A couple of weeks ago, the final space shuttle mission launched, and by the end of this week, it will have landed, ending a 30-year era of space exploration for the United States. It goes without saying that this is the end of an era. The first space shuttle launched when I was 3-1/2 years old, and I (unfortunately) rank the Challenger Disaster as one of the most important moments of my childhood.
I wanted to post something about what I thought about the space shuttle saying farewell; however, I don’t know if I would have anything to say that hasn’t been said already, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to keep whatever I wrote within the confines of my “pop culture” subject matter. I thought of the Young Astronauts Challenger Commemorative Packet that I got when I was in the fourth grade and I also thought of writing about the time I put together one of those Revell space shuttle kits and got glue all over my hands, paint all over the place, and never got the decals to go on correctly (seriously, did anyone?). But then I thought of what nobody is probably talking about as far as the space shuttle is concerned, which is the biggest (and well … kind of only) space shuttle movie there is: SpaceCamp.
Starring Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, Joaquin Phoenix (back when he was known as “Leaf”), Tate Donovan, and Larry B. Scott (a.k.a. Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds), SpaceCamp is one of the few science-fiction (although in a way, this is more “science” based) movies from the late 1970s and 1980s where aliens do not attack and lay waste to the Earth, nor do they mate with, possess, or disembowel anyone. In fact, SpaceCamp doesn’t have any aliens. Unfortunately, its tension is tepid enough for a teacher to show an elementary school class.
Capshaw (about a year or two removed from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) plays Andie Bergstrom, an astronaut who, when she sits on her family’s farm in 1961, sees John Glenn’s capsule fly through space and says proudly to her dog, “I’m goin’ up!” (a line delivered in the cheesiest manner possible, btw). More than two decades later, she has received the umpteenth notification that she will not fly on a shuttle mission–Atlantis, which is scheduled to launch within a couple of weeks. Her husband, Zach (Tom Skerritt, who would be Viper in Top Gun the same summer), then coaxes her into being an instructor at Space Camp, which for plot reasons is held at Cape Canaveral and not in Huntsville, Alabama (a Space Camp was opened in Florida in 1989, but this came out in 1986). She reluctantly takes on the “blue team” of Space Camp students, who are …
… a group of stock characters. Kevin (Donovan) is the arrogant screw-up guy and we know that because when we meet him, he’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt and rocking out in his new Jeep; Kathryn (Thompson) is an overachiever who is already a pilot, and we know this because she flies a WWI-era bi-plane to the parking lot; Tish (Preston) is a mall ditz who possesses the ability to memorize just about anything she reads, and we know this because she cinches her flight suit with a stylish red belt; Max (Phoenix) is the annoying kid genius who everyone will pick on, and we know this because everyone picks on him; and Rudy (Scott) is … well, the only one without any issues. (more…)