Seth MacFarlane IS Space Explorer Man in the risky new space adventure from 20th Century Fox out now in theaters everywhere. Having already conquered genres as diverse and varied as raunchy cartoons, naughty bromances, and dirty westerns, it was only natural for MacFarlane to test his effervescent wit and visionary talent on a space movie next.
In addition to writing and directing, MacFarlane also stars as Captain Orville Galois. But everyone just calls him ‘Space’ for short (short for Space Explorer Man, that is). As his name implies, Space is an intrepid explorer man of deep space.
MacFarlane uses his very white face and body to develop a complex characterization of Captain Space. This characterization draws on many traits of famous explorers of the past: Neil Armstrong’s pioneer spirit, James Cameron’s keen intelligence, and Buzz Lightyear’s bravura, take-no-prisoners attitude.
Space also has a passion for late twentieth century pop culture that all of the other characters find deeply perplexing, as the movie is set four centuries in the future. “Is Milli Vanilli the name of the next alien species we are to encounter?” they wonder before realizing Space is once again referencing something none of them have heard of for no reason at all. This quirk is later revealed to be the result of serious brain injury Space suffered as a child on the planet Dorgon.
In addition to obsessing over forgotten ephemera from centuries past, the childhood brain injury occasionally causes Space’s mental faculties to fail him altogether, such as in the scene he is assigned a new ship by his commanding officer. The alarmed commanding officer watches as Space begins to shove marbles in his mouth, thinking they are candies. When informed of their true nature by his superior (since in his submental state his mouth is unable to discern the flavor and texture of marble), he spits them out like an untamed beast.
The brain injury is also blamed when Space commits hideous acts of savagery against alien species, or whenever he reveals his shockingly retrograde attitude towards women.
Of course, MacFarlane knows a lot about marriage and long term commitment and is eager to explore that subject as he is deep space. To accomplish this, Space’s ex-wife and his current girlfriend are both members of his crew. As you can imagine, this drives a lot of the movie’s conflict, at least when the character’s aren’t busy discovering new planets and stars.
I’m grateful to report, Space Explorer Man boldly goes where no space movie (or television series for that matter) has gone before. Unfortunately MacFarlane’s comic sensibility doesn’t mesh all that well with the optimistic, pioneering sci-fi adventure with cerebral themes that he tries to create. If only someone was to make the same movie but without all the pop culture references and bizarre attempts at postmodern humor. Or maybe a TV show, who knows?
TL;DR – Enormously imaginative and original, Space Explorer Man is an exciting and wondrous space movie only marred by an awkward yet piquant sense of humor MacFarlane seems unable or unwilling to shed.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“I was especially taken with the costumes: how did MacFarlane imagine such a stylish yet plausible outfits for his space ship crew to wear.” – Brayton Exira, Collider
“The social commentary struck me as a little tone deaf, especially the debate between Captain Space and his ex-wife over whether an alien baby should have received gender reassignment surgery.” – F. Debnie Amberson, NPR
“Sort of like if A Million Ways to Die in the West was set in space.” – Trim Richulds, Entertainment Weekly
“Space Explorer Man finally transcends Family Guy and MacFarlane’s other work by being something more than a copy of an iconic television series or movie filtered through his irreverent sensibility.” – Gulluzar Baboudjian, Boston Herald
“I couldn’t help but stare deeply into Captain Space’s beady black eyes.” – Mother Waddles, Daily Mirror
“I felt like I was hallucinating as I watched this garbage fire of a movie. I just couldn’t believe it was authorized, funded, or (God help us) released.” – Nikita Urevich, Film Freak Central
“A deeply offensive waste of everyone’s time.” – Mameh Immanuel Sisma, The Guardian
“Seth MacFarlane is back, baby! And he’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
50% liquid & seed retention – A SORT OF GALIA MELON, OR THE EAST ASIAN SARDA, CLAIMED TO CAUSE ANXIETY AND EVEN BIOLOGICAL REVULSION IN SOME PEOPLE