Netflix's Adam Sandler Hit is a Must-Watch for Old-School Sci-Fi Fans (Think Solaris or Boyle's Sunshine)

Netflix's Adam Sandler Hit is a Must-Watch for Old-School Sci-Fi Fans (Think Solaris or Boyle's Sunshine)
Image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Legion-Media

This seems to be Adam Sandler's most existential role.


  • On March 1, the sci-fi movie Spaceman was released on Netflix.
  • The plot follows a depressed Czech astronaut who encounters a mysterious alien creature.
  • Although Spaceman received mixed reviews from critics, it is sure to please fans of classic sci-fi novels and movies.

Science fiction is as broad and undefinable a term as, say, fantasy. Of course, the 'scientific' component is central, providing a perspective on possible technologies of the near or distant future, their benefits and dangers, or an allusion to modern technology or even the state of post-industrial society.

But do space operas like Star Wars fall under such a definition? High technology, interplanetary travel, a space setting — all this makes the franchise a sci-fi exemplar, but let's face it, there's not much 'science' about it, unlike, say, Kubrick's no less epic 2001: A Space Odyssey or Nolan's Interstellar.

What these three examples have in common, however, are existential questions: about human morality and the attempt to understand one's place in the vast universe, about the validity of placing a human being at the center of the universe, and at the same time about the fact that we always have only an all-consuming and isolating loneliness, no matter what corner of the universe we find ourselves in.

Such questions are not uncommon in the novels of Stanislaw Lem, such as Solaris or The Invincible. At the same time, the Polish author is appreciated for his 'hard sci-fi', which balances between philosophy and deep regard for real scientific achievements and perspectives. Today, however, we are not talking about Lem: just a few days ago, Netflix released the sci-fi movie Spaceman, based on the novel Spaceman of Bohemia by Czech writer Jaroslav Kalfař. The movie features both a deep human drama combined with realistic ideas about space exploration.

What Is the New Adam Sandler Movie About?

On March 1, 2024, the Netflix library was enriched by the film Spaceman, directed by Johan Renck, known for directing a remarkable HBO hit, the historical drama Chernobyl. In other words, the film was directed by a man known not only for his harrowing visual style, but also for his ability to accurately portray and contextualize the Central and Eastern European experience. After all, the author of the original novel, Jaroslav Kalfař, is Czech, as is the protagonist played by Sandler.

The plot follows the first Czech astronaut sent to study a mysterious cloud of space dust. The protagonist agrees to the mission, because it will allow him to restore his family's reputation (his grandfather was a member of the Czech Communist Party). He also is anxious about his pregnant wife (Carey Mulligan), who is left on Earth and, feeling neglected, decides to leave him.

And so, approaching the cloud, Sandler's character comes into contact with a mysterious alien arachnid (Paul Dano), who is the last representative of his civilization, and learns about humanity through a lonely Czech astronaut, while offering advice on life.

What Are Critics and Audiences Saying?

Unfortunately, Spaceman polarized critics, with a score of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many noted that the psychological drama and existentialism in this film do not work in combination with science fiction, lacking the background and motivations of the protagonist provided in the original novel, and therefore it is not possible to show empathy for the protagonist, who either really came in contact with an alien, or whose mental health is deteriorating due to loneliness and alcohol.

However, Johan Renck's cinematic style will delight all fans of classic sci-fi films like Solaris as interpreted by Andrei Tarkovsky. However, the director does not copy the achievements of others, but rather combines the best aspects of them, for example with the deep psychological horror in the very 'scientific' setting of Danny Boyle 's Sunshine. Moreover, Jaroslav Kalfař was a student of Jonathan Safran Foer, and thus many have noted the postmodernist approach to the genre, while full of Eastern European context of generational trauma.