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Review: Netflix’s ‘Spaceman’ Is A Hearted Attempt On Isolation

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Spaceman, starring Adam Sandler, has touched down this past weekend on Netflix, a surreal film adaptation of a novel by Jaroslav Kalfar. Luna has already done an excellent job reviewing Spaceman of Bohemia. As suspected, the movie follows the events closely to those of that book, so if you’re familiar with the story, you’ve got a handy understanding of the plot.

[Warning: Full spoilers for Spaceman below!]

Netlfix’s Spaceman tackles hard subjects

Are we, as offspring of our parents, meant to carry the burdens of our parents? It’s primarily the focus for Adam Sandler’s character Jakub Procházka, as he’s entrenched in a six-month journey to investigate Chopra. Chopra is a collection of purple particles close to Jupiter’s planet; it’s a race against the South Koreans to reach and understand Chopra first. 

In extreme isolation, Jakub has all the time and space to ponder his shortcomings in his relationship with Lenka, played by Carey Mulligan (Saltburn), who’s grown distant. Between this failure and Jakub’s disappointment in his father’s misdeeds, it all comes to a head where he must carry on with his mission, even with all this emotional weight. 

At first, we believe that Lenka has become distant simply because Jakub ran into space while she was pregnant with his child. Jakub repeatedly requests mission control to patch him through to Lenka, unaware she’s made a video saying she desires to leave him. Knowing how run-down Jakub’s mental health stands, Commissioner Tuma (Isabella Rossellini) decides not to pass the message along.

Adam Sandler as Jakub in Spaceman
Adam Sandler as Jakub in Spaceman. (Netflix)

Most of Jakub’s initial interactions are with the technician Peter (Kunal Nayyar). Peter wants Jakub to stay on task, aware that Jakub is nearing the finish line and the South Koreans are fast approaching. 

Hard truths come to light for Adam Sandler’s Jakub

Now that we’ve had chances to explore Jakub’s past in the first half of Spaceman, we move on to the present while calling back to everything before it. Some days pass, and Jakub finds a giant spider within his spaceship. No, it didn’t crawl onto the ship from Earth before launch. It’s an alien without a name, and Jakub labels the spider “Hanus.” Voiced by one of my favorite actors, Paul Dano (The Batman), Hanus approached Jakub to understand the human race a little more. 

Here is where we dive into Jakub’s psyche and start to compile the entire picture of his life. Shown through flashbacks from points of view unknown to Jakub, we see why Lenka left him. It’s not entirely an unreliable narrator type of situation; it’s more a lack of focus on Jakub’s end. He wasn’t with her when she miscarried the first child and decided to go to space when she was pregnant with the second. 

Hoping to get more insight into the human experience, Hanus pushes memories of Jakub’s father’s involvement with the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. As Hanus probes further into Jakub’s failings, his disillusionment is transferred to the audience when you realize that he only acts in self-interest. This causes Hanus to abandon Jakub, furthering his mental split. 

Spaceman Paul Dano Hanus
Hanus (voiced by Paul Dano) in Spaceman. (Netflix) 

CGI of Paul Dano’s character Hanus a success for the film

Since most of the time is spent inside the ship heading towards Chopra, its carefully authentic interior was a delight. Scenes on Earth mirror his memories, with gray tones that captured the hopelessness within Jakub. The Chopra, partially representing hope, had a stormy purple effect that failed to hook me into believing what it stood for. Even when, in the end, Jakub enters the Chopra, it refuses to bear much excitement to explore this mysterious substance finally. 

The spaceship’s exterior was a visual disappointment, as it seemed more like blotches of concept art rather than a sophisticated piece of machinery. So many visual sequences have the opportunity to make Spaceman stand out; it’s simply the story behind it that lacks the refinement to deliver.

Paul Dano’s Hanus is a CGI success; sometimes, we see things through his eyes, which adds layers to the storytelling. The fish-eye effect, from Hanus’ perspective, was creative but did not offer much to the film. 

The development of characters in Spaceman, or lack of

I’m slightly frustrated with the fascination of Lenka from Jakub’s mindset. At this point, he’s failed her and lacks the consciousness to determine why he hasn’t heard back from her. This is easily the most vital point of the film; it’s just Lenka herself that I have issues with. She’s just there for the most part, and every time we went back to Earth to see her, I instantly felt bored. It wasn’t simply the character, but Mulligan’s turn seemed partly phoned in. 

Adam Sandler, on the other hand, continues to impress me with his non-comedic aspirations. While this will not win any Oscars, it’s been a hell of a career to follow from the days of Billy Madison. Isolation is difficult to capture and transform into such a powerful moment, but Sandler takes this opportunity to heart, and puts in the work.

Paul Dano, as Hanus was exemplary casting, with his voice work still drifting into my head. His whispered exchanges with Sandler should be commended alongside what he accomplished in There Will Be Blood and The Batman.

Book Review: Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar review banner

Should you watch Netflix’s Spaceman?

Spaceman is not for everyone; it’s a thought-provoking piece of humanity. It’s ninety-nine percent dialogue and no action. It gives me fond memories of Scavengers Reign about human relationships and their intricacies. I applaud Sandler for going out on a limb to explore an intimate story with a sci-fi setting.

While I did not read the novel, the changes to the story are welcome. The ending inspires hope as he finally reaches the Chopra cloud and gains the introspection that Hanus tried to impress upon him more than once. 

I can’t say that I enjoyed the film. The slow pace and quiet sets made it easy for me to lose focus, having to rewind more than a few times. The spider will freak most people out and without knowing the source material, it’ll confuse those who stumble upon it on the Netflix catalog. Still, I have a tenderness for anything set in space, doubly so if it can focus on self-exploration alongside the cosmic journey.

Spaceman is now streaming on Netflix! Did you read the book? Will you check out the movie? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or join the discussions over at The Cosmic Circus Discord server. 

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Anthony Flagg

Howdy! I cover a variety of topics for The Cosmic Circus. My favorite topics to write about are video games, Pokemon and music. Drop me a line on Twitter! @redovah_

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