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400 Days

Caity Lotz New Artists Alliance

<em>400 Days</em>
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The new film 400 Days, about four astronauts in a space travel experiment, is the Kung Fu Panda of recent science fiction films. Just as Kung Fu Panda seemed to be a “what would the kids like” concept in search of a plot, so 400 Days delivers what sci-fi geeks might want during two hours they wish to waste. The difference is that Kung Fu Panda is somehow entertaining and 400 Days is not.

The plot of the film, which contains some PG-13 language and frightening scenes, centers on a crew given the job of spending 400 days in a space ship simulation. A godlike executive, Walter (Grant Bowler), is testing them to see if they are fit for space travel. Is this mission real? What has happened to Earth while they are gone? Why must they lose all communication with Earth? If monks can survive for decades alone, why does the crew go mad so quickly?

The X-Files (1993-2002) was brilliant television, and 400 Days takes a cue from the series’ cinematography and music. But The X-Files moved from the “real world” to the dark, flashlight-illuminated scenes, whereas this film moves from a cheap, brightly lit ship to a dark “planet” without ever creating a real world. The sets are unconvincing, and the film is visually ugly from beginning to end.

If you are going to put characters at risk, you need to create characters we care about. Combined with bad acting, the story fails to create any sense of attachment between viewer and characters. Grant Bowler reminds us how hard playing a lovable schlub actually is. (Bowler gets the schlub without the lovable.)

There are zombies, sort of, but they are not scary. The best science fiction, such as The Martian, takes us places we cannot yet go or presents us with plausible futures (Star Trek). But 400 Days is sci-fi from the generation that has forgotten Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury.

John Mark Reynolds John Mark is a former WORLD contributor.


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