I caught the trailer for Space Station 76 a while ago when randomly browsing. It looked to be a knockabout comedy about a ’70s take on sci-fi, complete with a moustachioed Patrick Wilson as a grumpy captain. I didn’t hear anything more about it until I got an email about reviewing it, so I jumped at the chance. It wasn’t what I expected, and that’s both a good and bad thing.
The basic story focuses on life on Omega 76, a sparsely populated ship in deep space. When a new assistant captain (Liv Tyler) comes aboard, it sends ripples and murmuring throughout the ship and affects everyone from Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson) to the ship’s mechanic Ted (Matt Bomer). That’s basically it. Y’see, despite its intentionally shonky looking CGI models and pristine kitschy sets, Space Station 76 is actually a very contained film with a streak of black comedy running all the way through it. The cast are all great. Patrick Wilson probably gives the broadest comedic performance as Captain Glenn, doing a half Ron Burgundy, but stopping short of out-and-out cartoon character. Liv Tyler is likeable, as is Matt Bomer. It’s a well acted film and there are some great performances here.
I would hesitate to call Space Station 76 a “comedy”. There are some gags about a ’70s vision of the future, the film chooses to instead concentrate on the human drama onboard. The humour is low-key and understated. The film chases the sort of wry smiles you get from dramatic irony and dark comedy. Being the cinematic ponce that I am, I respected and enjoyed it for that. I love the idea of a character study taking place in a retro-futuristic setting. There are some neat ideas though. I walked away a huge fan of Dr. Bot, a small robot therapist who speaks entirely in empty platitudes and twee sayings.
There’s a lot of drama in space. Omega 76 is full of self-loathing, rivalry, lies, infidelity and addiction. Just like any good drama, it’s all undeniably compelling. Captain Glenn’s arc is affecting and Misty’s (Marisa Coughlan) manipulation of her daughter Sunshine (the excellent Kylie Rogers) is exactly as horrible as was intended. Tonally, the film is uneven (perhaps intentionally) and there are awkward transitions between the lighter-hearted stuff and the more serious drama. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride in that respect, but it doesn’t spoil the charms the film does have.
I don’t really know what else to say about Space Station 76. I watched it a while ago and settled on it being an odd but worthy experience. It’s stuck with me since, which is a feat considering how many films I watch that just slide off my brain without leaving any kind of lasting impression. I’m not sure I could recommend this to everyone, but if any of it sounds like it might appeal to you, get it. I walked away baffled but definitely entertained.
Genre:Comedy, Sci-fi Distributor:Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Rating:15 DVD Release Date: 6th October 2014 (UK)Director: Jack Plotnick Cast: Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler, Marisa Coughlan, Matt Bomer, Jerry O’Connell Buy: Space Station 76 [DVD]