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Movie Review: “The Midnight Sky”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Midnight Sky

Netflix Release: 12/23/2020

Netflix Release: 12/23/2020

Synopsis

The year is 2049, and Earth is on the brink of an apocalyptic catastrophe. Augustine (George Clooney) has cancer, and while the rest of the population is evacuating and going underground, he has decided to stay back. Augustine is a scientist who devoted his life to searching for planets and moons that could be hospitable to humanity, planning for the possibility that Earth may one day become inhospitable. As a result of his research, astronauts have been sent to one of Jupiter's moons. Their mission was to collect data and determine if the moon could support human life.

The astronauts are on their way back to Earth, but they are completely unaware of what has become of their home planet. Augustine has chosen to stay behind so that he can warn the astronauts before it is too late. However, he soon discovers a young girl (Caoilinn Springall) who has been left behind while everyone else was evacuating. Thus, Augustine is tasked with trying to communicate with the returning astronauts, but he is also the only one who can look after the young girl.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Augustine & The Girl (+5pts)

Iris (-2pts)

Tragic (+4pts)

The Flashbacks (-3pts)

The Crew & Fixing the Ship (+4pts)

Slow & Pointless (-6pts)

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Pro: Augustine & The Girl (+5pts)

One of this movie's strengths was George Clooney and his performance as Augustine. This character had pretty much given up all hope, and he had signed up for almost certain death in order to warn the astronauts on their way back to Earth. The guy had cancer, and was for all intents and purposes, on a suicide mission. Someone had to do it, so why not him? He had spent his life searching for other places for humanity to call home, but he felt that he failed humanity, as Earth was lost before everyone could make it safely to another habitable planet or moon.

The character's story was a tragic one, and this tragedy was one of the movie's strengths, and while I will get into the overall tragic story later in this review, I am mentioning it here to say how great I thought George Clooney did with this role. The character felt hopeless, he felt like he failed—for not getting humanity off Earth sooner—and he took on the selfless mission of saving other astronauts, sealing his own fate in the process. Then he was given the responsibility of having to look after a child in the middle of the most hopeless situation. As hopeless as he felt, he had to show strength and carry on for the sake of the girl. The character's story was a dramatic one, and it was a tragic one, and I thought George Clooney did a great job of bringing this character's emotion to the screen.

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Con: Iris (-2pts)

I am going to keep this really short because I want to avoid spoiler territory. That being said, there was a reveal toward the end of the movie involving the girl, Iris. I thought this twist was completely unnecessary, and I thought it took away from the impact of Augustine's story, and his efforts to look after the girl. I really do not think I can say much more than that without spoiling the reveal, but it just seemed pointless and I thought it did more harm than good. Fortunately, this reveal was at the end of the movie, so it had little impact on my enjoyment of the movie.

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Pro: Tragic (+4pts)

This was a tragic story. There was Augustine's tragic story, which I have already brought up, but it is definitely relevant here. There was also the tragic story of humanity as a whole, with Earth becoming inhospitable, and the planet's few remaining safe locations likely being only temporary. Finally, there was the tragic story of the astronauts returning home, as they had risked their lives searching for a new planet to call home, all to come back and discover that their home planet and almost everyone on it had been wiped out.

It was a tragic story all around, and that drove a lot of the emotion and weight of this movie. My only complaint with it was that I wished we had gotten more insight on what actually went wrong on Earth. I get that this was not what the story was about, but even a quick montage at the beginning of the movie would have gone a long way in making the overall story more impactful. Showing the extent of what was lost and how it was lost would have helped put the viewer firmly in the surviving characters' shoes.

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Con: The Flashbacks (-3pts)

The movie started with the returning astronauts already on their way back, and with Earth's population evacuating, leaving Augustine behind. The filmmakers did not start the movie by setting up every protagonist, but they ended up running into the problem of having to establish their characters after the fact. One of their solutions was to tell us who each character was through flashbacks. These flashbacks came in two forms. The first was Augustine's dreams, where he dreamed of his past, for the sole purpose of filling in the viewer. The other form was with respect to the astronauts on the ship, who had this weird VR technology in their rooms that allowed them to relive memories, and while these were not technically flashbacks, they basically were.

Augustine's dreams were unnecessary, as the filmmakers could have told us who he was through his interactions with other characters, and they even ended up doing this later in the story. The astronauts memories were unnecessary because we kind of got a feel for who each character was through their dynamic as a team. On top of that, none of what we learned in those memory scenes was actually important anyway. The result was a movie filled with quick flashback scenes, which did nothing but interrupt the story and use up screentime.

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Pro: The Crew & Fixing the Ship (+4pts)

I enjoyed the team dynamic that the group had. We did not need backstories for each character, and we did not need to know where they came from. All we needed to see was how they worked together as a group, and the scene in which they had to fix the ship did that really effectively. In this scene, each character brought something to the table. The scene showed that each character had their own unique voice and personality, and without giving each of them a long, drawn out backstory, they felt like a real, relatable group and I enjoyed watching them.

The scene where they had to fix the ship made me connect with them as a group, so I did not want to see any chains in the link get broken. It was light-hearted and funny when the group was singing along to Sweet Caroline, and their dialogue was effective at making me care about the team. The scene was also intense and exciting when the asteroids came, and it was suspenseful when it felt like the team members lives were in jeopardy. The scene worked in the moment, but it also got me invested in these characters, as it felt like I knew who they each were, without having to be told their entire respective stories. Filmmakers struggle all the time with how to hook the audience into caring about their characters, but the filmmakers of this movie managed to do it very effectively in one exciting and entertaining sequence.

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Con: Slow & Pointless (-6pts)

This movie was pretty slow. It was just under two hours, but it felt more like two and a half. That may not seem like a huge difference, but it just felt like the filmmakers dragged everything out, as there were long stretches where it felt like not a lot was happening. This then made the plot issues more noticeable. The plot issues I am referring to were with respect to all of the pointless things that seemed to happen. You know when you are watching a movie in which certain bizarre things happen only for the sake of allowing the movie to happen? That was what most of the plot of this movie was.

Why did Augustine choose to hunker down in a facility with a weak signal when there was another facility with a stronger signal nearby? So that the filmmakers could squeeze in a desperate, intense journey for Augustine and the girl. Why did the astronauts have such an easy voyage, only to encounter a dangerous asteroid field as soon as they began making contact with Augustine? So that the filmmakers could add excitement and suspense to the story. There were a bunch of these types of things, and to make matters worse, once the astronauts made it to Earth, Augustine’s warning did not really do anything. Long story short, the movie was slow, and at times boring, the exciting moments that were in there felt inconsequential, and the way the astronauts discovered Earth’s current condition made Augustine’s whole story irrelevant. It was not a bad movie, but it was slow, and the whole plot starts falling apart as soon as you start to pick at it, like a Jenga tower on the verge of collapse.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: C+ (77pts)

The Midnight Sky was a dramatic, sci-fi, Netflix original starring George Clooney. As soon as I saw this was coming out, I knew it was a movie I had to watch. Unfortunately, it did not live up to my expectations. The movie was slow, the plot had a bunch of pointless things happening throughout, then the ending came and made Augustine’s entire story feel pointless. Then there was a twist regarding the girl that was completely unnecessary, and it diminished the whole storyline between Augustine and the girl. I had plenty of issues with this movie, which was disappointing, but like most movies, this one had its strengths as well.

To start, George Clooney did what this role needed him to do. His character’s story was tragic, and his performance made the character compelling. I also liked the dynamic between the crew of astronauts, as the filmmakers were effectively able to convey who each character was in an entertaining and exciting sequence that I really enjoyed. I also liked the tragic nature of the entire story—a combination of Augustine’s tragic story, the astronauts‘ tragic story, and humanity’s tragic story. Unfortunately, while the movies strengths were able to make up for some of its issues, I did not think they were enough to make this movie good.