Silent Running ★★★½

In space, no one can hear you garden...

Douglas Trumbull's "Silent Running" is science fiction painted in broad, allegorical strokes. Taking place in a future where the Earth's natural wonders have been decimated, "Silent Running" presents a scenario where those wonders are kept alive in the cosmos but are as threatened there as they were on the planet. The film rates as a pleasant genre outing with a screamed-aloud message and a just-this-side-of-bugnuts performance by Bruce Dern.

The film's story focuses on Dern's Lowell who, along with a crew of three other men and three Power Droid-predating drones, is traveling on an American Airlines (no joke) deep space vessel. Lowell is charged with maintaining the ship's flora and fauna but, when the powers that be decide to torch the forests on every ship, must resort to any means necessary to protect his work.

The story is interesting, but its themes of conservation and messages of stewardhship for Earth's natural elements are writ so large that they are distracting. These are important messages, to be sure, but they are so inorganic to the film that they seem laughable.

Even so, he film is a solid science fiction exercise. Its colorful costumes, sanitized environs, and special effects are fully realized. The production moves at an even pace but bears some long-winded patches. Dern plays his part at full volume, giving little range to the man bent on saving the last vestiges of natural Earth.

Its shortcomings minor, "Silent Running" makes for watchable science fiction. It is a human and eye-opening tale of the future that may lack subtly but has enough easy appeal to make up for it.

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