the 1970s, Skylab represented the future. Today, the International Space
Station is an anachronism of the New World Order. Yet, even in the analog future
as envisioned in the “Me Decade,” Omega 76 was a sleepy backwater assignment.
They still ought to take asteroids more seriously in Jack Plotnick’s nostalgic Space Station 76 (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
76 is a deep space refueling station, where the crew marks time until they are
promoted to more prestigious postings. However, the previous first mate (if you
will) was promoted suspiciously quickly. Whenever the obviously closeted
Captain Glenn is asked about it, he always gives a slightly different answer.
Not surprisingly, he is less than gracious welcoming his new first officer,
Jessica Marlowe, who also happens to be a woman.
is not much to do on Omega 76, so Marlowe is happy to spend time with Sunshine,
the brainy young daughter of Misty, the pill-popping peak of the station’s
social pyramid. Marlowe also ambiguously befriends Misty’s cuckolded technician
husband, but both are too honorable to act on their mutual attraction. When not
angsting over the state of her life, Marlowe tries to get Capt. Glenn to pay
attention to the asteroid projections generated by her predecessor, but he
wants nothing to do with anything associated with his former whatever.
is no question SS76 was handcrafted
by true fans of vintage seventies-era science fiction. Seth Reed’s design team
and costumers Sandra Burns and Sarah Brown have created some pitch perfect
frocks, sets, and models. The vibe is spot-on, but somehow Plotnick and his quartet
of co-writers forgot to include most of the jokes. Essentially, the film’s
sequences are like most SNL skits
from the last fifteen years. It is all set-up that just peters out without a
punchline. At times, SS76 seems
fatally determined to channel the spirit of 1970s relationship movies, like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,
but they have already been better satirized by the criminally under-appreciated
SS76 represents the reunion of The Ledge co-stars Liv Tyler and Patrick
Wilson nobody ever asked for. Needless to say, this is a vastly superior film
than that misogynistic polemic disguised as an unthrilling thriller. Tyler is
still rather stiff and distant as Marlowe (to put it generously), but Wilson’s
Glenn is strangely compelling and ultimately sympathetic, if we adjust for
1970s cultural inflation. Marisa Coughlan and Kali Rocha also seem to enjoy
vamping it up as Misty and her self-absorbed best friend Donna, which helps.
Also look for none other than Keir Dullea, giving the film extra genre cred in
a video-phone cameo.
is such a great concept, so aptly rendered by Plotnick’s
technical collaborators, it is a shame there isn’t more humor or narrative
muscle to go with it. Instead, he is content to stage one awkward conversation after
another amid the terrific station backdrops. There are chuckles here and there
(and the Todd Rundgren soundtrack is a blast), but viewers are really left to
wonder what might have been. For diehard fans of Space: 1999 and the like, Space
Station 76 opens this Friday (9/19) in New York at the Quad Cinema, with
digital and DVD releases scheduled to follow shortly after.
Labels: Liv Tyler, Mash-Ups, Sci-Fi films