[W]hen I saw this film, I honestly thought it had found that long-sought point of maximum overlap for all audiences, Leftwing and Rightwing, Science Fictioneers and Muggles, Faithful and Infidel, carefully crafted to put across its message of hopeless hope and the brightness of love in the darkest of worlds in a way that everyone would like.
I was a little surprised, but perhaps I should not have been, when Leftists hated it, though. They are simply much crazier than in my youth when they still had the Soviet Union to lust after. Now they have nothing aside from accusing the innocent to warm their cold and empty souls. While they talk about hope and change, and say they like films with messages, actually they don’t. So a message of faith and hope and love will of course provoke their ire. Gollum cannot eat the Elfish waybread.
When Science Fiction people started criticizing it, that shocked and confounded me, and the little numbered badge at my robotic neck began blinking, requesting help from Norman.
I could not fathom how anyone could find fault in a film that had taken far, far, far more painstaking trouble to get the smallest of astronomical details right, and complain about the science.
One critic complained about the size of the wings on the drone seen in the opening scene as being too small to hold enough solar cells. But the film never establishes anything about the propulsion or composition of the craft, nor how many years in the future this is, nor what technologies have been developed. The film simply does not say.
Another critic complained that the spectrum shift of dark lines seen through a spectroscope of the accretion disk surrounding rapidly rotating supermassive black hole should have created a visible brightening on one side of the accretion disk — even though such Doppler shifts are invisible to the human eye, and even though the film gives no figures of mass nor rates of spin nor temperature or anything else could be determined. The film simply does not say.
I did my homework on such things for one of my previous books, but even among science fiction writers, knowing the esoterica of Doppler shift and black hole spin rates and so on is rare, and no science fiction writer in his right mind expects the reader to know. Nonetheless, the what the film did say or show, the film got it right, and the critics got it wrong.
Such criticisms are not like complaining about the lack of altitude jets on Larry Nivens’ RINGWORLD, a story where there is teleportation, unobtainium materials stronger than possible, faster than light drive, and successful breeding for magical luck. There, Niven actually made an oversight in his world building which he corrected in a later sequel. It is like complaining about the lack of a counterweight asteroid on the beanstalk in Kim Stanley Robinson’s MARS Trilogy, when the author took the trouble to put the counterweight in!
This kind of thing is inanely trivial. If the wing size of a futuristic drone or the lack of a visible special effect for a phenomenon that, in real life, cannot be detected without an instrument anyway, or other trifling minutiae inconsequential to the plot jars you out of the film and ruins your ability to enjoy it, then there is no science fiction story, much less any science fiction film, nothing in the genre which can ever satisfy you.
There are more sound complaints: why does the earth liftoff require a multistage rocket, but liftoff from a world with 30 percent higher gravity not? How can a rocket make a transit to Saturn in merely two years? Again, the film does not say, but anyone with a highschool smattering of astronomy could answer the questions: the Earth liftoff is to get to escape velocity, which is a higher velocity than the orbital, or even suborbital velocity needed to rendezvous with a ship in orbit. The two year figure for Saturn is very low if a ship is matching the speed of Saturn, because a ship would accelerate, turn, and decelerate; but not if she is passing through a point in space near Saturn at a high speed, in which case the ship might as well accelerate the whole way.
The theological complaint is even less comprehensible to me. My brothers in Christ, if you cannot see that this film about faith, hope and love does far more to spread and confirm our worldview than infinite numbers of movies like LEFT BEHIND or FIREPROOF, you don’t know the power of story telling.
For nearly a hundred years the Left has used the power of story telling to propagate lies, but the stories are so well crafted, that they become part of the unspoken shared assumptions of the culture. How many people believe that institutional racism exist in America? How many people believe JFK was shot by a rightwing conspiracy rather than by a Commie? How many people believe sex outside wedlock is normal, expected, natural, wholesome, but premarital virginity is shameful?
If this is the way the Science Fiction readers or the Christian community, or just people who like good and complex stories that do not recite the trite messages of whining or sentimental pudding-headed Leftist bromides are received, we cannot expect film makers to go to the trouble to tale about the future in the future.
A little more gratitude and a little less criticism would seem to be in order.