There is a movie that many people have been waiting for for a long time, insisting on releasing it on April Fool's Day this year (that is, today), and the trailer released in advance is also claimed to "receive a signal from the universe", so that many people are worried about whether this is an April Fool's joke - it is "Space Exploration Editorial Office".
Since its premiere at the Pingyao International Film Festival in October 2021, it has won numerous "Best of the Year" accolades, and the Douban score was 8.8 two years ago. Since then, "Space Exploration Editorial Department" has also been screened many times at various film festivals and film festivals, and the evaluation it has received has been based on high reputation, and the Douban score has maintained a high score of 8.7.
This certainly raises expectations to the highest. But what exactly is this movie, and does it deserve such praise? The two major genres of science fiction and comedy are not new, what new tricks can movies play?
This article is almost spoiler-free and can be read with confidence
It can be said that it is the sci-fi version of "1818 GoldenEye"
When I was a child, I believe that many people have read magazines such as "Exploration" to some extent, and heard about "Nine Wonders", "Golden Skull", "Bermuda Triangle" and other surprising secrets that seem difficult to explain with existing scientific knowledge.
Later, these anecdotal rumors were unveiled "mysterious", some legends confirmed the impossible through scientific detection and data analysis, and many "folk discoveries" were also proved to be clumsy to the point of almost foolishness, such as "villagers frozen aliens", mostly a crude humanoid plastic product in the freezer.
Although it is always "debunked" and the public knows that the credibility is very low, there are always many unknown areas in the world that cannot be falsifiable by science, which makes people can't help but wonder, "What if?" ”
The story of "Space Exploration Editorial Office" unfolds from this perspective. The film uses a pseudo-documentary lens to tell a story that is somewhat similar to "Into Science" in terms of theme.
The protagonist of the film, Tang Zhijun, is played by Yang Haoyu, who played the senior chief dart Wen Lianggong in Ning Caishen's sitcom "Dragon Gate Dart Bureau", with a natural grassroots and comedy temperament.
Tang Zhijun works in the editorial office of a magazine called "Space Exploration" in Beijing, and his style is very similar to the scientific exploration magazines of the 90s, and the content is mostly stall literature based on hunting gimmicks. Not only that, but the magazine's office is also very 90s style, with dilapidated decoration, leaky glass windows, and heating that has been cut off due to arrears.
The entire magazine was in a shaky state, having to rely on some vision of "exploring the universe" and trying to get investment from some small bosses to make ends meet. The statement of "exploring the universe" seems to many people to be pure nonsense and foolishness, but Tang Zhijun takes it seriously.
In today's words, Tang Zhijun is a typical "civil science". Unlike the huge scientific research teams that use precision instruments, graduate from elite universities, and build on a "solid" scientific foundation; Tang Zhijun only had his own patchwork, shabby instruments and equipment that seemed to fall apart at any time, but he was also obsessed with exploring the so-called "extraterrestrial signals."
Tang often tries to connect some everyday superficial phenomena and imagine a grand change that sounds like a "conspiracy theory." The old TV flashing snowflake point, ordinary people will only say that this TV is broken, but Tang Zhijun can start from the Big Bang analysis, and finally conclude, "This is not an ordinary TV snowflake point, this is the afterglow of the birth of the universe." But interestingly, when it comes out of his mouth, it also brings a bit of romance.
It is easy to portray a "folk science", but how to grasp the perspective is very subtle. It is easy to judge them as strange "others" or as simple "psychopaths" and "paranoia". This is not only a stereotype, it is easier to deepen prejudice against real patients; Or take their actions as a guideline, thinking that this is the insight into the truth, and everything in the world is nothing.
The valuable thing about "Space Exploration Editorial Department" is that it depicts the naivety and stubbornness of Tang Zhijun in "civil science", and does not make moral judgments, but it is not too beautified.
His food and clothing are extremely tight, and he only focuses on exploring the universe. Even at the expense of selling their wealth, they set out on the road deep into the uninhabited hinterland of southwest China just for a folk rumor that not many people believed. Riding on a bus all the way, stepping on the mud to find the traces of aliens, the story of "Space Exploration Editorial Office" slowly unfolds.
The theme, down-to-earth folk visits, and pseudo-documentary shots all make the temperament of "Space Exploration Editorial Department" very similar to "Approaching Science", but in comparison, the movie is not like the latter, through various atmospheres to render a huge suspense and then gently unveil, it is more like a sci-fi version of "1818 GoldenEye", by carefully portraying every trivial detail of life, to shape the comedy effect.
Taking every little thing in life seriously is the reason why "1818 GoldenEye" can break the circle of its own "people's livelihood news" and has received widespread attention and praise. Sometimes there is no need for a big conspiracy, and all kinds of human subtle and impermanent coincidences in life can form a huge black humor effect.
The same is true of space exploration, even if there is a grand narrative theme and purpose, but the real implementation is not a chicken feather? The city and the world are what life looks like.
Discussing science fiction is actually quite serious
Although the classification label has "science fiction", many reviews say that "Space Exploration Editorial Office" is not science fiction, just a comedy.
Indeed, if viewed from an inherent perspective, "Space Exploration Editorial Office" does not seem to be full of science fiction. In recent years, the industrialization level of domestic science fiction film and television has increased rapidly, coupled with the popularity of "hard science fiction" works such as "The Wandering Earth 2" and "The Three-Body Problem" in the past, the word science fiction, in the current context, is often said to be high-tech, futuristic, huge industry such a face.
So is "Space Exploration Editorial Department" simply borrowing the shell of sci-fi elements, but in fact it is only used as a funny effect in the movie, and cannot be called a real "sci-fi film"?
The answer is no. Tang Zhijun's persistence and exploration of aliens is actually an example demonstration of the "Fermi paradox". This is a classic question posed by the famous physicist Fermi in 1950:
"The universe is so vast that intelligent life must have appeared several times; The universe is so old that it is even enough for a species with science and technology to expand and spread throughout the galaxy. However, there is no sign of life anywhere but Earth, which humans call the Fermi paradox. ”
The Fermi paradox is inconclusive today. If there are extraterrestrial civilizations, do they hide themselves, do they simply disdain the earthlings, or do they simply act in a paradigm that is beyond the scope of human current social understanding? This is the deep reason why "space exploration" can attract countless people to be curious and continue to explore.
However, there are scientists who are exploring with professional data and precision instruments, and there are people like Tang Zhijun who are tinkering with their own "indigenous methods". Maybe the path and equipment are different, but this mood of attachment and fascination with the unknown is the same.
In the second half of the movie, if it ends like "Into Science", and finally reveals that everything is just a random misunderstanding, or a scientific common sense that everyone does not know well, it is inevitable that there will be a feeling of being a tiger. Fortunately, the movie does not go this way, but tries to discuss "why humans explore the universe".
Science fiction writer codeline commented on Weibo that the topic to be discussed by the "Space Exploration Editorial Department" is actually that human exploration is sometimes to "see if you can surpass the earth in your heart." (Weibo @ Secret Lord)
He wrote, "If the physical body of ordinary man cannot physically look for evidence of extraterrestrial civilization, it can only be felt in a transcendent way." ”
The film shows all kinds of supernatural phenomena, not so much imitating the style of the last century, showing various "unsolved mysteries", but more like an expression, there are still inexplicable unknowns in this world that human beings cannot explain with existing knowledge and science.
It is not difficult to understand, if you only start from technology to explore the universe, isn't it limited to technology? Moreover, how is it not arrogant to look at other extraterrestrial civilizations from the perspective of human beings?
Many science fiction works have such discussions, such as "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Interstellar", "Chrono-Space Contact", and finally "revealed" the mystery of why alien civilizations are, all of which are shown with an experience of transcendent feelings. Like Tang Zhijun, the origin of human exploration of the universe in these movies is often out of the most genuine emotional feelings in the heart. Although the human heart is small, it can indeed surpass the earth.
In addition, if you carefully sort out and understand, the seemingly comedic settings in some movies are actually discussions of serious science fiction issues.
For example, the other main character in the film, Sun Yitong, the protagonist who is also full of many magical phenomena, the only book he has read is "Xinhua Dictionary", but he can create a steady stream of verses through this book alone.
This is reminiscent of that famous experiment, the "monkey typewriter". In the early 20th century, the French mathematician Emil Borrell proposed a law that if an infinite number of monkeys could tap an infinite number of typewriters in an endless amount of time, it was believed that they would one day be able to "create" the complete works of Shakespeare.
In the "Space Exploration Editorial Office", there are many such detailed settings. They not only "ponder the extreme", but also enrich the core of the film through the exploration of these issues.
People who are addicted to self-expression,
One day it will be understood
The film's involvement in the sci-fi part is not shallow, and it also points to the ultimate question of "what is the meaning of our existence", and the final ending also allows Tang Zhijun to reconcile with himself in his heart (of course, there are many problems in the movie, such as many critics that the reconciliation of the ending is a little too light). This also makes the pacing of the later stages of the film slightly unbalanced, marginalizing the supporting roles of the squad and turning them into "background boards").
Underneath these issues, there is another layer of deep core that the director wants to express.
There is a popular comment in the Douban comment area, which is the clue to the answer, "Legal News: All departments pay attention to the fact that a new criminal model combining literature and art and commerce has recently appeared on the market!" (Douban netizen @reader)
"Space Exploration Editorial Department" is director Kong Dashan's first feature-length film, who previously created a short film called "Legal Future Time", which can now be seen online. The format of this short film is very similar to "Space Exploration Editorial Office", which is to add some changes to the seemingly daily details to make a serious "fake news".
The design of "Legal Future Tense" is that the literary film shot by a crew without money is too dull, so that many audiences are suffocated by the content of the movie, so the local law enforcement brigade struck hard and destroyed this "den" that produces smelly and long literary and artistic films.
From this short film, we can see the inspiration for Kong Dashan's creation, as a film school student, even if you want to make a movie, but it is difficult for individuals to support the cost of the operation of the industrial system of film, many young crews, if they want to insist on self-expression, can only survive through various embarrassing behaviors.
He must also have taken over a lot of "work" to make news for TV stations to make a living, which seems to be very different from many "classic" film techniques, but Kong Dashan did not deliberately avoid it, but very self-consistent integration of these experiences into the work, but achieved his unique style.
It can be seen from the details of Kong Dashan's film and television works (such as wrapping the microphone on a pole with plastic to make a radio device) that these are the daily routines he has experienced. The detailed setting based on real experience makes the film not levitated, extremely pyrotechnic and realistic, and deepens the expression of this style.
This pseudo-documentary style of "TV news", coupled with the "1818 GoldenEye" style of showing the details of real life, precisely makes a grassroots, nonsensical local humor.
The end of "Legal Future Tense" is also a "point point", Kong Dashan's "literary film director" who filmed suffocating people was finally arrested, facing the camera he regretted not starting out, self-analysis, the reason for the crime was because he was "always addicted to self-expression".
The Future of the Rule of Law
Kong Dashan often compared the journey of the squad to "Journey to the West" in the post-screening roadshow of "Space Exploration Editorial Department". The English name of the movie is "Journey to the West" (the English name of "Journey to the West"), the names of the protagonists Tang Zhijun and Sun Yitong, and the alien thigh bone that will grow longer in the movie, are obvious references.
Of course, the ending of "Journey to the West" is to obtain the true scripture, but that is only a small space, and the tribulations in the process of taking the scriptures, every small detail of the battle of wits and courage, is the focus of the entire novel. "Space Exploration Editorial Department" is the same, in the process of finding aliens, it also encountered various difficulties such as falling into the water, falling into the field, and being bitten by dogs.
It's just that these encounters are not the tests that Buddha deliberately brought about, and there has never been a powerful Monkey King who can solve them at will, only relying on small detachments to stumble and complete. This adventure is not simply a search for answers, or just a journey to discover oneself.
One of the members of the squad looking for aliens and a brilliant supporting role in the movie is Qin Cairong, played by Arya. She is the director of "Space Exploration" magazine, usually does some financial and management work, and is a very "realistic" person. She never believed in those alien affairs, scoffed at them, often poured cold water on Tang Zhijun, and always complained during the trip.
It can be seen from the performance in the movie that Qin Cairong actually has her own career and business, and although she has been complaining continuously for many years, she has always really supported Tang Zhijun's boundless imagination in action. And she didn't help Tang Zhijun like this because of love, but was eventually infected by his idealism.
Under the background of these details, Tang Zhijun of "Space Exploration Editorial Department" has a richer layer, he is not only a "civil science" character, but also a narrator who insists on living on his own channel. Aren't those embarrassed economic conditions, unresponsive mutterings, similar to many creators?
It takes a long time of loneliness and incomprehension to finally find someone on the same channel as you. Perhaps the number of people is small, but as long as you can confirm each other's existence, it is already the greatest comfort.
So the ending of Space Exploration Editorial Office is not just about revealing the puzzle (not too many spoilers here), it's more like a poem to these ununderstood creators.
People who insist on self-expression are not alone in the end.
Image source: "Space Exploration Editorial Department"
Written by: Su Xiaoqi
Executive Producer: Master Mao
*Special thanks to Daming for supporting this article