The Midnight Sky (2020)

"Somebody’s got to be coming back for you, because I can’t help you. You understand? I’m the wrong person. I’m the wrong person.""Somebody’s got to be coming back for you, because I can’t help you. You understand? I’m the wrong person. I’m the wrong person."

“Somebody’s got to be coming back for you, because I can’t help you. You understand? I’m the wrong person. I’m the wrong person.”

Much can still be said about dystopian, post-apocalyptic films that hasn’t been said before. It’s not like this genre is suffering from a lack of content, there are plenty of films that explore world ending events or Darwinian moments that change society. Lately, films like The Hunger Games or Divergent or The Maze Runner have taken the niche market that is post-apocalyptic films and kept them contained for a specific target audience. What The Midnight Sky has in common with theses series is the fact that it is a novel adaptation of the novel Good Morning, Midnight written by author Lily Brooks-Dalton.   

The similarities between this and the young adult adaptations stop there, what sets those franchises apart as well as most other post-apocalyptic / dystopian films is the set up and background of the events leading up to the introduction of the main characters. The Midnight Sky doesn’t explore the events leading to where we meet Augustine Lofthouse, (George Clooney) all we are clued in on is an unspecified catastrophe has rendered the planet unhabitable. Was this a narrative choice by director George Clooney or is the event not detailed in the novel as well? Regardless of the answer, that decision doesn’t help The Midnight Sky’s case. 

Alone on an Arctic base suffering from cancer Lofthouse discovers the spacecraft called the Aether is set to return home from an exploration of a habitable moon of Jupiter named K-23 which Lofthouse himself discovered. He attempts to contact the Aether but when his base doesn’t have the signal strength to reach it, Lofthouse decides to brave the elements to go to a different base that has the power to reach the returning craft in time to warn them. On the ship includes five passengers: Commander Adewole (David Oyelowo), Dr. Iris Sullivan (Felicity Jones), Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), Sanchez (Demian Bichir) & Maya (Tiffany Boone).

“Lake Hazen, I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear your voice. For some reason, you’re the only person who wants to talk to me. We’ve lost contact with NASA and everyone else.”

Lack of context to what actually happened to this planet while only showing the departure of the human race while one brave man stays behind to warn off anyone who attempts to come home starts the film off on the wrong foot and never recovers as the adventure unfolds. Pieces of The Midnight Sky can be taken from other films that serve as inspirations but in reality, feel derivative. Most notable is Gravity in which Clooney also starred in. The spacewalk / meteor shower feels almost too similar to the events in Gravity giving off a sense of unoriginality from the actor turned director. 

There are also the comparisons to the Revenant and 2012 mixed in. None of these elements borrowed add to the overarching story that The Midnight Sky promises to set up. A lone man who is having hallucinations as a result of his disease sets out on a dangerous mission in a crippling storm nearly dying from the journey to save five people who have no actual development for us to form a connection with nor to root for their survival. If The Midnight Sky wasn’t constantly cutting back and forth between Lofthouse and the Aether crew, maybe some momentum would be gained to make up for the lack of a compelling narrative but it never comes to fruition. 

One thing that plagues The Midnight Sky along with everything else is the lack of actual stakes involved. What happens if someone comes back to earth, we never know, and the consequences are not explained either. Instead of creating empathy for the crew of the Aether that would make us care for their safety, apathy is created. There isn’t much to write home about, each character is forgettable. A maneuver similar to what the Martian used is suggested to slingshot the Aether around the earth to propel them back to K-23 and avoid certain death – just another derivative moment that makes the mind wander to the other film.  

“Lake Hazen, this is Aether Flight Commander Gordon Adewole. Your numbers are intriguing, but they have me curious as to how you came up with them, and how you know so much about our flight plan. Who exactly are you?”

Bad character development doesn’t help the cause for Lofthouse either. Sprinkled in the narrative are flashbacks to his younger self that don’t land the way they are intended to. The purpose is to create a backstory but the change in tone in these scenes are inorganic to the mood that is established earlier on. Clooney does give a good performance along with Caoilinn Springall who plays a younger Iris that turns out to be a part of the twist toward the end of the film. 

Dystopian / post-apocalyptic films should have a happier ending to them, or at least that is the hope. The Midnight Sky doesn’t leave with a happy ending. The film doesn’t feel resolved after the 2-hour run time.

The Midnight Sky has a ton of potential that isn’t capitalized on. The lack of any consequence or stakes gives the sense of empathy toward all the characters in their journeys. Any momentum Clooney gains on ground in the Arctic is lost every time the crew of the Aether is cut to. There isn’t enough meat on the bones to have well developed ideas while the film feels too derivative taking one to many elements from past films in the post-apocalyptic subgenre. It’s difficult to feel too invested in these characters to actually want to see a resolution to their stories. If I were to rate The Midnight Sky, I’d rate it a 1.5 out of 5. 

So, tell me, have you seen The Midnight Sky and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

The Midnight Sky is directed by George Clooney is Rated PG-13 and has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Midnight Sky was released on December 11, 2020 in a limited capacity and on streaming on December 23, 2020 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 58 minutes. The Midnight Sky can be streamed on Netflix.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: