Oh dear, what a particularly awful film. I suppose this seemed like a smart SF movie to people who produce Freddie Kruger. But I’m here to look at the science. Spoilers ahead!
OK, the basic idea is realistic and used. Even the idea of an adaptive sun shield—where the elements angle to optimally deflect the light and radiation—is even plausible. But what’s with the frikking wall of fire effect when the shield angles back into the light?
Also, when Cpt. Kaneda is outside and the shield angles back, I don’t recall him being attached to the ship. I.e., he was floating there. And since the shield is spherical I expect he could just float there, still in the shadow of the shield. As the ship rotated back into position, the shield would move under him, but he’d still be in the shadow. It depends on the axis of rotation really.
2. Sun’s Heat
There’s a recurring theme that when the sun directly shines on the ship, it explodes and bursts into flame. Radiant light would make metal melt, but why would metal explode in a shower of sparks? Specifically, I’m thinking of the communication towers that leave and re-enter the shadow of the sun shield for, oh, about 5 seconds. I guess they make metal alloys with some sort of explosive oxidizer and magnesium.
3. Fires on space ships
Fires on space ships have been a concern for a very long time. If they are sending a space ship to the sun, why didn’t they have more effective fire supression systems? Just to even handle ordinary fire situations. It just seemed to me that if you’re going to have a flammable room, like the oxygen room, you’d maybe have planned and designed it to be sealable and let it burn itself out, or at least void the room to space rapidly.
4. What the @$! is up with that ending?
What was that at the end? Somehow the surface of the sun and the magic nuclear reaction behind him managed to stay in perfect balance for almost a minute and he could touch the surface of the sun and thus conquer his fear. What the fuh…?
5. Gravity returns when the airlock is pressurized.
A reader had suggested this before, but now having seen the scene. I gotta ask: has humanity mastered artifical gravity by this time such that they can turn it on the moment an airlock is pressurized?
The Rest of the Movie
I’d like to focus entirely on the science, but this movie was pretty painful for me. The crew seemed like a bunch of college dorm dwellers thrown into a really bad camping trip. The crew seemed… unprofessional. And far less trained and together than you would have expected. They also make sure one, and only one, person can do any job on the ship. For a crew replicating a previous failed mission, I might think they’d want to have multiple redundancies.
And the worst part: I thought this was just an sci-fi thriller. No, it’s a slasher film. The director uses some stupid tricks (e.g., 1 to 2 frame still picture inserts to create a sense of foreboding) to goose the story, and the final bit with a psycho, 3rd degree burned astronaut from the first failed mission stalking the crew and slashing/stabbing them was just too much. Considering the writer and director gave us 28 Days Later, I really only have myself to blame.
Ugh! Thumbs down from me.
Update (13 Oct 2008):
6. Oxygen Garden
That oxygen garden may have been too small for the size of that crew:
“… let us just say that between 300 to 400 plants are needed to produce enough oxygen to keep a person alive in an hour”.