Perusing the half dozen films writer/director James Gray (above right) has worked on over the past 20 years, there’s nothing to suggest he’d soon be taking a turn into the science fiction genre, but that’s precisely where he’s headed. Gray is best known for films such as the 2007 crime thriller We Own the Night and this year’s The Immigrant, starring Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix, and Marion Cotillard, which premiered at the New York Film Festival earlier this month. And while that film is getting plenty of good buzz, we’re far more interested in his next project: a science fiction thriller called To the Stars.
Speaking to the Brazilian website Omelete, Gray revealed that To the Stars is next on his docket. Collider adds a few specifics for the sci-fi thriller: it’s set in the near future, it’s described as “an odyssey through the solar system,” and it involves “a group of astronauts who go on a mission to bring a renegade colonist back to Earth.”
While those plot details don’t reveal too much, there are a few things we can extrapolate or speculate about. For one, it’s supposedly set in the near future, but the “odyssey through the solar system” suggests a future far enough along for our species to have migrated outward and settled throughout the solar system. If the story were limited, as we are now, to Earth and the Moon (if we’re feeling generous), that wouldn’t make for much of an odyssey. Plus, the “renegade colonist” obviously reveals that we’ve colonized at least one of the planets or moons in our solar neighborhood.
I’ll also be curious to see if “astronauts” is just a placeholder phrase for “people working in space.” Astronauts aren’t really who you think of when fugitive recovery is the topic at hand, so we may be losing something in the translation (figurative or literal). Maybe “space bounty hunters” would have been more accurate? We’ll just have to stay tuned.
Gray has apparently been planning To the Stars for a while now, and he co-wrote the screenplay with Fringe writer Ethan Gross (among many other episodes, he wrote the “Brave New World” two-parter that closed out the show’s fourth season). Anything from a Fringe writer automatically has my attention, and it’s always interesting to see a writer/director tackling a science fiction story when that’s not traditionally what they’re known for — that often suggests they’ve got a unique story they want to tell, rather than just a genre to check off of their bucket list.
With the massive success of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity — critically, technically, and at the box office — the gauntlet has definitely been thrown down when it comes to future films set in space. It will be fascinating to see how To the Stars and other upcoming science fiction films stand up in a post-Gravity world.