What Netflix has billed as George Clooney’s greatest achievement underperforms expectations of those that loved Lily Brooks-Dalton’s Good Morning, Midnight.
Earlier this month, I reviewed the novel Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. I reviewed the novel enthusiastically, as it is an excellent read. The screenplay adapted from the novel was changed enough from the original plot details that the movie was its own animal. Some details were obviously added to make the movie seem more futuristic; others were added to succinctly tie the ending together. In the book review I lamented that the book had ended too soon – I wanted to see the story continue. The added details did accomplish this – the ending of this film was really the beginning of a new civilization on a habitable moon orbiting Jupiter. The special effects were remarkable, and the movie is worth a watch if for no other reason than to see the beautiful sky as imagined from Jupiter’s moons.
Where the film lagged were the long scenes of Clooney trekking across the North Pole to find a larger antenna with which to notify the astronauts coming home from Jupiter’s habitable moon that the Earth is not fit for them to return. For some reason these scenes in the book were suspenseful and enthralling, during this part of the movie I just wanted the film to GET ON WITH IT, ALREADY. Maybe that’s more of a viewer flaw than a movie flaw. I’ve never been a fan of movie scenes that are obscured by darkness or fog and the viewer has to really strain to see what is going on, however, trekking across the north pole during a rapid snowstorm with fog and white frost flying through the sky for several minutes is going to be difficult for the characters to navigate, and perhaps the best cinematic strategy to demonstrate this is to obscure the screen for several minutes with nothing but whiteness and shadow. In this case even had it been easily visually interpreted it would have resembled the scenes that never seemed to end in Lawrence of Arabia, what seemed like hours of camels slowly plodding across the desert, never getting to the end of the God forsaken movie.
I am attempting to give an honest review and analysis without giving away any of the ending, other than to tell you that it is a beginning, not an ending, that ends this film. Augustine – Clooney’s character – is an aging space pioneer who has chosen to die at the North Pole. In the movie he has a terminal illness and needs regular dialysis, as opposed to the novel where he is vaguely dying of old age or some such non-specific ailment. He does eventually reach the elusive electronic equipment hiding deep in the winter wonderland that is the north pole of the Earth, and he completes his mission of communicating with the spaceship Aether. The film took what was an incredible plot concept and mostly converted it to cinema well. As is the case in most book-to-movie conversions, the movie is worth the watch, but if you have to choose between one or the other, choose the book.