Pale, blue plot

If our solar system were to hide or magically spawn a second Earth, identical to ours down to the crinkle of the fjords (© D Adams) and the pluck of the eyebrows of its population, then I hope Other Dave doesn’t bother to see Another Earth.

I exaggerate slightly. I’ve sat through films more tedious and less engaging than this one, I’m sure, their names now blissfully blanked. (Oh, yeah, 2012. Damn it.) I didn’t flounce out, or tweet stroppily half-way through, or sigh and tut like a Daily Mail reader at an anti-BBC drivelganza. It’s just a little dull.

The main storyline concerns an intelligent young lady who drink-drives — it’s the American Way — and causes an accident, and must deal with the aftermath. This coincides with the first appearance of Earth’s photocopy, dubbed Earth 2. It’s initially spotted on the night of the accident as a pale, blue dot, and then later dominates the skies with its own sidekick, Moon 2 (Moon Classic is not shown). These doppelspheroids aren’t merely similar, they’re identical down to the names, ranks and serial numbers of the inhabitants. Potentially an interesting scenario in science fiction: how? Why? Is it anti-matter? Is there a crack in the multiverse? etc. But this isn’t science fiction. The other Earth is merely a pale, blue plot device attempting to inject some originality into a not-too-interesting movie.

This is rather sad. Such a bonkers premise brings to mind fifties/sixties classics like The Day The Earth Caught Fire, The Day The Earth Stood Still and, of course, When Worlds Collide. I want to see streets full of hats, a Strand drooping from every lip. No such luck. We get an earnest, slow-moving movie that’s not as touching as it thinks it is. And like Earth 2, most of the plot is visible from a very great distance indeed.

What irritates me about the film, what sticks in the craw, is the other Earth/Moon system. I know it’s a film, I know I should suspend disbelief, and I know I should have given up all hope that films obey the laws of physics at the opening titles of Armageddon. But every time Earth 2 appears large in the sky of the ‘real’ Earth, almost invariably behind the misery guts main character, a shattering klaxon goes off in my head and I want to launch into a lecture about gravity.

How exactly does Earth 2 mosey on down to park itself beside Earth 1? How does it stop? What happened to Moon 1? Why is nobody running up and down the street worrying about tidal waves? And many other interesting questions.

Is it odd that I find the fundamental concept of an Earth copy far more acceptable than said duplicate pulling up alongside Earth 1 like the Space 1999 Moon ricocheting itself around the rubber-faced galaxy? I don’t know. If I can accept that, I should, I suppose, also be able to accept that Earth 2 is (as far as I can recall) tide-locked — always showing the same face towards Earth 1 — and that it’s pretty much geostationary — always handily plonked directly above lady misery’s home town. And I should pay no attention to poor Sir Isaac thumping and weeping in his dark corner.

I suspect one factor in my fist-shaking is that I’ve recently been deeply wrapped up in the world of the Apollo programme, having just read The Last Man on the Moon by Gene Cernan, Commander of Apollo 17. Thirty-nine years ago yesterday he became the last person (so far) to leave bootprints on the lunar surface. One of the three Apollo 17 astronauts, most likely Jack Schmitt, took the famous Blue Marble photo of Earth. And it’s this photo, on many if not all occasions, which is used in Another Earth for Earth 2. It’s so recognisable to a certain class of spacenerd that every time the image appears in the film it’s all I can think of. Oh look, there’s the Arabian peninsula, the comma of cloud near the southern tip of Africa, and the huge cloudmass over Antarctica. WARNING: DISBELIEF SUSPENSION EJECTED. KLAXON!

I know. Superheroes, fine. Time travelling police box, fine. Wizard school, I suppose.  But this, hmm.

Avaragado’s rating: space noodles

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Pale, blue plot

  1. Roger Binns

    That is a great book. Also recommended is Flight by Chris Craft, and Two Sides Of The Moon by Scott/Leonov. If only John Young would write something – he did Gemini, Apollo and the Space Shuttle – something no other astronaut did.

    It would be so much better if we had documentaries/films about real space travel instead of the made up drivel that we get due to a lack of a real space programme since 1972.

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