Space travel is boring.
There. We said it. Not that it is a real surprise: after all, those live TV broadcasts of space missions, where every trivial action required a complicated exchange with Mission Control, were already ripe for parody in 1979 when John Lurie threw together his No Wave film, Men in Orbit.
But the problem is that boredom is inherently uncinematic. Sure, there have been a few SF classics, like Dark Star and Alien which have made it interesting, but then, when you think of it, both of those had Dan O’Bannon working on the script.
Which wasn’t the case with Space Trucker Bruce.
This is one of those movies that I’m almost embarrassed that I don’t like more. I really want to like it more than I do: I can see all the love that went into this goofy little space comedy. While some people have complained that all the sets are made with cardboard and packing tape, what they miss is how well designed and built they are – particularly the ship’s cockpit. They’re some of the best cardboard sets I’ve ever seen and if you pay attention to the film, you hardly notice how cheap they are. Mostly. Well, some of the time.
I’ll confess I expected something like Stuart Gordon‘s Space Truckers, although this is quite a different film – even if I do suspect that Anton Doiron, who wrote and directed, probably saw it at some point. We have the laid back Space Trucker, Bruce (Karl Sears) who stops to rescue a stranded traveler, Max (Anton Doiron). He’s a proponent of Zen Trucking, which means that he tries to live in the moment, and spends months alone in his ship rather than enter hypersleep. He’s also going a little crazy.
After all, the ship’s robot is just a garbage can (or is it?) and then there’s Mr. Sour Cream, an expired tub of Sour Cream which he thinks has come alive and which whispers terrible things about killing people – in between inane comments about cocoa beans.
But then Max hears him, too. Must just be a shared hallucination, right?
Or is it?
Much of the film is spent with the two just hanging out in the tiny but cluttered ship, making craft projects with Popsicle sticks or reading whatever odd books are lying about in the debris. And even when a series of strange events sends them on a salvage mission aboard a lost ship, the mysteries all get explained in the most mundane way imaginable. Or ignored.
All in all, it is an amiable little film, which tries for a certain laid back humor and frequently succeeds. I have to wonder how well its quirky little ironies – particularly its tendency to deliberately flatten out the big events and make them dull – will play out with viewers who don’t manage to find this odd little film’s vibe.
I’m not sure I’d exactly recommend it – but I am also looking forward to Anton’s next film, already in production, Girl, Yeti, and a Spaceship.
After all, there’s a lot of skill and talent on display in Space Trucker Bruce – and more experience will surely develop them further.
It will be interesting to see what he does next.
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