George Clooney's The Midnight Sky is a meditation on climate change, but it leaves far more questions than answers in its timely wake.
Netflix's The Midnight Sky, which tackles the impending results of climate change in the near future, leaves plenty of unanswered questions by the end of the movie. Though the film is an innovative take on the sci-fi genre, the movie closes on an ambiguous note, with remaining astronauts Sully and Commander Adewole making their way back to the hospitable Jupiter moon K-23.
However, leaving the film this open-ended was actually intentional, in spite of how many plot points go blatantly unaddressed. In an interview with NPR, director George Clooney revealed his intent in creating the The Midnight Sky, which reads more as a meditation rather than an action-packed, CGI-infused spectacle. On the film, Clooney states, "I was in post-production and started to realize that...what the film is and what the story is, is our desperate need to be home or to be with the people we love and to be in contact with them." Perhaps that's why a thread of loneliness and uncertainty permeate the movie throughout the nearly two hour-long odyssey.
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The Midnight Sky follows the story of Dr. Augustine Lofthouse (played by Clooney) as he attempts to make contact with the spaceship Aether - the last active space mission - and prevent them from landing on Earth, which has been ravaged by a mysterious apocalypse. Simultaneously, Sully (Felicity Jones) and Adewole (David Oyelowo) must navigate the politics of managing a crew as some members desperately want to return home and see their loved ones, in spite of Dr. Lofthouse's better warning. Though The Midnight Sky ends with Sully and Adewole eventually embarking on a journey back to the closest viable body in the solar system, K-23, it's hardly a neat resolution every single storyline.
Is The Earth Permanently Inhospitable?
Though the Earth is seized by a cataclysmic event throughout The Midnight Sky, the ultimate fate of the blue planet is never revealed. George Clooney's meditation on climate change might be one of the most pensive Netflix movies focusing on the Earth's grim future, but it hardly offers any answers to how that future might pan out. All the audience knows is that the Earth is not doing well, and that it's time for humanity to either evacuate or go underground.
As far as what happens to those who make the journey underground, that's left up in the air. Does humanity end up creating another civilization beneath the Earth connected through a series of tunnels, or are people left to fend for themselves in their individual bunkers? The Midnight Sky also begs the question, if this is how uninhabitable the Earth had to get for people to finally seek shelter elsewhere, how bad will the surface actually get? In The Midnight Sky, that's left unanswered.
Will Sully and Commander Adewole Make It Back To K-23?
In the final moments of The Midnight Sky, Sully and Adewole plug in the coordinates to return to K-23 in hopes of starting a new life. To top it off, Sully is several months pregnant with their child, which makes their journey back to K-23 even more pressing. Though the entire film centers on Dr. Lofthouse's frantic attempt to get them to turn their ship around, it never shows just how Sully and Adewole will make it back to Jupiter's lush moon.
The closest visualization viewers get of what life might be like on K-23 for Sully and Adewole is a brief (though nightmarish) dream that Sully has in the beginning of the film. Beyond that, the audience hardly gets an idea of what K-23 is like, much less what's entailed along the way. The Midnight Sky's ending leaves that journey nondescript, but the movie does drop some hints along the way. According to the film, the expedition takes two years to make, so it's safe to assume that a lot could go wrong, especially considering the fact that there's an asteroid belt in between Jupiter and Mars that the Aether would have to navigate through.
What Happens To Sanchez and Mitchell?
At the apex of The Midnight Sky, Aether crew members Sanchez and Mitchell decide to go back to Earth instead of making the trek to K-23 with Sully and Adewole. Sanchez is determined to return in order to bury fellow crew member Maya, who passed away due to a tragic accident during a spacewalk. Mitchell, instead, is returning in order to find his family members, who may or may not be alive.
The prognosis doesn't look good for Sanchez and Mitchell (played by Demián Bichir and Kyle Chandler, the actors rounding out The Midnight Sky's cast). It's undetermined how exactly they plan to survive on the planet's hostile surface. Plus, neither of them know where they need to go, since the location of both Mitchell's and Maya's families are unknown. They could be hunkered down anywhere from South America to Sweden, as far as the movie's concerned. That doesn't bode well for Sanchez and Mitchell, who seem to have a long journey ahead of them regardless.
What Was The Apocalyptic Event?
The Midnight Sky certainly gives viewers a lot to think about, since the apocalyptic event that created such chaos on Earth isn't explained. Given that this is the catalyst for the entire plot of the movie, it seems odd that whatever caused the Earth to become extremely inhospitable is left ambiguous. While this is likely the result of direction from George Clooney to render the film more reflective than prescriptive, it still leaves big logistical questions unanswered.
Did the sea levels rise and change the outline of the world's coasts? Was there a stark increase on natural disasters that led to the crumbling of the planet's entire infrastructure? Given the very little information presented in The Midnight Sky, it's hard to say. All that's explicitly known is that the Earth is no longer a viable planet for sustaining human life.
The Midnight Sky raises several questions throughout the film that are left purposefully open-ended. It's a movie that's intentionally leaving these questions unanswered in order to inspire conversation. With climate change becoming a more pressing reality each day, it's clear that the solutions to these real life problems cannot and should not be found in movies. They must be developed on their own.
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Alex Lin (30 Articles Published)
Alex Lin is just a girl from Jersey. In addition to her work at Screen Rant, Lin is a Staff Writer at DidYouKnow and a Content Creator at A24 Films' space media outlet, Supercluster - where she's featured the likes of astronauts Nicole Stott and Mike Massimino, Launcher CEO Max Haot, and Hollywood screenwriter Mark Heyman (Black Swan, Strange Angel). Lin is a professional playwright whose works have been developed with The Rude Mechanicals, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Pittsburgh Podcast ICKIpedia, Women's Theatre Festival, and the Kennedy Center. One of her pieces, "beth", is currently a quarterfinalist in ScreenCraft's Stage Play competition - alongside Shia LaBeouf's "2051 Marengo." Check out her work here on NPX: newplayexchange.org/users/32657/alex-lin