A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Orbiter 9 is a 2017 sci-fi movie in which a young woman learns the truth about her lifetime of isolation in a space pod. It's a Spanish movie with English subtitles. The movie's slow build, along with its cerebral storyline and themes exploring love, cloning, eminent environmental collapse, and the need for ethics in science versus the need to quickly find ways to save the lives of billions of people, makes this best for teens and adults, especially those who are fans of shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror. There's some violence, including a character dying by a gunshot to the head. Profanity includes "f--k," and there's one sex scene (no nudity).
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What's the story?
In ORBITER 9, Helena has spent her entire life living in a space pod en route to a distant planet to rendezvous with colonists who have escaped from Earth's environmental near-destruction. Her parents left her in the pod when they realized there wouldn't be enough oxygen for the three of them to successfully complete the journey. Now a young woman, she'll have the opportunity to meet her first fellow human due to the pod being in need of repairs. Alex, the repair technician, arrives at the pod and, unsurprisingly, Helena is eager to meet and talk with him, but a deeper bond begins to develop almost immediately, despite Alex's initial professional demeanor. This is when Helena's conception of her reality is completely transformed: Alex reveals that he's actually an engineer deeply involved with the real mission and purpose behind Helena's supposed outer space journey. As the two quickly fall in love, Alex must rescue Helena from the scientists who are using her as a guinea pig in their efforts to find ways to save the human race.
Is it any good?
In terms of deeper messages and pacing, this is more 2001: A Space Odyssey than Star Wars. The story is a slow build with interesting plot twists, and by the time the action reaches a fever pitch, there's a strong sense of what's at stake for each character to match the themes the movie goes to great lengths to communicate. It's a movie very similar in style and aesthetic to other sci-fi movies in which characters work and live in near-isolation with only robot voices for camaraderie and light space cardio for exercise; muted colors, introspection, and nothing but low spaceship rumbles to break up the silence.
And yet, the movie feels a little too deliberate in its pacing. Scenes at times feel stretched out as if to say, "Do you see what's happening now? Do you understand what it all means?" While an earnest effort with some incredible acting, Orbiter 9 is unable to escape the gravitational pull of the influences it so clearly wears on its space suit: 2001, Blade Runner, Solaris, for instance. Not that it's derivative of these movies, but there just isn't enough there to emerge as something that feels like the next step from these influences, capable of standing on its own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sci-fi movies. How does Orbiter 9 compare to other movies in the genre?
What are some of the themes that this movie explores?
What are some other examples of sci-fi movies, TV shows, and books that use the genre to explore deeper themes that are relevant to contemporary concerns?
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