For those that don't know, I'm a military wife. That means I spend 3-5 nights a week sans husband. Most nights I choose to read (duh!), but every now and then I get in a movie mood. I typically browse Netflix and end up watching something random.
In recent months, I've developed a fondness for movies with the Netflix logo on them. Movies like The Discovery, Spectral, ARQ, and What Happened to Monday? are all really enjoyable movies that I would never have watched without perusing the depths of Netflix's sci-fi and fantasy flicks. (That's not to say they don't have issues, because they each do, but on the whole I was glad to have watched them.)
Last week, on a typically husband-less night, I went in search of something good--bonus points if he'd hate it!--and found Orbiter 9. I didn't recognize any of the main actors, but the premise sounded decent and I'm a sucker for a space romance. I was in!
Orbiter 9 promised to follow Helena, the lone passenger of an interstellar colonization ship in need of repair. An engineer arrives to save the day, but he's the first person she's ever met (literally!). Cue awkward interactions.
While I liked the general idea of the movie, I initially thought it really similar to Passengers. (And to be fair, I thought Passengers was okay. I liked the moral issues presented, but on the whole it was slow and pretty predictable.) Man and woman alone on a space ship who fall in love? I've seen this movie before...
Anyhoo, I persisted!
Lo and behold, Orbiter 9 is actually a Spanish film! Who knew? Not this lady! It was directed by Hatem Khraiche and released in Spain in 2017 as Orbita 9. But growing up in Austin and frequenting the Austin Film Festival, I'm no stranger to a subtitle. I actually really enjoyed having to put down my phone and pay attention!
Can I just say how refreshing it is to watch a movie with not a *single* actor I recognize? I get tired of seeing Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks in every movie. Let's mix it up!
First up is Clara Lago as Helena. She's drop-dead gorgeous but has a really fresh look which I appreciated. She's alone on a ship with none but her mechanical nav program Rebecca as her companionship. Rebecca tends to be bossy (Time to get up, Helena!) more than friendly, but still, beggars can't be choosers, right?
Helena as a character is lovely. She's obviously strong enough to endure the mental rigor of a lifetime of loneliness, has the self-control to eat the predetermined amount of 'food', and pushes herself to maintain her physical strength through rigorous exercise. But she's also really relatable. I couldn't help but feel for her when she meets another person for the first time and tries not to freak out.
Next up is the engineer Alex played by Alex Gonzalez. He, too, is drop-dead gorgeous, as anticipated. He also apparently played Riptide in X-Men: First Class, but if you'd said you'd pay me a million dollars to figure that out without Google, you'd still have a million dollars...
Alex starts off as the typical hot-and-silent type. He resists getting to know Helena--probably smart, he's soon leaving and never coming back--but who can really resist her sweet shyness?
As previously mentioned, the movie has a Passengers feel. Helena is alone and the hottest guy in the universe shows up on her ship, and we all know where this is going...
I watched the first twenty or so minutes with moderate interest. Nothing out of the ordinary here. Basic space tech. Basic hot people. Basic inevitable hooking up.
But whoa! Not quite. My interest piqued as Helena climbed atop a sleeping Alex and gives him the 'I'm alone forever' speech. It was fun to watch him struggle and I enjoyed seeing Helena be brave for that moment. (If that was me, I don't know that I'd have the guts to do it!)
Cue skipping into the sunset... er, galaxy? No!
Not two minutes after the very predictable beginning portion of the movie was over, I watched Alex put on his space suit and LEAVE. Like, what? He's...supposed to stay and argue and decide a life with Helena in space is better than life on any other ship in space!
All too soon, Orbiter 9 took the Passengers mold and shattered it!
But I won't tell you how. Spoilers are mean.
I'm including a segment here about the relationship itself. One of my big 'ughs' about space romances like Passengers, Interstellar, and even Wall-E: the characters have a lack of other viable options. Like two people who landed on the same deserted island, they don't really have any other choice. And that's lame.
Orbiter 9 broke away from this trend by really exploring both Helena and Alex independently, letting them slowly simmer into a normal relationship, and only then putting the pressure on them to fight or give the other up. By the time they were fighting for it, I believed it. And that's wayyy better than the deserted island.
Science Fiction Elements
Obviously, there's a space ship. And that's cool. This one has the Rebecca unit to make things interesting, but a lot of space movies have a talking ship of some kind, so not all that unique.
Elements I liked were the colonization program and how it was organized (and the conflict it created), some interesting door access methods, and the medical tech. Elements I disliked included a wolf (that's all I'm going to say).
While Orbiter 9 is by no means a perfect film, it was still a pleasant surprise. In a genre dominated by big names and big budgets like The Martian, Interstellar, The Last Jedi, and Annihilation, I'm sure Orbiter 9 will quickly fall into oblivion. But while it lived in the basement at Netflix, I enjoyed a different take on space romance.