Josh Glenn reviews Anthony Lanes review of "Sunshine"


In his Boston Globe Brainiac blog, Joshua Glenn takes New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane to task for not knowing enough about science fiction.

In his July 30 review of Sunshine, Danny Boyle's new science-fiction movie about a group of astronauts on a mission to jump-start our dying sun, the New Yorker's Anthony Lane has only one positive thing to say. The "oxygen garden" tended by Michelle Yeoh at the heart of the spaceship is, Lane raves,

a lovely invention on the part of Boyle, the screenwriter, Alex Garland, and the production designer, Mark Tildesley. Having last ganged together on 28 Days Later, a brisk resuscitation of the zombie genre, they are obviously hoping to give the solar system the same kind of makeover. Star Wars showed us clean and rustless spacecraft, Alien muscled in with dank and dripping ones, and now Sunshine catches the mood with verdancy….

Now, I realize that it's New Yorker house style for a writer to pretend to know everything about whatever subject he or she has been assigned. And I'm not quarreling with the snarky review — I haven't seen the movie, and it's probably just as bad as Lane says. But the New Yorker has slipped up badly this time. They should be embarrassed!

Glenn goes on to point out that the oxygen garden was lovingly lifted from the 1972 movie Silent Running (Boyle, in fact, says so in an interview with Sci Fi Weekly), and that the space ships in Star Wars were patched-together, dirty, and scuffed up. Lucas wanted to depict a "used universe."


Reader comment:

Chris says

Technically, the first appearance of a spaceship oxygen farm wasn't in Silent Running but in George O. Smith's Venus Equilateral short stories from the 1940s. The Venus Equilateral space station had a hydroponic farm and an "air plant" – a room of genetically modified Martian plants that renewed the station's air supply.

Mike says:

Regarding 'Josh Glenn reviews Anthony Lanes review of "Sunshine"' and
the spaceship oxygen farms, Edgar Rice Burroughs' series of American
John Carter's adventures on Mars (which the Martians call Barsoom), had
atmosphere factories.

And Project Gutenberg's online version of A Princess of Mars (1911): Chapter XX: In the Atmosphere Factory