The Big Space Journey (1975)

Hi all, Nate here with another gem from the other side of the Iron Curtain. In the near future, the Great Russian Communist Sphere has decided to send a team of teenagers into space for an interplanetary journey. Space travel in this timeline is pretty common, but this will be the first flight for the new Space Children Corps (or whatever). Having watched a couple of kid-centric Rooskie sci-fi movies over the last spring, I was prepared for yet another stinker about entitled snot-nosed brats doing the job of adults and doing it poorly and with much angst and acne and Cure albums. This one surprised me, however, being a lot more grounded in reality and somber than you'd rightfully expect when 3/4ths of the primary castmembers are 13-year old punkass kids.

Who are these spunky youngsters in space? Fedya is the pint-sized commander, a nice kid with chubby cheeks, but he looks like he's only 8 and is woefully unprepared for the Captain's chair. I'm not sure if it was a conscious decision to cast a wee tiny mincy kid for this role, but it's truly a welcome cast-against-type for a sci-fi movie's Male Lead.

The Boss.

Sasha is the other young guy, much taller, handsomer, and more athletic than Fedya, and certainly would have made a more impressive commanding leader (for a brat kid). You can even kinda tell the actor knows he should have been the Number One Man, he's constantly throwing shade at the Fedya actor. Maybe the other kid's dad pulled some Communist Party strings? Certainly weirder (dumber) things have happened in Soviet-era cinema.

Missed his shot.

Sveta is the only girl, smart and sassy and a bit moody, of course, and I love her pixie cut. I can't help but feel, however, that she's just here because someone on the production team thought they needed a girl in the movie. It's ok to have an all-guy cast every now and then, no one's going to riot in the streets over it (gulag...).

No, she rarely smiles.

Oh, and an adult cosmonaut comes along, ostensibly to keep things in order, but he's quickly quarantined with virulent Space Measles or somethings and plays virtually no part in the rest of the movie. Since he can't leave sickbay, and he honestly doesn't seem like he even cares anymore, the kids are nearly completely on their own when the tough decisions have to be made.

Just here for the free drinks.

And those tough decisions come fast and furious for this being a supposedly routine space flight and all. Not to disparage the fine work of the Red Banner Extra-Solar Vessel Construction Komsomolets #37 but this spaceship is a busted heap with shoddy quality control and a host of wiring and piping problems. But it came in way under budget and was ready in time for the Communist Party Congress!

They need a manual.

First a cat shows up, after it eats half their food supply, of course. No idea how a stowaway housecat survived the rigors of launch but it seems pretty perky and spends the rest of the trip just running around the bridge set doing cat things. A set, by the way, that seems to be the only one they built, just filmed from a variety of angles and lighting schemes.

It is a nice set.

Then there's a meteor shower that they see in advance but still choose to fly through for some reason (Soviet grit!). The meteors heat up the spaceship's interior (what? I guess?) and the boys have to take their shirts off so they can sweat a lot. Sveta just chastely unzips her tunic about two inches, unsurprisingly, and I assume the cat just finds a corner somewhere and naps the danger away.

Sure, why not?

Then there's some reactor failure stuff and they have to unplug something or solder some circuit board thingie or something, I kinda wasn't paying attention there for a bit. For being just over an hour long this movie does tend to drag a bit and not just because my English subtitles are terrible and the music cues are overly loud.

Love that radar station.

Along the way we have some quick flashbacks to learn more about the kids. We learn that Fedya's dad died young and he's been trying to honor his name ever since, even if his mom is strongly opposed to his space dreams. We don't learn that much about Sasha and Sveta, but maybe we don't really need to. Nor do we learn anything about the cat's background, it's family, it's hopes and dreams and plans for the future. That's our loss.

Pre-flight days.

And we have dancing, of course, because all 13-year olds spontaniously launch into (badly) correographed dance groups when things get stressful, right? It's a weird dance style, to be sure, quite aerobic and solo, hopping up and down like spastic Cossack bunnies. All that sure works the calves but Russia should have been deep in the 1970s disco era by now, right? Was this the popular dance craze in 1975 Russia? That would have sucked.

Dancing by the stars.

What we don't have is any romance, despite the DVD box art touting it. Sure, we have a flashback where Sasha and Sveta are hanging out at a go-kart track and then running along some flowered lane hand-in-hand, but during their time in space there's nothing mentioned of it. And that's ok, 13-year old kids, remember, this isn't Kentucky.

That's fine, you can stop here.

Then an abandoned space station drifts by and they alter course to investigate. Is it from Earth? Is it alien? Does it matter? Who knows, nothing is ever explained at all. Fedya and Sasha go over to fix it up and literally fall in a hole and are trapped. Sveta comes to save them and also falls in the hole (never said these kids were geniuses). Eventually they find a hidden access tunnel and crawl through emerge in a seedy industrial area of Moscow...whaaaa?

Just gonna screw this thingie in.

So, I've been playing a lot of Fallout 4 this summer, partially because I've always loved the post-apocalypse genre and mostly because it's a damn fine game in every way (except for murdering my CPU). In the Fallout series, as surely you know (!), most of the Vaults were less fallout shelters and more diabolical psychological experiments designed to learn nefarious things about the humans trapped inside. With that in mind, I guessed the SHOCKING PLOT TWIST of this movie about ten seconds into it, but it was still a fun ride anyway. Yes, it seems like the "space flight" was just a simulation, the kids never left Earth. Their actions were being closely monitored by scientists to see if kids that age really could handle the stress of being cosmonauts. It seems the answer was yes? Maybe? I don't care.

You all were just pawns.

The End.

Written in July 2017 by Nathan Decker.

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