Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson made their first trip to space. Meanwhile, Elon Musk is interested in making the trip off Earth a private experience. Tom Cruise to go to the International Space Station to shoot his next movie. It seems that the last frontier has quickly become the subject of a curious debate about the future. Who owns the space? Who is destined for such a journey? Who will be able to enjoy a journey close to science fiction?
The cinema has frequently speculated on private companies conquering space travel. And he has always done it from a slightly pessimistic tone that, however, has something dark about it.
In 1979, Alien by Ridley Scott It showed the USCSS Nostromo crew on a private space flight. The idea, which was not revolutionary, did have a disturbing ingredient. The possibility that a large corporation could have control of the space.
In fact, Alien raises a seemingly subtle issue: what happens when private, seemingly questionable interests have the opportunity to explore the riches of space? In fact, throughout the saga Weyland Industries has been the villain in the backroom of space exploration.
For 1985, the sci-fi classic Contact Carl Sagan’s narrated the first contact with alien life. But beyond the central story, there was a precise question behind the book. Part of the novel described a world in which traveling to outer space was a private company thing. Sagan even imagines that in the end the great first contact is achieved thanks to an eccentric businessman, curiously similar to Jeff Bezos.
In the film adaptation of the film released in 2017, Robert Zemeckis also raises the issue, although not directly. But when the US government sees the first attempt to launch the spacecraft sabotaged, it is a corporation that takes the reins.
Both movie and book ask the same question. How much power does the fact of traveling to space by their own means confer on the so-called “great lonely geniuses”? Will there be a future in which exploration of the cosmos is not run by any government but is the most profitable business of all?
Travel to space, the last frontier … if you have the means to pay for it
In 2016, director Morten Tyldum showed in Passengers a galactic migration based on private interests. Although the film was more interested in romance than ethical issues, the subject matter is important.
It is a colonization sponsored by a company that also hopes that space travel pays dividends. Of course, the argument ends up being an adventure that runs along other lines, but the big question is there. Can space be part of interests that do not respond to something bigger? Could one man control the new frontier?
There are nods to such a haunting premise in the curious television hit The Expanse. The series was renewed by Amazon, Bezos’s company, which rescued it from an early cancellation. But beyond almost trivial coincidences there is something more concrete. The show looks at how to rule deep space, its riches and what happens outside the terrestrial sphere. How many all the political and social vices of the earth jump to a higher level, the question is once again only one: who owns the need and responsibility to explore space?
There is some of that in the movie too High Life (2018) by Claire Denis, in which even the system goes further. The possibility of human life ties in with something more elaborate related to space exploration. Between the two, the film reflects on the pains of human errors and how to amend them.
In the film Pandorum (2009) by Christian Alvart, the question is even more mysterious and sinister. Because this human ark prepared to colonize another planet also analyzes the dilemma of who has the right to control life. Or in any case, control the way it spreads through the cosmos. The film is unsettling, strange and despite the fact that the script focuses on the attack of extraterrestrial creatures, the political relevance is there.
The classic point of who should explore spaceo and the risk that could be run is analyzed in Aniara (2018) by Hugo Lilja and Pella Kågerman. The film is a very strange version of a disturbing future that narrates the fear of the unknown that metaphorizes space.
But one of the highlights is undoubtedly the great question of the last frontier as human exploration. Where are big companies headed? What drives you to need to explore, and also make profitable use of the profits? A disturbing question that is repeated throughout the film.
A little robot with a big dilemma
But it is Wall -E by Pixar in all her seeming innocence the one that poses the broadest dilemma. It does so from the very act of narrating the destruction of the earth by a mega corporation to the private space travel.
After exhausting the planet’s resources, the survivors travel to space in AXIOM, a luxury ship. They also do it in the middle of a strange environment that makes them hostages of atrophied muscles. The idea of turning space into a place of pleasure while leaving earth is painful. But it can also seem slightly terrifying when analyzed in conjunction with all its references.
In fact, in 2008 director Andrew Stanton said that the central company in the movie Buy-n-Large was inspired by Amazon. The idea also seems to encompass the perception that Jeff Bezos could embody human beings’ eternal ambition to control the riches of space. Even more than once Bezos has insisted on the fact that humanity should “prepare to escape from earth.”. He has also insisted that he wishes to build colonies in Earth’s orbit.
Wall – E shows us a future in which the last inhabitants of the earth flee from the hands of a corporation. An idea that seems more real than ever, now that Bezos makes real attempts to test his idea personally. Whatever happens in the future, one thing is certain: the cinema has already announced it. And the prospect is not at all flattering and even optimistic.