Friday, January 1, 2010

My God, It's Full of Stars

And with those fateful words, David Bowman, protagonist of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, dove into the unknown. I may be amongst a minority of science fiction fans when I say this, but I didn't hate Peter Hyams' "2010: The Year We Make Contact," (the sequel to Stanley Kubrick's film"2001"). In fact, I loved it. I may also be in a minority of film and movie buffs when I say that I do not deify Stanley Kubrick. Out of his body of work that I've seen ("The Shining," "2001," "Dr. Strangelove," and "Full Metal Jacket") I only really liked "Full Metal Jacket." I have no desire to see any of his other films based on "Gosh - it's Stanley Kubrick's [FILL IN THE BLANK]! I have to see it because he's a fucking genius!" No, he isn't. He may have had a great eye, and a great sense of direction, but he also made a lot of thematic changes to both "The Shining" and "2001." I'm convinced that he had something to do with the missing footage of "2001" being truly missing and indeed actually destroyed. He made it nearly impossible for anyone to think about those books without the movies first, and that is a crime I will never EVER forgive. Yes, Peter Hyams' "2010" is guilty of the same crimes I levy against Mr. Kubrick, but with all due apologies to Mr. Hyams, nobody is putting him on the same lofty pedestal as Stanley "Film God" Kubrick. I remember seeing "2001" a bunch of times before I worked up the courage to read the book. It was one weird fucking movie. "2010" inspired me to read the book 2010: Odyssey Two immediately, and it gave me a deeper appreciation for Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

But I digress.

Peter Hyams' "2010" and the original book are noteworthy for a number of points, but as it is New Year's Day, I thought I'd reflect upon the ones that came to mind foremost: politics and optimism. The background of "2010" is set against a US-Soviet conflict that goes hot rather quickly. "Soviets," not "Russians," or "Chinese" (which would have been more appropriate given the book). This is amusing in our current world, one which is literally a generation since the books publication in 1983. Mr. Hyams deftly uses the book to weave his own story of optimism and doesn't seem to forget the central message behind Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Monolith story device. It was meant to spur the next step in evolution, to inspire us to grow and go farther than we thought possible. What better way to think about optimism than against the backdrop of World War III?

And David Bowman (who had since he uttered those fateful words had become closer to his antagonist, the HAL 9000 computer as well as what we could become) visited his former wife and his mother to let them know in what limited way they might be able to understand that "something wonderful" was going to happen. I cried during those scenes the first time I saw the movie, and I still cry when I see it. Such a wonderful message of optimism was released in a year when we were still entrenched in US-USSR agitprop bullshit. It would take us a generation to get out from under the shadow of Reagan-Bush and Bush-Cheney, and maybe now we finally have reason to have hope. Maybe now we can believe that it is full of stars.

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