‘Outland,’ or When Science Fiction Becomes Sordid Reality

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Representaive blecch, from “Outland.”

Representaive blecch, from “Outland.”

I came across, again, the film “Outland” the other day. I remembered this as an average piece of science fiction that tried to ride the coattails of “Star Wars” in the early 1980s. And I wanted to remember its having compelling qualities, like “Blade Runner,” which came out a year later. Certainly the movie’s star, Sean Connery, is worth watching.

Sadly, I’m not sure the movie holds up after 30 years. What struck me was how the criminal conspiracy at the heart of the plot seemed so commonplace. Perhaps it was less so at the time? It is hard to remember what we were all thinking back in 1981.

Sean Connery holding his spot in line for the toilet.

Sean Connery holding his spot in line for the toilet.

The story goes like this. Sean Connery is a space cop, or something. Really, he is dressed like a modern-day retiree: cheap hat with garish patch on the front, bright white tennis shoes, etc. The first time you see him head to toe, you expect to next see several blue-haired women push past him in a rush toward a restroom.

But let’s call him a space cop. His post is a mining complex on one of Jupiter’s moons that is owned by a big, I guess, multigalactical corporation or whatever. And after a while, Mr. Connery’s character grows suspicious about a series of mysterious deaths.

Really, the deaths are more spectacular than mysterious: they’re suicides by explosive decompression. Indeed, this is less a space-bound police procedural than the indulging of a gruesome science-fiction fetish.

When Mr. Connery’s character takes a closer look (spoiler!)… Continue reading

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