1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Clumsy, derivative and implausible,
This review is from: Silent Running (Widescreen) (DVD)There is not a great deal I have that's positive to say about this movie.
First off, it's heavily derivative, especially of Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey: Alone in deep space, things get very weird, equipment fails, innocent astronatus die, remaining crew go through a psychedelic space trip hurtling through the rings of Saturn and nothing else makes a lot of sense. Switching things around so it is the meatware that goes bonkers doesn't really alter this fact. But its "grand" scheme is where similarities end, and even there it's more of a contrast than a compare. In no sense is Silent Running in the same league as 2001.
Then the screenplay, such as it is, is dire - there's very little dialogue, hardly any action and the action you do get adds nothing to the narrative or dramatic tension (why the demise of the third robot? Why not just start with two? Why the game of cards?).
The plot scenario is ludicrous from the beginning: even allowing the silly premise that the Earth has become, by intended human intervention, totally devoid of plant life (which, the amateur biologist in me shrieks, would surely destroy the oxygen/carbon dioxide equilibrium, would it not?), then to receive an order, with no explanation, to nuke the remaining space-bound conservatories and return the boys to earth defies any sort of credulity. As does Lowell's ability to reprogramme robots to understand ecology and card games by looking in the manual, soldering their motherboards a bit, and typing in a programme.
For a supposedly pro-ecology film (if it were one of these, it was certainly ahead of its time) there are a number of anomalies, chief among them Trumbull's curious decision to portray the hero and saviour of the plants as a murderous paranoid weirdo. Mind you, with the strains of Joan Baez gagging her way through a staggeringly awful cycle of (specially commissioned!) folk songs, perhaps you can excuse the poor man of cutting up a little rough.
Last, Silent Running was - quite apparently - made on the cheap. The sets are drab - much of the space ship looks suspiciously like a partially converted warehouse, and the blue-screening and special effects are ho-hum.
Given that special fx was Trumbull's bag, the shortcoming on this score pretty much sums up the rest of the film.