Sam Neill Update: Space Edition!

I didn’t plan it this way, but the last three Sam Neill movies I watched totally were all about space!!

The Dish (2000)

I was not really that excited about this movie from the description, but it turned out to be one of my new favorites!! I would unreservedly recommend it to pretty much anyone! It’s funny, sweet, and based on a true story!

Plus the cover reminds me of Black Sheep

The Movie: Back in 1969 when Apollo 11 was going to land on the moon, NASA decided to use a giant radio telescope in Australia to relay video and radio when the moon was on the that side of the world.

Image credit: Wikipedia

This thing

That’s at the Parkes Observatory, which is in the middle of a sheep farm. The movie follows the story of the men who work at the dish and the people in the town as they welcome NASA and US government officials, try to pretend like they know what they’re doing, and eventually save the day. Plus, Neil Armstrong walks on the moon! Since I wasn’t alive then, I’ve always pretty much taken that as a fact, something that happened in the past. But watching this movie really made me think about how freakin’ cool that is! Especially when you consider that it was 1969! At one point, there’s a power surge and Parkes loses the coordinates for the space craft. Rather than admit to NASA their mistake and risk losing face, they do some ridic chalkboard math, break out the slide rules, and start guessing until they find them again. Old school math for the win! There’s also some great moments when Parkes, desperate to impress the US ambassador, throws a gala and asks the teens in the local rock band to learn and play the US National Anthem. They proudly bust out the Hawaii 5-0 theme song, and no one but the US ambassador knows the difference. Later he graciously accepts their apologies with, “Sometimes I wish it was our national anthem.” Me too.

Sam Neill is tied for Best Scientist Outfit with the guy on the left

The Character: Sam Neill plays Cliff Buxton, the scientist in charge of the Parkes Observatory! He always dresses like he’s Mr. Rogers’ long lost brother and leads his ragtag team with a quiet dignity. He’s a little sad because of his dead wife, but still finds time to help Science Intern (green sweater) work up the courage to ask out Plucky Australian Love Interest, and keep the peace between Hot Head Australian Engineer/Scientist (shorts) and humorless NASA representative (suit). Plus he wants science to take this chance to be daring! Go science!!!!

What I Learned: This is based on a true story so I learned a lot about the world’s largest radio telescope! Apparently the scientists did actually ride it when it moved, although sadly did not play cricket on it like in the movie.

Would I Watch Outside of this Project?: So much yes!!! I really think this movie was very well done, funny but still having substance, and would appeal to genuinely almost anyone! It made me really happy.

Hyperspace (2001 TV miniseries)
When I just knew the title, I thought this was maybe a sequel to Event Horizon! Unfortunately, Sam Neill doesn’t cut anyone’s eyes out.

Apparently it was originally called "Space", but adding Hyper- doesn't make it more exciting

The Movie: This is a documentary about space. The Big Bang. How asteroids might cause our extinction if we don’t get on the ball. Some other things I fell asleep during. Sam Neill tells about the wonders of our universe while either walking around scenic landscapes or standing in front of computer animations. Sometimes both at the same time. And, okay, I can see how the CGI would have maybe been way cool in 2001, but at this point I knew most of the science already and the graphics weren’t too impressive. Except for about twenty-three seconds where Sam Neill turns into a bad CGI talking skeleton and it is THE SCARIEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN.

Like somehow more terrifying than when he was the Anti-Christ and a psychotic murderer combined

The Character: I once heard a rumor (possibly on IMDB) that Sam Neill turned down the part of Elrond in Lord of the Rings because he was too busy with Jurassic Park III. This made me sad, not just because I like watching Sam Neill movies, but also because Sam Neill has such a great Pronouncement of Doom voice. Elrond pretty much can’t order coffee without making it sound like the fate of the world hangs in the balance–TREAD SOFTLY YON BARISTA–and Sam Neill showed me in this documentary that he really can be that fatalistic and melodramatic. Not every facet of space science has to spell doom for humanity, Sam, but I can see why the producers thought it would be better if you made it seem that way.

What I Learned: “Next time someone asks you where you’re from, tell them you were born in space, made in a distant star.” Thanks, Sam. I so will.

Would I Watch Again?: No. Sorry, 2001.

Under the Mountain (2009)
This one is only space-related if you squint.

It's more about fire aliens fighting slug aliens with the help of twins who share one brain between them

The Movie: Theo and Rachel are twins and idiots! Steven and I spent most of this movie debating which one was more stupid, and I think we eventually decided on the boy! When they move in with their aunt and uncle in a town with seven volcanoes, they investigate their creepy neighbors who seem to be watching them and then reach out to a crazy homeless man for help. Surprise! That homeless man is actually an ancient alien with fire-teleport powers who came here to fight another race of ancient alien with slug-being gross powers! The bad aliens are mostly imprisoned under the volcanoes, but they are trying to get out! Luckily, he built some kind of magical weapon to fight them but his twin died before they could use them to destroy the bad aliens! And it has to be twins for some reason so now Theo and Rachel are Earth’s only hope! All they have to do is get to the top of the mountain and unleash their magic, but, because they have the attention span of three-year-olds after an all-night pixie stick binge, this is nigh impossible.

Sam Neill should not have to put up with this

The Character: Sam Neill plays Mr. Jones, the ageless fire-alien/vagrant, so he always looks vaguely sketchy. They also try to make me hate him a little bit, by implying that he’s tried this in the past (with two hotter and less stupid twins), but when one of them died he left the remaining one to his fate because “I had to survive to find more twins!” The current twins think this is monstrous, despite being completely tactically sound. Angry and freaked out, Theo runs off on his own, forcing Sam Neill to use the last of his fire powers to catch up to him with Rachel. Powerless, he is pretty much instantly defeated by the waiting Evil Alien Slug Guy.

I thought maybe Theo had chosen to join Team Bad Alien, but no, he was just really dumb

Basically, these are the slowest, most easily defeated aliens ever–they don’t even have spaceships! They get around in an aging hearse! But through the combined lethargy and melodrama of the “heroes” it takes an annoying ninety whole minutes. Plus, Sam Neill needlessly gets his face tentacled off. Thanks, Theo. I hate you.

What I Learned: In New Zealand, you tell the police the truth no matter what! Sam Neill is in the middle of explaining the plot to the twins when the police show up because apparently someone thought it was weird that some sketchy homeless guy was spending so much time with two teenagers. But, when taken to the station, both the twins and Sam Neill proceed to try to tell the police everything. Theo starts trying to show them the magical weapons (which look like rocks) and Sam Neill keeps saying things like “If you don’t release me, they’ll both die!” and explaining that aliens want to kill them all. Obviously this does not lead to their immediate release, to the surprise of no one but the man who isn’t human and the teenagers who may in fact be asparagus.

Would I Watch Outside of this Project?: This movie is new(ish), so the special effects are pretty special! Also, before Sam Neill explained the plot to us, I was actually really intrigued and a little freaked out by the creepiness of the neighbors. After discovering that the plot was kind of insane and the main characters were never going to get what was so desperately coming to them, it was still fun to watch in a hating kind of way. So I would give it a solid maybe.

Next: Peter Jackson is a big fake, Snow White’s Dad!
Previously: Husband, Rich Dude, “The Scorpion”

One response to “Sam Neill Update: Space Edition!”

  1. […] NASA adventures! Some kind of New Zealand forest wizard scout leader! Previously: Mustache Sam, Bolshevik Doctor, Choppy […]

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