In 1991, eight intrepid volunteers ventured into the infamous “Biosphere 2”. Spaceship Earth opens with footage from this moment: a cacophony of noise, cheers and waves are freely exchanged. These people are triumphantly venturing into a self-constructed garden of Eden, complete with a living coral reef and rainforest.

Director Matt Wolf pieces together hours of previously unseen footage to tell the story of Biosphere 2. This manmade contraption is a condensed replica of Earth’s natural resources. The eight “biospherians” have decided to live in this glass-panelled ecosystem for two years. They are effectively using this time as a test run for humanity’s eventual decision to venture out into space.

Wolf later revisits the opening moments of the film but from a slightly different angle. We see one of the self-proclaimed “biospherians” snap as she tries to close the door. She is desperately trying to lock herself in, unnerved by the presence of a cameraman. This deeply uncomfortable, entirely human exchange is what the film frequently overlooks. Wolf and his interviewees are so enchanted by the idea of Biosphere 2 that they repeatedly fail to delve into the inner workings of this group.

These people are drawn together by John Allen, whose character, intentions, and focus are left unexplored. Instead of investigating the cult-like figure who inspired this experiment, Spaceship Earth opts for a largely non-judgmental perspective on this complicated project. The Biosphere is depicted as a project somewhat destined to fail, but the film never settles on who is to blame.

While there are moments when Spaceship Earth transcends its messy narrative to say something thoughtful about people’s tendency to wreak havoc, it is a disappointing watch with very little to say about a world that would need to build a Biosphere 2. A frequently frustrating, occasionally incisive, examination of the relationship between man and nature.




SYNOPSIS: Spaceship Earth is the true, stranger-than-fiction adventure of eight individuals who in 1991 spent two years quarantined inside of a self-engineered replica of Earth’s ecosystem called BIOSPHERE 2.