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Space For Sale


Kingsley Pretorius, a South African dot-com-billionaire, genius, playboy, philanthropist is a man with a plan: to retire on Mars. When the thirty-year-old starts his own space program, he’s laughed at and dismissed as a pipe-dreamer. Kingsley believes he can make access to space cheaper, and is willing to take on that challenge against all odds. His lofty ideas put him in the cross-hairs of massive corporations that are hell-bent on protecting their turf as well as rival eccentric billionaire…

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The Martian | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX(r/movies)

As a writer, I’ve been trying to tackle this problem for several years.

Space Movies always fall into one of the following:

  1. Everything breaks, but the main character(s) miraculously survive.

  2. Aliens/Monsters attack. Moon monsters, Mars monsters, whatever.

  3. Supernatural: you meet god or esoteric aliens who created us (and are kinda god), or you discover some supernatural thing like worm-holes or aliens that look like your dad or a bookshelf.

The space Monster movies are the worst. Often devolve into nothing more than cheap horror with glass bowls on their heads.

Then you get a lot of “everything breaks” movies, which can be good, but if you aren’t making Apollo 13 based on a real story, then you are making up a fictional ship, breaking parts of it, then having the other parts be able to miraculously pick up the slack. It’s a bit like making a character a wizard and having them pull a rabbit out of their ass.

The Supernatural/Meeting God movies are probably the best of the three, but it’s difficult to pull off without sounding like a high 19 year old’s shower-thoughts on the universe (Prometheus, Mission to Mars).

So a lot of movies actually try to hit all three of these tropes. Mission to Mars has all three with that shitty “oh so we came from Martians” ending.

Interstellar is a good example of subverting the tropes. They actually hit all of them, but each one in a unique way (spaceship earth is breaking, there’s a monster…but not what you think, then something supernatural). But Interstellar has some other issues.

So the question is how do you make a space movie without falling into these overused tropes? Like you said, well, we could just tell a story with space as a backdrop, but that doesn’t really feel like an answer.

Apollo 14: Everything Goes as Planned – doesn’t quite seem like a movie (though I would watch the shit out of it).

I think the answer is to find a story that’s character driven, that gets at the heart of why we explore, finds tension and drama in things other than explosions and monsters, and doesn’t resort to sophomoric philosophy.

I’m actually working on a trilogy of novels about eccentric billionaires building their own space programs. Book 1 and 2 are out, and Book 1 is currently free on kindle.

In the books, things do go wrong in space, but not like Gravity’s over-the-top angle, and so when they fix things, it’s always based in reality and not a magic wand. And I also try to find humor and absurdity in what is ostensibly a completely realistic story. It’s one thing to make up an unrealistic story, it’s another to come up with a crazy series of events that could really believably happen.

But as a screenwriter, I don’t think my trilogy here is all that relateable to the big screen. It’s a lot of smaller events, not a single big event. And a lot of small events can add up to a story in a novel, but it’s much harder to do in a movie and this trailer illustrates why.

So the question remains: what’s a big event in space that is movie-worthy, that’s not shitty philosophy, doesn’t involve blowing up the ship and spending the whole time trying to get home, and doesn’t involve alien monsters?

Just a mission to mars isn’t enough because Red Planet, Mission to Mars, and The Martian, all involve basically everything going wrong.

How about a movie about the first Mission to Mars where NASA sends three married couples on the mission, but it quickly devolves into a man vs. woman Lord of the Flies kind of situation. I call it Venus vs. Mars.

I’m working on a screenplay, but I won’t go into much detail. I’m hoping to make something realistic, dramatic, cinematic, great visuals, funny, that doesn’t resort to sophomoric philosophizing or space monsters or “everything is breaking” syndrome.

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Jeff Pollard

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Space For Sale

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20th Century FOX, Official Trailer [HD], The Martian

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