Starring: Sterling K Brown, Mark Duplass
Runtime: 106 mins. Reviewed in Sep 2023
Reviewer: Fr Peter Malone msc
After world destruction, two Americans survive in a special pod, challenged about their future.
After watching Biosphere, audiences will have all kinds of conversations. While reviews can be guides as to whether to see a film or not, many reviews are better read after the audience has seen the film. So, a suggestion that it might be best to see the film as it is rather than through the reviewer’s interpretation. That said, here are some reviewer reflections.
Richard Matheson wrote an apocalyptic story, The Last Man on Earth. Biosphere raises the question of The Last Two Men on Earth.
This is a science-fiction film. And all sci-fi films offer a variety of hypotheticals, scientific possibilities (and impossibilities), scenarios that range from the creation of life to space exploration. And, as with this one, they can be combined with apocalyptic possibilities. But, already these comments make Biosphere seem more seriously-toned than it is – though, ultimately, it raises all kinds of serious and deep questions. However, there is a comic and light tone throughout the film as we are introduced to a former US President (obviously not one of the great statesmen) and his science adviser who, in view of world destruction, have built a very comfortable pod for their survival. They have been friends since childhood, though he Republican and the scientist Democrat. They share memories from their past, and banter through their survival – jogging, computer games, watching Lethal Weapon, experts on Super Mario . . .
So, while it has been apocalyptic, and there is a menacing greenlight outside the pod, this begins is a cheerful story about friendship. Ray, the African-American scientist (Brown) is intelligent, a reader, inquiring, contrasting with Billy (Duplass), the rather affable layabout ex-president.
We are made alert to the film’s possible arc because Billy starts to read Kiss of the Spider Woman, and does not understand the gender issues the novel raises.
The screenplay moves to issues of evolution, the death of the male fish that they have been keeping, Sam, to mate with Diana, to keep them supplied with food. Diana dies. And the discovery of what can happen in this evolutionary situation for survival, Sam transforms to female. And, our immediate initial wondering: can this be true for humans and the prolonging of the human race. In fact, it does not take too long before this theme moves into action, Billy transforming, Ray puzzled, challenges for the scientist to investigate. Which, of course, then leads to the issue of reproduction, pregnancy.
And the screenplay does take us all the way, challenging our ordinary stances, making us wonder about evolution and the future, and always the underlying contemporary questions about gender identity, gender relationships, love, the erotic, friendship . . .
The film takes place on the one set, rather claustrophobic in its way. It is very much a dialogue-oriented screenplay, with literature and media references, and an extensive vocabulary. It offers an interesting, provocative, emotional and intelligent challenge.
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