(director/writer: Matt Wolf; cinematographer: Sam Wootton; editor: David Teague; music: Owen Pallett; cast: John Allen, Tony Burgess, Freddy Dempster, Kathy Dyhr, Kathelin Gray, Marie Harding, Linda Leigh, Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone, Larry Winokour, Shelley Taylor Morgan, Kathelin Gray, Marie Harding; Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Matt Wolf, Stacey Reiss; Neon; 2020)

“A cautionary tale of how this group of dreamers could potentially re-imagine a new world.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director-writer Matt Wolf (“Teenage”) tells of this once controversial commune project based in the Arizona desert and its experiment about humanity’s ability to colonize planets using a dome (called a Biosphere 2, with the Earth being Biosphere 1). The activist environmental group (mostly from San Francisco) locks itself into the biosphere and feeds itself with food grown inside their shelter, as the group tries to see if they can sustain life without help from the outside. The experiment was funded by billionaire Ed Bass (for $150 million) and supervised by systems ecologist, engineer, metallurgist, and impresario John P. Allen. The counterculture crew yearned for a better world, and were influenced by the visionary R. Buckminster Fuller. We are reminded that Fuller once said “We are all astronauts on a little spaceship called Earth.”

The close-knit crew lived together before at the Synergia Ranch in New Mexico, and built their own ocean-going ship, the Heraclitus.

The documentary tells us a strange true story about the eight visionaries in 1991, who spent two years quarantined inside the self-engineered Biosphere 2. The experiment chronicled their daily existence in the face of life-threatening ecological disaster, in this land-bound project. The story was a cautionary tale of how this group of dreamers could potentially re-imagine a new world.

It’s mildly interesting as a human interest story and though the project’s science is never questioned by the filmmaker, despite its flaws, it still seems to have gotten this fantastic story right.


Spaceship Earth

REVIEWED ON 12/22/2020  GRADE: B