Publication Date

April 2018


Scott Higgins


Film Studies


English (United States)


Since the dawn of cinema, outer space has both fascinated and challenged filmmakers. Though space has been a subject of film since A Trip to the Moon (1902), concerns of accuracy and realism didn?t enter popular cinema until Destination Moon (1950). This film laid the foundations for a genre I call the Hypothetical Space Film, a tradition of film born from a desire to distinguish itself from mainstream science fiction. In this thesis, I trace the development of the Hypothetical Space Film by analyzing the genre?s conventions and elements that filmmakers have interacted with for the last 68 years. I start with a study of Destination Moon, picking apart the elements that come to define the hypothetical space film. From there, I chart how these elements are repeated and modulated in later films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Armageddon (1998). Next, I discuss how the aesthetics of hypothetical space films use realism to make the environment of space expressive and how they differ from the aesthetic style of fantastical space film. I conclude with a case study of Alfonso Cuar?n?s Gravity (2013) wherein I analyze how the film widens the narrative potential of the genre through the reworking of its conventional elements and innovations in aesthetic techniques. Ultimately, I come to a conclusion on the unique position outer space holds in cinema and the experience it offers to viewers.



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