A grand, galactic science fiction film may not be what first comes to mind when one thinks of Lana Condor and Cole Sprouse.
In “Moonshot,” Condor and Sprouse gravitate toward their strengths, utilizing their knacks for comedy to propel a sanguine story that shoots for the stars — quite literally.
In the film’s imagined future of 2049, Sprouse plays the down-on-his-luck, pedantic barista Walt, who decides to fulfill his fervent desire to travel to a colonized Mars.
“I wanted (Walt) to feel like your kind of old best friend — the really annoying guy that used to hang around the edge of the group, so I just shadowed my brother for a while,” Sprouse joked in a roundtable interview with The Daily Californian. “One of the criteria for a character like that is just that he’s approachable and friendly. It was fun, you know, I’d say ‘The Suite Life’ probably did more heavy lifting for me as a child for this role than anything else.”
Condor and Sprouse naturally emanate warmth and amiability, drastically contrasting with the desolate, eerie oblivion of space. Dissimilar to Sprouse’s quixotic Cody Martin-esque character is Condor’s rational, pragmatic Sophie — a young college student who longs to be with her boyfriend, Calvin (Mason Gooding) and his family on Mars.
“I just modeled Sophie after my mom and my mom’s characteristics. My mom is kind of Type A,” Condor said. “She loves a plan. She loves to have her control and know the outcome of a situation.”
From the film’s launchpoint, Walt and Sophie initially abhor one another despite their aligned interests and undeniable chemistry. Yet, having each acquired a way onto a spaceship to Mars, they find themselves forced to reside with each other.
Sprouse and Condor draw indisputable magnetism as Walt and Sophie, particularly amusing and gratifying when their stars finally align. This playful dynamic on-screen evidently manifests off-screen as well; the pair continually jested about their time on set, teasing about what components of “Moonshot” intrigued them.
“I have this moral scale where I think to myself, ‘OK, would I feel comfortable if my dad’s colleagues were to watch the film?’ ” Condor said.
“I want to make your dad’s colleagues feel super uncomfortable,” Sprouse quipped.
Condor, in turn, teased Sprouse about undergoing projects for financial gain, to which he laughed before explaining the balance between making art and maintaining financial security.
“When you reach a certain threshold of your career and you’re at that threshold being offered certain parts, you’re faced with the dilemma of commercial projects and passion projects,” Sprouse said. “It’s really important to balance both.”
Sprouse noted that his 9-year-old self dreamed of being in a space suit, which encouraged him to take the part. Yet, beyond the film’s whimsical, sci-fi flair complete with robots, communicative orbs and beguiling space shuttles is a struggle to make sense of a petrifying version of the future.
“A lot of this movie deals with control or lack thereof,” Sprouse stated. “The conversation around Sophie’s character when it comes to Walt and Walt’s character is relieving yourself of this fear of loss of control and just becoming a by-the-wind sailor and … going with the flow rather than against the grain.”
“Moonshot” skillfully strikes a balance between science fiction and romantic comedy — two genres that initially seem at odds. Using humor as a means of relaying topical messages, the film’s lighthearted tone unearths an eerily plausible depiction of the future.
“The movie really deals with the question that I think is gonna be the biggest question of, especially your guys’ generation, but very much our generation too,” Sprouse questioned. “Do we prepare another space of existence for us on a different planet?”
The portrayal of an unsuitable planet in need of remediation will surely ring true to audiences, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alarm regarding the future entwines with the film’s narrative, as Walt and Sophie take off from their preconceived aspirations and, instead, embrace the current moment.
“Even though so much has happened to us, you can’t let that hold you back from still wanting and believing that you can go on this grand adventure,” Condor observed, contextualizing the film with the pandemic.
Despite an outer layer of humorous hijinks and galactic glamor, at its core, “Moonshot” is an efficacious, uplifting portrayal of early adulthood that launches viewers to new heights.