The subtext of Matt Wolf’s highly essential documentary, “Spaceship Earth ,” is just as relevant as the text, in this case, a rather straightforward documentary about a group of scientists and pioneers that embarked on a long, two-year experiment to quarantine themselves into a biodome-a replicate of the Earth’s own ecosystem in the early ’90s.
On the surface, Wolfs’s documentary implements on record the fascinating and offbeat study in details to what unraveled with its origins and aftermath of the bold scientific experiment, Biosphere 2. Not to worry: Old newsreel footage, compelling interviews, arresting imagery, and personal commentary make the film a very enjoyable experience that holds the zaniness and resonance of a Errol Morris documentary.
While viewing “Spaceship Earth,” you get the feeling that this needed to be a longer and more depth documentary, potentially even released on a grandeur scale just like “O.J.: Made in America” or the scandalous and now infamous, Netflix docu-series “Tiger King” was. In the wake of the pandemic, with a lot of quintessential questions being raised on the state of our planet moving forward, this documentary also resonates in these dire times as many citizens around the world self-quarantine, Wolf has decided to interview the facets of the participants of the journey that were not exactly manifested during their media coverage that drew a media frenzy in the early 90s.
It’s hard to determine weather or not the participants have fully recovered from their failure of what they were set out to do. But, overall, each of the participants come across as level-headed, knowledgeable, and personable people, who really care about the stake of our planet and the always growing threat of big business that always tries to co-opt anything that tries moving nature and humanity into more pragmatic and bold ways.
For the docu, Wolf embraces a professorial and slightly activist approach, hoping that the methods and approaches will inspire to more idealism and innovation during a time where big business agendas, rapid distrust and conspiratorial thinking tend to resist anyone and anything that attempts to explore and experiment new methods and practices. Ultimately, “Spaceship Earth” comes across as a urgent call to action. All in hope that this documentary can possibly open up new thinkers and ideas to function to new ideas to save our own ecosystem and scale-back our own carbon footprints in hopes of healing and savoring the planet for future generations.
In the first set-up Wolf ventures out in how our carbon imprint is destroying our ecosystem and atmosphere. But the films most fascinating and surprising moments illustrates how the people that were part of Biosphere 2 were not in fact part of NASA or any branch of the federal government, but they were a volunteerism style of group of eccentric hippie-type intellectuals that was led by Harvard graduate and professor John Allen. What started off as a counterculture commune that ran a small theater group, art gallery, grew into a group of individuals that embraced both science and entrepreneurship. Allen and his crew ended up purchasing some affordable land in Arizona and built it into a ranch, which led to them working on their own biosphere. In the dome Allen was able to examine the different atmospheres of Earth and the effects of how carbon and gases impact our planet. They even harvested their own crops and built their own body of water. These events were eerily similar to many sci-fi novels and movies like “Silent Running”, in which the footage of that film looks very similar to what Allen was attempting to accomplish.
Considering the offbeat and cerebral nature of the documentary, the films greatest strengths lies in just how commending it is in these unorthodox and unconventional ways of experimenting. Sadly it doesn’t long to reveal that one of the main reasons why the Biosphere 2 didn’t fully succeed was how it was co-opted by other short-term profitable endeavors led by Steve Bannon.