I wasn’t expecting to be writing this post today, but the new space opera movie from Netflix is worth noting. In the times when everyone’s favorite childhood franchise is producing mediocre trilogies and spin-offs (with one supposedly decent streaming series coming to the rescue), and when we have had long abandoned all hope in seeing more of Firefly, Space Sweepers is like a breath of fresh air: fun, engaging, and with a story that manages to hit all the tropes we love without feeling cliche.
The short preview on Netflix was enough for Inq and I to get curious about Space Sweepers. Science fiction setting, good special effects, and a promise of fun action seemed like a good bet, and we were saving the movie for the weekend, so we could enjoy it without distractions. And sure enough, we did enjoy it a lot.
The found family like the one in Firefly
The story revolves around a Korean crew of space sweepers: underpaid collectors of space junk and other trash, who come across a little girl in a wrecked spaceship. According to the media, Dorothy is a dangerous android ready to explode any moment, and the authorities want her back. But there are others who are interested in the girl as well, and they are willing to pay for her return. And money, of course, is what the crew of Victory desperately needs.
The crew is built on the best principles of a found family: four outcasts, each with their own reason to be onboard, and each having enough of a backstory to justify their acrid disposition to the world, and—at times—to each other. They might work well together as sweeper team, but they will not shy away from cheating in a game of cards or snatching each other’s cash or supplies. Of course, with Dorothy’s arrival, things will change, and thanks to the new unexpected crew member, the selfish team will become a real family capable of great deeds.
The found family is probably one of the most lovable trope, and even though it feels at times like Space Sweepers cuts corners in the character development to keep the pace of the story, all in all it executes the trope well.
The bigger picture
Although Space Sweepers focuses on Victory’s crew, we get to experience the bigger world through their interaction. It’s year 2029, and Earth has become nearly inhabitable. A powerful company, UTC, is taking the chosen ones into thriving space colonies, preparing to make terraformed Mars a new home into humanity, while the rest of the population is doomed on dying Earth or works for scraps in space as underpaid and maltreated non-citizens.
Sweepers’ universe is full of various nationalities and everyone is wearing translating devices to communicate, so we get to hear several different languages in the movie. There are some other things that despite the science fiction setting can sound quite real when we consider the direction in which humanity might be going. The environmental disaster on Earth, the overbearing bureaucracy that makes getting out of debt almost impossible, the corporate manipulations and oppressiveness of authorities, or poverty and the growing division between the privileged class and the rest are things that we can spot in our own world. And even though Space Sweepers isn’t an issue at its core, all those things are part of the setting, and a crucial one, that affects the characters lives and choices, and had altered their paths in the past as well.
All that it paired with good special effects that make the world look every bit real and full of delicious details, from the perfect landscape through decadent cyber-clubs to shabby space-slums.
Awesome sauce with a dash of cheese
Space Sweepers isn’t a perfect movie. As I mentioned above, it seems to be cutting corners at times, some of its humor seems a bit over the top or cheesy, and a few scenes might make you wonder “how exactly did it happen?”, but if you allow it to carry you instead of questioning its details, it will be a satisfying viewing.
Mostly, because the movie knows its tropes well. The found family of Firefly, adorable robot you know from Star Wars movies (but with a spin!), the cute girl changing hearts of a bitter ragtag team, the villain posing as the savior of humanity… It might be a simple story without unexpected plot twists or “sudden and inevitable betrayals”, but it’s one that can make you feel satisfied and leave you smiling. And if you got that fuzzy feeling when, in Guardians of the Galaxy, the Ravagers arrived to help defend Xandar, you might get it again. Along with the obligatory happy ending which might feel a bit of a stretch in the light of the dramatic finale—but hey, who cares?
Space Sweepers is supposed to be a feel-good movie packed with action and eye-candy, not a drama. So if you’re tired of lukewarm franchises or overcomplicated plots meant to carry those franchises with superficial, drummed-up drama, and instead you’re looking for a pick-me-up movie, do yourself a favor and put Space Sweepers on your watch list.
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.