The Midnight Sky takes place in a similarly unfortunate world as the one in On the Beach, in which an unnamed catastrophe has coated the planet in radiation. The matching settings and themes of the two pictures explain why Clooney, who pulled triple duty directing, producing, and starring in The Midnight Sky, elected to include a clip from On the Beach in his movie. That said, he states that he felt it was important to differentiate his movie from the film it calls back to, especially in tone. Now, he argues, isn’t the time to focus on doomsday.
“The only difference, I thought, was that On the Beach is so nihilistic by the end,” Clooney told Deadline, referring to the 1959 movie’s (60+ year spoiler alert) famously dark ending. “It really is the end of all mankind and there is no hope. It’s one last kiss, one last love before it all ends… and this one, there is life to it and there is redemption to it and there’s hope to it and all the things that sort of make the struggle worth it.” The director and star didn’t want to drop a ton of demoralizing bricks on his audience. “If [the moral] was just, ‘OK, everybody dies in the end,’ it wouldn’t feel like a story we need to see right now,” he stated.