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Headscratchers: Sunshine
     The film starring Cillian Murphy 

  • Why didn't they send the mission at night? Would have saved them a lot of grief!
    • Not sure what you mean. During Earth's nighttime? Considering that the daytime was below freezing temperatures in Australia, it's entirely possible that nighttime was fatally cold.
  • When Kaneda and Capa EVA to fix the malfunctioning panels, how is it spatially possible for them to rotate the ship in order to give them ANY shadow? Am I wrong? The dome of the frontal shield is so shallow that they'd have to rotate the ship so much as to put the entire delicate rear modules into direct sunlight.
  • If you are placing the fate of mankind on the success of a single spacecraft, it is extremely stupid to:
    • Have NO redundancy in even the most essential of components like life-support or mainframe. Such systems would be highly likely to fail, and would be catastrophic to the mission when they do (and they did.)
      • Along the same lines, it is ridiculous to not have redundant technical knowledge amongst the crew, at least to the point that if one member is incapacitated, the others would be able to accomplish their role in the mission. It is clearly stated that Capa is the only one capable of operating the payload... The cornerstone of the entire mission and only one crewmember knows how to operate it? Whaaat?
      • However, Cassie making straight for the payload after Pinbacker attacks her implies that she (and the other crew members) has had at least basic training in how to deploy it in an emergency situation, if not necessarily how to operate it (most of Capa's job seems to be running simulations and maintenance, whereas the actual firing of the payload is a fairy simple procedure).
    • Have such a small crew, when training additional members and adding the requisite support systems for extra people would be trivial. (They've already mined all of Earth's fissile materials for the ship; the Icarus II is already as massive as a small moon, and has consumed untold amounts of industrial resources. Adding more crew and support systems would cost relatively nothing, and add relatively no mass.
      • It would add time, though, which is fast running out, I mean, THE SUN IS GOING OUT.
      • The only way it would add time is if each crew member was trained after the other instead of simultanously.
    • Select your crew based on psychological profiles guaranteed to result in conflict or outright insanity.
    • Design the ship with a huge and unnecessary tail end which WILL become severely damaged in the highly likely event that they have to rotate the ship for repairs.
      • There's actually some sense behind the tail end, but one thing that COULD and SHOULD have been done was have the tail end able to fold up to present a minimum profile in case of course corrections. Heck, even being able to fold in the most important and vulnerable parts of the ship (the COM towers and the Oxygen Gardens) would have spared almost the entire heartache.
      • A simple jettison system for the most vulnerable towers on the ship would have done it too; if COM towers 3 and 4 were able to be jettisoned, they'd have harmlessly vaporized instead of directing sun rays onto the oxygen garden.
    • Send the captain and physicist, perhaps the two most important people on the ship, on an extremely dangerous EVA where death is distinctly possible.
  • No amount of material, (fissile or not) that it is possible to mine from Earth would be of any effect to a star that's "dying". It'd have about as much effect as throwing a meringue at a castle.
  • Realistically (and I can't believe I'm saying that in this context) in the context of the film the Icarus missions would have been one-way trips to begin with. Why? Because the rest of humanity back home needs the sun re-lit AS SOON AS POSSIBLE and the quickest way to get the bomb to the sun is to burn nearly all the onboard fuel as rapidly as possible as soon as you're on course, saving only a small amount for maneuvering further down the line, rather than hauling enough fuel to completely decelerate the habitation module (even minus the bomb it's going to have some ridiculously large momentum on its own) and then propel it back to Earth, especially since on the way back it's got to claw its way out of the sun's gravity well. Even knowing it's a suicide run there should be no problem finding a sufficiently skilled crew given that the choice is basically die a hero saving all humanity or freeze to death with everyone you know and love.
    • Actually, there shouldn't have been a crew at all. The ship would just be bomb, AI mainframe, lots of fuel, big engines, and comm equipment. It would just go all-out for the Sun and the AI would handle everything beyond the dead zone. I mean, they already seemed to have pretty advanced AI by that point, so why not screw the crew? No artificial gravity, no life support, no psychological troubles, no pointless detours, no human error barring engineering flaws. Of course, no crew means no story, but a deliberately planned suicide mission also results in a very different story - where everyone is already going for certain death from the outset, instead of just fearing its possibility.
      • IIRC, the film's website said that the crew was included for fear that the computer could be damaged i.e. overloads, system crash, loose screws, and that the crew would need to make sure that nothing got screwed up along the way.
      • And in his DVD commentary, Brian Cox (the film's science adviser) mentions that a big problem the Soviets always had was over-reliance on automated systems, since no matter how advanced a computer is, it's only so capable. Humans, who are built to adapt and rationally deal with novel situations, are considered the ultimate failsafe by modern space programs.
      • The funny thing is that, if it had been alone, we know the computer would have carried the mission with sucess since A) it didn't fail until the end, and B) all the mistakes and lapses of judgment were made by the crew.
  • There should have been no way to actually slow the ship down in order to dock with the Icarus I, or at least no way to do it without making it impossible to complete the mission; as far as this troper understood, the ship's speed is due to slingshotting around planetary gravity wells (the slingshot around Mercury specifically is discussed early in the film), plus presumably consuming some sort of reaction mass to produce thrust during the voyage from Earth, which basically means that in the event it were slowed to a stop there would be no way to get it going at anywhere near the speed it was travelling at before, and there's still a long, long way to go between Mercury and the Sun.
    • Unless they were both moving at the same speed anyway. It'd probably be possible (I think, though I'm not (yet) an expert on orbital mechanics and rocket science) to set up an orbit to slingshot round Mercury then drop into a stable orbit of the Sun- in fact, that seems sensible, given that they may need another pass past the target zone if something goes wrong and they can't launch the payload the first time. Assuming both Icarus and Icarus II are setting up for the same orbit, it suddenly seems moderately realistic that they could adjust to dock.
    • Note that the reflective shield probably also acted as a solar sail, which would have been more effective up close to the Sun. Yeah it's effect would be negligible on a ship so massive, but then, the disproportionately tiny engines with their notorious absence of huge fuel tanks and radiators implied that this ship was never intending to go anywhere fast anyway.
  • Plot requirements aside, is there any reason why they couldn't have simply dropped off their payload in the sun, then if it didn't work come back and pick up the payload from the Icarus I?
    • For all their debating and Capo's being put on the spot there's no way they could have propelled both payloads at once with the Icarus II, and no reason to assume that the Icarus I would be in any condition to fly, given that it never completed it's mission, so what did they really expect to achieve?
  • Why didn't the computer notice and prevent the damage to the heat shield caused by the change in course plans?
    • I vaguely recall it being mentioned that the computer had been overridden to input the new plan, but that doesn't explain why it couldn't step in and take control back (like it did after the Oxygen Garden got incinerated) before the blunder actually caused damage to the ship.
      • Once the Oxygen Garden caught fire, Icarus (the computer) retook control of the ship to prevent further damage. The crew, hoping to save the captain, overrode Icarus's controls until the captain overrode their override. Most likely, when the initial course change occured, Icarus was overridden so that the change could happen, leading to the initial damage to the heat shield since Icarus was unable to stop it.
  • The construction of the entire Icarus II vehicle was extremely implausible. The biggest flaw is that Comms towers 3 and 4 were too long to begin with. When the Payload separated from the ship, the remaining shield would likely not have been large enough to protect even the rear areas of the central spire, much less the extremely tall comms towers.
    • Also, the radiators are missing. Radiators are your only form of cooling in space, and you have a ship that's going somewhere where it's really hot, which has its life support system and engine generating waste heat on top of that. There ought to have been a lot more radiator area than there was.
  • The crew assignments were especially screwy. The Captain, who is supposed to be cross-trained in most all ship functions, seems to delegate or not be directly involved with the ships operations, with the exception of the shield repair. A Dedicated comm-office, who again, seems to have no other real skills or duties. A dedicated navigator, since your course has been pre-programmed years before by teams on earth, why pack a navigator along? A dedicated pilot, who by all standards, should also be cross-trained in navigation, thus makeing Trei's position redundant, also has very little to do since the entire mission and been pre-planned. Life-support, the doc, make sense. Mace, the systems-engineer is curious only in that there is only one of him aboard. Given the size and complexity of the Icarus, there really should have been 2 or maybe even 3 engineers, rather than a host of redundant and really irrelevant crew postings.
  • Trei's course change and how it was handled. Although this is a major turn point in the movie, it is also a case of fridge-logic at its worst. Why was he allowed to compute this course change alone? This should have been done with the captain and pilot AND him working together to cross-check and verify his work. Then it should have been run though the computer to check again. Instead, Trei computtes the course change and initiates it with ZERO input from anybody else in the crew, in fact, no one even seems to supervise him...Very not SOP. That part REALLY bugged me.
    • Not to mention there should be more than one crew member who executes the new flight plan. Surely the ship is piloted as a team, heck even in Star Trek, the entire bridge crew is needed to navigate. And even without the computer there would normally be a big book of PROCEDURES, one of which would be, "Rotate the shield when you make a course correction." And there would be another member of the crew who would check the plan with the procedure before things get underway.
  • The Icarus is a very poorly laid out ship. At no point in the movie can you really relate to "where" things are happening. All you can really tell for sure is the o2 garden is at the rear of the ship. Other than that,where things actually occur in the ship is almost impossible to get any sort of handle on.
  • One has to ask why the o2 garden burned the way it did? It was essentially a very wet greenhouse. The sun's rays may have fried most of the plants in the open, but once they passed, any fire should have quickly burned itself out. The firefighting strategy really sucked as well - use all the oxygen in the tanks to blow the fire out? Just space the atmosphere. Plants have very hardy cell walls, and can handle pretty prolonged vacuum exposure. The fire, on the other hand, can't, and would almost immediately be extinguished. They'd have lost some atmosphere and possibly many of the plants, but not the entire garden.
  • Why does the o2 gargen have a window in it anyhow? I know, so the fried comm relay, can focus some intensely powerful solar radiation and beam it directly into the o2 garden so it can start a deadly fire... Maybe in Movieland, spacecraft hyrdroponics need windows to let the sun shine in and grow happy plants! Nevermind solar radiation is dangerous beyond Earths orbit, let alone 10 million miles from the sun.
    • Maybe just an observation window, but I can't think of a particularly valid reason, since they'd be able to provide enough artificial light to keep the "happy plants" growing.
  • The engine of the Icarus seems far to small to have allowed it to stop, rendezvous with the Icarus I, then boost away again. Given how massive the Dark-matter bomb is, where did all the reaction mass, fuel etc come from? From the Icarus's puny engine?, which is smaller than the o2 garden module?
    • I'll grant you, this is actually a valid plothole in my books. Icarus did have reverse engines in order to propel it for the return trip after de-coupling the bomb, but I don't know where they are, and they are probably not big enough to slow down the ship with the mass of the bomb still attached.
  • I know the plot sort of disintegrates without the insane captain of the Icarus 1, but it still bugs me that the rest of the Icarus 1 crew didn't catch it in time. Did they not have a psych guy like Icarus 2? Did the whole crew go crazy at once? Or was the captain just so darn deadly that even though they did catch on, he still killed them all?
  • Shouldn't having 99.42% of your skin deep fried in sunlight, y'know, kill you in short order? How did Pinbacker survive for seven years without medical attention? He should have succumbed to shock or infection.
    • Pinbacker came across as quasi-paranormal, what with the blur effect and all, which doesn't make a great deal of a sense for a sci-fi film.
      • Pinbacker is paranormal, period. Not only did he survive what no human being could survive, but Capa hits him with unfiltered sunlight when he's first stabbed. It doesn't even slow Pinbacker down. As Fridge Logic as it sounds...he's a Cenobite (or at least a sun-demon). Hellraiser, indeed.
  • Why does the captain allow Capa, the only NON-astronaut in the crew, to preform a critical repair? Mace wants him to go to teach him a lesson. A serious breach of professional conduct given the severity of the problem. Why does Serle not intervene and call him on it? Why is mace even allowed to "vote" for Capa to go outside in the 1st place? The mission, is not a democracy nor is Kaneda the captain of a debateing team. That he even allowed things to go the way they did suggests he is hardly suitable to command, not that his actions prior were anything to write home about either.
    • A couple of problems with this argument. Firstly, Capa is not the only NON-astronaut in the crew. Trey, Corazon and Searle were scientists themselves as opposed to astronauts. You can see that in some of the psychologically demanding moments that they face throughout the film, whereas Kaneda and Mace are (by and large), pretty level-headed under pressure (Mace has a few outbursts, and as you say, deligating Capa was extremely unprofessional, but by and large, he is pretty cool under pressure). Secondly, Capa was clearly trained in EVA procedures, so as far as they were concerned, while the repair procedure was slightly unusual, it was not particularly non-routine (they didn't expect Icarus to override control, or expect the oxygen garden to ignite). In favour of your argument, I agree that considering Capa was the only person who could operate the bomb, it was a pretty ridiculous decision, and Mace was being extremely unprofessional. Aside from this little flaw in the plot (which was clearly done in order to produce extra tension by the creators), I think that Kaneda actually did a good job in the role of Captain. At least, from what I know about Astronauts, he seemed to fit the profile (up until that point at least).
  • The Icarus takes weeks to reach the optimum solar altitude to deploy its payload, which is carried within the shield. This shield is meant to detach, and after a four-minute countdown, ignite its engines and rocket deep into the sun. Without its shield, how is the Icarus supposed to survive long enough to get home? The trip may have been a suicide mission from the beginning...
    • And that four-minute countdown seems to be the only thing that can't be overridden.
    • If you look closely in the scene where the bomb has detached, the Icarus has it's own independant heat shield. The ship was destroyed because the ship was out of position (the pilot was supposed to fly them away from the bomb before the engines fired, using the ship's heat shield to protect them.
  • Other than for dramatic effect and given that controlling spacedraft AND UAV's by telemetry is relatively commonplace NOW,why wouldn't the entire mission just have been performed by a robotic ship? Given the extra accommodations that would have to be made in the ship to make it usable by humans, this would have seemed to be the logical choice.
    • Most space missions this complex in real life have humans as back up systems (again this is explained by Prof Cox in the commentary). Unmanned missions e.g. Voyager, Galileo probes etc are usually fairly simple missions where all that is required is measurement taking, or in some cases, landing on the planet (Martian probes). This mission was a much more complex mission, and there were too many things that could go wrong. In that situation, you need humans as backup systems (this is why we will never have airliners without pilots within the foreseeable future, even though the airliners pretty much pilot themselves; in an emergency situation there are too many potential variables that cannot be prepared for by meer computer programming). Also, the ship could not be piloted remotely because by the time it reached the sun it would be impossible to control remotely due to the immense amount of background radiation, noise and heat (this is why they were unable to send communications back to Earth around about Mercury (which is actually untrue, the "dead zone" is much closer to the sun than Mercury, although it still exists).
      • While all you said is esentially true, I am not seeing how the mission was any more complex, since (if fully automated) it would pretty much be "ram this thing into the sun". Which is a pretty damn big target, I must say.
      • The All There in the Manual information states that it's a super-big particle on the sun's surface that they were aimming for not the sun itself. The mission was to destroy a particle killing the sun, not bomb the sun into restarting.
  • Okay. Serle, Capa (in a spacesuit), Mace & Harvey are in the Icarus1 airlock. The plan: to blow the lock and ride the gust of oxygen into the Icarus2 airlock. The problem: One guy has to stay behind to blow the lock. Their solution: Serle (since he's a lowly shrink compared to the techie, scientist & pseudo-captain). My solution: CAPA IS IN A SUIT. HE HAS HOURS OF AIR. Get him to blow the lock! Then after the non-suited guys are safe inside Icarus2, Capa can push off Icarus1 and get back into Icarus2 quite easily.
    • Well you could possibly argue that since Capa is the most important crew member, it's probably in their best interest to waste no time in getting him in particular back to the ship. And of course, Capa giving the suit to whoever stays behind wouldn't be a smart move, since the whole "wrapped in protective sheets" route would put Capa in way more danger.
  • Upon finding out that there is a fifth, unknown person on your ship, wouldn't it be so much smarter to, I don't know, let the remaining crew members in on this little fact before you go traipsing off to confront the mystery person? And when you're confronting said mystery person, wouldn't it also be smarter to not carry on a conversation while being blinded?
    • And on that note, why didn't he just kill the "mystery fifth crew member" right off the bat? He was in the observation room, which we already know can kill people under the right settings, and Capa wouldn't even have to go in there at all. Not to mention that he knows that at least one of them will have to die so they can just make it to the drop-off point, so it would make the most rational sense for Capa to just kill the mystery member before he even finds out who he is, to lessen the guilt and agonizing over who has to die.
    • It's important to remember that gradual oxygen deprivation plays murder on concentration and forethought, which makes people more impulsive, less rational and less likely to think their actions through, so with a slight cognitive impairment, Capa reverts to a scientist's other most important trait: curiosity. Down in his bones, he needs to know what he's dealing with before he can just obliterate it with an observation window. And going by the crew's earlier behaviour, they all seem to have a slightly morbid fascination with learning the fate of the first Icarus (Kaneda watches and rewatches Pinbacker's last transmission, Searle meditates on the sun and assesses the crew to figure out what effect it might have had on the first group) so again, Capa's need to understand what happened gets the better of him.
  • What would the Earth be like with no fissile material left? They used all of it for the mission right? So what would the geo-political implications be AFTER the success of the mission? Does anyone know a book or something with that kind of plot?
    • I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. -Albert Einstein
      • That quote doesn't really apply in this context, though.
  • When Kaneda and Capa go out to fix the panels, why don't they start at the furthest one out and work their way back to the entrance? Then they can repair the panel in the most dangerous position first, and save the panel that stays in the shade longer for last.
    • A lot of this is "hindsight is 20/20". They had no idea the shield would be rotating back, and they had to make sure that the panels would be reparable in the first place.
  • Why would you name a very important series of ships Icarus? I get the symbolism of the name in story but why in-universe did they name it after someone who died failing to fly because he got to close to the sun? Isnt that Tempting Fate a bit too much?
    • Because in real life the name of a machine has literally no effect on its capacity to perform its function.
    • Supposedly it was to show just how bleak their chances were. Honestly, it would have made more sense to name the second ship Daedalus — Icarus' father, who also escaped with wings made of wax and feathers, but actually survived.
  • Air is at a premium at the end - a limited amount of it left. Then they traipse off to the bomb room at the end which is CAVERNOUS, and... oh yeah... full of breathable air!
  • How is Searle's death supposed to work? Where is the observation room?
    • It's at the very front of the ship, right behind the heat shield with a small, heavily tinted window as protecttion. The room was in the shade because Icarus II's shield was casting its shadow over it; once the ship moved away, Icarus I came back into direct sunlight.
      • But the very front of the ship is the solar shield. Behind that is the payload, and behind *that* is an airlock. The main capsule is, like, a quarter-mile away from the solar shield.
      • On Icarus 2. Icarus 1 had a direct-view observation deck, presumably an older design. The filters would have been controlled by its (now dead) computer, and Pinbacker (or the crew) turned them completely off before the computer was killed. So, when Icarus 2 moved off, it let unshielded sunlight onto the deck, and Searle fried. He was already nearly as sun-sick as Pinbacker, so he went out the way he wanted to go.
    • OP here. Here's the source of my confusion. Here's a screen-grab of the two ships from the front. I'm under the impression that the observation room is front-and-center on the ship, which is clearly uncovered. Assuming the observation room is located somewhere else on the ship (like, say, off to the side, covered by Icarus II's heat shield, which doesn't make a lot of sense) was it continually bathed in immolating sunlight prior to the Icarus II's arrival? Was the Icarus I knocked askew at some point during its encounter with the Icarus II? This part has made no sense to me, ever since my first viewing of this film.
  • What does Icarus, the flight computer, being outside the coolant tanks, have to do with keeping the lights on?
    • Exactly. This ship wasn't built with a lot of redundant systems - yikes.

     The book by Robin Mc Kinley 

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