Thursday, June 14, 2018

Órbita 9/Orbiter 9 (2017)

WARNING:  I’m going to give away major plot twists.  If you’re not into spoilers, you might want to hold off on reading the review.

Not all movies have a happy future for Earth.  In Orbiter 9, Earth has deteriorated to the point where humanity has decided to colonize another planet.  Once an Earth-like planet is confirmed, we apparently pin our hopes on it, site unseen.  Helena is on a ship, ostensibly heading for that planet.  She’s the only human onboard.  Her parents had launched with her shortly after Helen’s birth, but they left the ship (presumably sacrificing themselves) to help preserve oxygen.  Her only other human contact for 20 years comes in the form of Álex, a technician sent to the ship to fix her ship.  (There was supposed to be enough oxygen to last the entire 40-year trip.)

By now, you should be asking at least one of the two questions I asked.  First, why would they put a woman on such a long journey when you would think that reproduction would be an issue?  If you’re going to colonize a planet, you’d want the people to have as many children as possible.  Yes, it’s possible for a woman to have a child after 40, but why not put her in stasis so that she might be able to maximize her child-bearing years?  Or, better yet, send several people on the same ship?  It seems rather expensive to build an entire ship for one family.

The second question is what Álex is doing that far out.  He’s at the half-way point, apparently.  It’s not mentioned if there’s a space station or if he’s alone.  This isn’t necessarily a plot hole so much as it’s a red herring.  It makes sense that you’d have something like that.  However, the lack of detail caught my attention.  Shouldn’t Helena want to walk around the station or other ship a little?  Álex doesn’t invite her over and Helena doesn’t seem to press the issue.

Well, it turns out that the entire thing is faked.  Yes, Helena is living on a replica of a ship called an orbiter.  (I’m not sure why it’s called an orbiter, as it’s not actually in orbit of anything, nor is it supposed to be.)  She’s the ninth of 10 such people.  The idea is to see how such a long trip might play out.  It’s not clear how many people are on the other ships, but I would imagine that each ship holds one person each.  We find out that Helena ad the others are actually clones.  Her parents were playing the parts for her benefit.

Álex breaks her out.  He even fools his employers for a little while.  This is where it gets complicated.  I mean that both in terms of Helena having a reaction to sunlight and her getting pregnant.  It turns out that those running the experiment think that they have no more use for Helena.  Since the seal has been broken, so to speak, any future results would be tainted.  It isn’t until they find out that she’s pregnant that Helena and Álex have a bargaining chip.

Helena is allowed to reenter her ship.  We see a teenager leave the ship in the final scene with an unseen figure behind her.  Since the first actual ships were to be launched 15 years after the main events of the movie and the girl appears to be about 15, we’re to take the sound  of launching ships to be a sign that the experiments were successful.  What is to become of humanity remains a mystery.

Here’s the thing.  The movie seems like it was a repurposed TV pilot.  We get just enough of a plot to string together some twists and maybe a chase scene or two.  I kept expecting some greater reveal, like this is only a small part of a larger series of tests.  No mention is made of scaling up.  We know that other countries want to go to this new planet, but we don’t know really what they’re doing to prepare for this.

There’s also the issue of using a person as an experiment.  Helena did not give her consent to be part of the project.  She was created as a guinea pig specifically for this experiment.  There are maybe two or three lines of dialogue that call this into question.  This is another aspect that might have been explored on some sort of extended format.  Does the government have a right to do something like this to a clone?  Would it make a difference if it were, say, an orphaned or abandoned child?

There is a similarity to a miniseries called Ascension.  It had the same basic premise except that we had one ship that actually was a generational ship.  It had a similar plot twist towards the end in that the ship was revealed to be an experiment.  If I were charged with seeing how to get people to a new planet, it would look something like what Ascension did.  That show used the basic premise better.

With Orbiter 9, we also don’t get much into the politics.  Álex does take Helena to a doctor.  He also talks to some friends at a bar, mostly to give some context to the story.  We find out that a lesbian couple wouldn’t be considered as colonists because lesbians tend not to have children.  This would reinforce my concern of having only one person per ship.   Yes, I know.  It was supposed to be a test.  Wouldn‘t it be better to test groups on a ship?  For that matter, why eject the parents?  I mean, really?  What’s the point of having one person on a ship like that?  Can somebody please explain this to me?

I think there were much better movies that were done similarly.  In looking for answers, I saw comparisons to other movies like Moon.  Orbiter 9 seemed a little too bland for me.  I think the concept has potential.  So much more could have been done here.

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