Netflix’s ‘The Midnight Sky’ Movie Review
Don't worry, it's spoiler free!
After the release of some incredible sci-fi films in the past 5 years, The Midnight Sky had a lot of huge shoes to fill. And it clearly looked like George Clooney was trying to form a blend of all of them. The film had a pinch of Interstellar, Children of Men, Ad Astra, Gravity, and many other important sci-fi movies in the last decade. But, it still felt like The Midnight Sky fell short of everyone’s expectations. The movie had the ingredients to be a critical success, but just felt hollow and forced. And here’s why we think that.
Now, just to be clear, I am a sucker for sci-fi space thrillers. I am an unapologetic shill, which is why when I say The Midnight Sky felt empty, you know it comes from a place of disappointment, and not hate. The CGI, the plot, the cinematography, and the sound effects were all fantastic. But you just couldn’t bring yourself to care about anyone in the core of the film – the characters. And that is a department where George Clooney’s direction failed quite spectacularly.
The Midnight Sky review – underwhelming
In this movie, Clooney plays the role of a scientist named Augustine Lofthouse. He decides to stay behind on Earth in the year 2049, as the people on his station close to the Arctic circle evacuate to greener pastures, beyond planet Earth. This is because, for some unknown reasons (probably radioactive or climate-related), the Earth is quickly becoming uninhabitable with only the polls left as the final place of refuge. Lofthouse chose to stay back, however, because he was terminally ill with some disease that required regular blood transfusion too.
However, Augustine discovers that there is a ship named Aether that is returning to Earth from a mission on one of Jupiter’s moons. He quickly tries to warn them to not come back and stay where they were for the future of the Human race. But, the problem is that his signals are not strong enough to convey that message to Aether. So, he makes it his life’s final mission to travel to another station and tell Aether to turn back. However, there’s another problem that there’s a mute girl named Iris (Caoilinn Springall) left behind with her during the evacuation.
And so, The Midnight Sky shifts from Lofthouse and Iris’s adventures on Earth and Aether’s adventures in space. Inside the shuttle, we have Sully Rembshire (Felicity Jones), her partner Tom (David Oyelowo), Maya (Tiffany Boone), Sanchez (Demian Bichir), and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), charting through space back to their home on Earth, without knowing the planet’s doomed fate.
This premise should have made for a great film. It had the makings for it. But, it’s the characters where The Midnight Sky loses the interest of its audience.
The characters are the main weakness
The key to good characters is how relatable they are to the audience. It doesn’t matter if your protagonist has to save the Earth from a Titan. If at the core of his conflict, you see a relatable human emotion or scenario, you will begin to feel favorable for the character. That is where The Midnight Sky failed miserably. The audience never cared about any character onboard Aether, and the best way to describe them is “bland”. We got some meaningless flashbacks, but they served no emotional purpose. At no point in the film did I ever feel any sympathy for the astronauts on Aether. And considering they occupy almost half the run-time of the film, it makes for a very uninterested audience.
That said, the characterization of those stuck on Earth was slightly better. You saw some sort of a meaningful relationship between Lofthouse and Iris. It did feel like a grandfather taking care of his only granddaughter. However, it felt a lot like wasted potential rather than something meaningful. Lofthouse’s flashbacks just felt meaningless and gave the audience no emotional reason as to why we should root more for him. And that made the plot twist in the end very emotionally hollow.
Apart from that, there were some inconsistencies in The Midnight Sky’s action sequences too. Most of the music and CGI was absolutely on point, but some things just didn’t make any sense. For instance, sinking in a frozen lake in the Arctic circle should have definitely killed Lofthouse with Hypothermia. Apart from that, the action sequences also couldn’t build the same kind of tension that you’d expect from such a film. And that was partly because we had to frequently shift to the frustrating characters onboard the Aether.
The best way to describe The Midnight Sky is “wasted potential”. The movie had the budget, the plot, the graphics, the sound, and the actors to be an all-time classic on Netflix. But, it failed to deliver on the one aspect of a movie that often supersedes all others – characters. George Clooney couldn’t direct those characters into becoming more relatable to the audience, which made for many long sequences of the film being ineffective and boring. And so, I’d personally give The Midnight Sky a 5/10. And this one especially hurts when you think about what the movie could have been. That’s why the critics have been so harsh on it, as it has a 5.6 on IMDB, 51% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 1.5/5 on Rolling Stone.