Are you tired of your life here, on Earth, and are looking for something different and exciting? I give you Outland, space western set on one of Jupiter’s moons Io and starring Sean Connery. It starts out methodically and realistically, setting the mood for what’s about to come. We learn more about this mining outpost all the while enjoying really nice practical effects. They used miniatures that stood the test of time and look great even some forty years later. The entire visual outlook of the movie is reminiscent of Alien, something that’s not surprising since it was the hot new thing back then. So, if you’re a fan of that type of science fiction style, as I am, you’re in for a treat. Everything is here, from worn-out interiors and grand exteriors to even the sound effects.
Outland is also one of those movies where people casually smoke in the hermetically sealed quarters. A remnant of a past era, it’s weirdly nostalgic to see them enveloped in cigarette smoke decades into the future. At least they’re not smoking in the cockpit like in Moon 44. This is also one of those movies in no rush to build a story, slowly showing you the inner workings of this remote mining outpost. Building atmosphere and characters naturally and immersing you deeper and deeper. As per usual, we will see both nudity and fairly gory scenes. Ahh, the good old eighties. The main story is also very good, focusing on the things hidden from the general population. I wanna say subversively but we all know that gen pop really doesn’t care about anything else. They’ve deferred their responsibility to powers that be.
Mining outpost Con-Am 27 is the latest destination for Marshal William O’Niel. He didn’t think he would end up on one of the Jupiters moons Io, but here we are. His family is also not too happy with the assignment. It would seem that this is just another outpost where nothing much happens and things resolve themselves most of the time. However, when miners start acting strangely and ending up dead, O’Niel will have to figure out why is that happening. Not knowing that this investigation might cost him his life.
Outland is often overlooked when we’re talking about cult science fiction movies. Mostly because of its low-key story and the fact it’s more a western than a science fiction movie. Actually, director Peter Hyams, who already worked on Capricorn One, wanted to make a western but couldn’t get the funding, so he made a blend of two genres. When you think about it, one of the most influential tv shows, Star Trek also borrowed a lot of elements from this genre. Whether because of production reasons or because of the popularity of westerns back then, it remains unclear. However, frontier towns, mining outposts, and the general setup were quite prominent in the show. One of the reasons why you should check out Outland is to see just how well the concept of western translates into outer space adventures. The short answer is very well.
Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies, I recommend you check out Prospect, Cherry 2000 and Neon City. And if you’re hankering for more space westerns you can always play some The Mandalorian. And no, I don’t consider Space Cowboys to be a part of this sub-genre. It’s just too mainstream and Earth-bound for that.
Director: Peter Hyams
Writer: Peter Hyams
Cast: Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, Frances Sternhagen, James Sikking, Kika Markham, Steven Berkoff, Clarke Peters
Fun Facts: The first movie to use the IntroVision front projection process. It enables an actor, actress, or other live-action element to be between a projected background and foreground element, all in the same shot.