American Civil War, Angels & Airwaves, astronauts, Capt. Lee Miller, cinema, confusing, film reviews, films, Gunner Wright, history of the world, humanity, insanity, instrumental score, International Space Station, isolation, Love, movie, music-based films, outer space, sci-fi, space station, stranded in space, stylish films, William Eubank, writer-director
I watch films for a lot of different reasons but one of the simplest (and most frequently disappointing) reason is out of curiosity. Sometimes, I’ll see box art, a title or a concept that just seems too intriguing to pass up, if definitively less than “must-see.” Over the years, my curiosity has led me in the direction of some genuinely great films (Lo, Botched, Stitches, Taxidermia) and some genuinely wretched films (Shuttle, The Hamiltons, The Hunt, Primal, The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, ad infinitum), along with a slew of films that I can’t even recall watching. Recently, my curiosity finally got the better of me and I watched Love, the sci-fi film featuring a musical score by Angels & Airwaves. I suspected a vanity project but was hoping there might be something here for a non-fan. In the end, this ended up being one odd film.
At its heart, Love is actually a few different films jammed together. The most interesting (and most cohesive) is the story of an astronaut (Gunner Wright) who ends up stranded on the International Space Station by himself. There’s also some sort of documentary in here, featuring lo-fi talking head interviews with various people about such fascinating topics as making the best of bad situations, how important communication is and how environment can affect relationships. There’s a bit of high-end music videos here, as well, as certain scenes are merely silent collections of images scored by instrumental Angel’s & Airwaves songs. There’s also something about the Civil War here but that part is so confusing and disjointed that is might actually be part of the astronaut story-line: I was never quite sure. Taken separately, only one of the disparate threads (the astronaut) one is actually worth anything: mixed together, it’s a bit like someone making a stew out of lamb, spaghetti and Mylar balloons.
If the astronaut story-line mimics the essential beats of the far-superior Moon a bit too much, at least it’s aping superior source material. This portion of the film, on its own, would actually have made a pretty interesting, modest little sci-fi flick. Wright is decent as Capt. Lee Miller, although his gradual progression into insanity doesn’t quite work and his eventual residence there, consisting of shameless mugging and eye-rolling, is pretty idiotic. Aesthetically, Love owes a lot to Kubrick’s 2001, as well as newer sci-fi films like Moon. Love’s astronaut sections exist in a very sterile, antiseptic, hospital-white environment: most of this is quite beautifully shot, particularly one gorgeous section where Miller goes to repair some equipment while encircled by lights. This scene actually reminded me (favorably) of things in 2001 and my only complaint was that it didn’t have more company. Nonetheless, the astronaut portions are definitely watchable, particularly for space fans looking for an easy fix.
However, one must also sit through the pretentious interview portions, a conceit which doesn’t even bear fruit by the film’s admittedly ambitious finale. The interviews are poorly staged, tedious and only occasionally relevant to anything that we’ve seen or heard. Only slightly more relevant, though vastly more confusing, are the Civil War segments. I never fully understood their relevance, although I have a few educated guesses. My honest opinion? I think that writer/director William Eubank’s ambition far-outweighed his ability to deliver a cohesive script. Ambition is great but an ambitious miss is still a miss, no matter how you look at it.
Ultimately, Love is a wildly ambitious but, unfortunately, rather unsuccessful film. The filmmakers have great reference points and, from what I could tell, the best of intentions. The film looks pretty good, especially in the space sections, and the finale is quite thought-provoking. On the other hand, the film is wildly fractured, due to too many disparate elements and story-lines and Gunner Wright isn’t quite up to the task of carrying the astronaut portions almost solely on his shoulders. With a tighter script and more focus, Love might have actually been able to approach the realms of a lesser Moon. As it is, however, the film feels less like a musical vanity project and more like a first-time director’s attempt to get on the board. It’s a good effort but I’m guessing that we’ll see better from Eubank in the future.