Viking Night: Dark Star
By Bruce Hall
August 31, 2016
One of my favorite John Carpenter films is a little known gem from 1974 called Dark Star. Don’t feel uncultured if you haven’t seen it; it’s not that kind of film. When the planet killing asteroid finally finds us, Dark Star will probably not be among the cultural treasures saved on board the emergency space ark to Mars. In fact, whether or not any given individual finds this film watchable at all depends largely on their psychological profile. If you go to church on Wednesdays and find the comedy of Jay Leno to be “edgy”, then Dark Star is almost certainly not for you.
If you enjoy romantic comedies in general, please do not watch this movie.
However, if you’re sick in the head, enjoy writing long winded articles about your hobbies, and consider Kurt Russel to be a living God, then congratulations - you are the intended audience of Dark Star.
The movie itself is the brainchild of cult heroes John Carpenter and his friend Dan O’Bannon. If you’re reading this, you probably know who John Carpenter is. And if you know who John Carpenter is, you actually already know who Dan O’Bannon is. Or, you should. So just Google him if you want. But for the sake of this article, just trust me – he’s awesome. Dark Star is to these two what THX-1138 is for George Lucas. They are fascinating works of near madness by ambitious young filmmakers who were talented beyond their years.
And both would go on to inspire other, more well-known properties. But more on that in a minute. Let’s talk about the 22nd Century.
Apparently, it’s kind of a dull place. Humanity seems to have gotten it together enough to begin colonizing space, which sounds pretty exciting. What doesn’t sound exciting is being one of the poor bastards stuck aboard the scout ship Dark Star. They’re the men who get to explore the universe ahead of the colonists, making sure things are safe. Their job is to destroy “unstable planets,” because that’s evidently a thing that could threaten future space settlers.
I should pause and point out that while Dark Star is in no way meant to represent actual science, it does have a distinctly scientific flavor to it – but I’ll get to that in a minute, too.
So, “unstable planets” are a thing, and a thing that needs to be blown up. Dark Star is carrying a seemingly unlimited number of “Thermostellar Triggering Devices.” If you think that’s a fancy way of saying “bomb,” think again. It’s actually a fancy way of saying “Darth Vader’s wet dream.” Each bomb is a highly efficient, artificially intelligent warhead roughly the size of a Winnebago, and powerful enough to destroy an entire planet. If you think this sounds like an awesome job, you’d be right. The crew of the Dark Star really get a charge out of blowing up planets, as any red blooded American male would.