronger voice.

Will look for that screengrab.


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