The space weepie has existed for a long time, but there's been a significant uptick in recent years, which can likely be attributed to the continued blockbuster-ification of mainstream studio releases, the technical leaps in special effects, and the fact that so many powerful filmmakers came of age admiring the space movies of the past. (Also, let's not forget: people love to tweet about crying during movies and the planet is dying.) Performers clearly relish the combination of training and diligence the roles demand -- plus, it probably doesn't hurt that your face will inevitably be centered on the poster. For directors like James Gray or Claire Denis, who released her own masterful space film, High Life, earlier this year, space is a canvas to examine cultural taboos and ponder moral transgressions.
Even in the rock-em-sock-em realm of superhero movies, a genre that's full of arch sentimentality but mostly resistant to melodrama, space is often the most difficult, trying crucible that valiant do-gooders must pass through. At the end of 2012's The Avengers, Tony Stark's Iron Man travels up into the atmosphere to deposit a nuclear weapon and save the planet; in this year's Avengers: Endgame, he begins the film floating in a hopeless spaceship and sending messages to loved ones at home. These are space weepie moments tucked into more lumbering movies. If any of the Marvel films come close to earning full-on space weepie status, it has to be Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a movie focused on dying planets and daddy issues.
Will this golden age of space weepies last? The less than stellar box office returns of First Man, which only grossed $105 million worldwide on a $70 million budget, and Ad Astra, which opened with $19 million domestically this weekend, could make studio executives less inclined to make these type of creative bets. First Man failed to score a Best Picture nomination and Ad Astra could also get crowded out during the awards season, which could put the space weepie in danger. It's felt like at least one of these movies comes out every year for the last few years, but that could change. Trends are fickle, subject to the whims of the market, and as technology evolves, space weepies could become smaller-scaled and the genre could continue to shift towards TV and streaming platforms, like it did with Hulu's failed Sean Penn space-weepie series The First and might with the upcoming Apple+ space-weepie-seeming For All Mankind. Still, audiences will continue to dream about reaching for the stars. Just bring some tissues along for the ride.