The young and the weight­less

Sweep­ing, soapy Net­flix space se­ries fo­cuses on emo­tions of mis­sion

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY RICHARD ROEPER, MOVIE COLUM­NIST rroeper@sun­times.com | @RichardERo­eper

My, how those past and fu­ture Os­car win­ners love to play ground­break­ing as­tro­nauts soar­ing through space in movies and TV se­ries. In just the last decade, the ros­ter in­cludes:

† San­dra Bul­lock and Ge­orge Clooney in “Grav­ity” (2013)

† Matthew Mc­Conaughey and Anne Hath­away in “In­ter­stel­lar” (2014)

† Sean Penn in “The First” (2018) † Natalie Port­man in “Lucy in the Sky” (2019)

† Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones in “Ad As­tra” (2019)

Add to that list two-time Academy Award win­ner Hi­lary Swank, who head­lines the ele­giac and gor­geously pho­tographed al­beit sudsy space soap opera “Away,” a 10-part orig­i­nal se­ries from Ja­son Ka­tims (“Par­ent­hood,” “Fri­day Night Lights”), premier­ing Fri­day on Net­flix. (Sea­son Two has al­ready been an­nounced.) Filled with screen-pop­ping vi­su­als and never miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity for a dra­matic cliff-hanger, “Away” de­serves ex­tra points just for a karaoke scene in which two char­ac­ters sing along with Elton John’s “Rocket Man” in­clud­ing the im­mor­tal line, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids … ,” which is par­tic­u­larly apro­pos here be­cause one of the char­ac­ters is ac­tu­ally a mom who will be go­ing to Mars on a three-year mis­sion, and that ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids!

Hey. I didn’t make the claim “Away” is sub­tle. Con­sider the col­lec­tion of stock char­ac­ters ac­com­pa­ny­ing Swank’s Cmdr. Emma Green aboard the At­las on the world’s first trip to Mars, which will launch from the moon. We have the gruff, vod­kaswill­ing Rus­sian cos­mo­naut and en­gi­neer Misha (Mark Ivanir), who tells Emma from the get-go he doesn’t trust her lead­er­ship in­stincts; the robot­i­cally ef­fi­cient Chi­nese chemist, Lu (Vivian Wu), who seems in­ca­pable of even con­sid­er­ing crack­ing a smile; the sweet-na­tured rookie space trav­eler/ botanist Kwesi (Ato Es­san­doh), born in Ghana and raised in Eng­land, and the quiet

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