Movies and Space

With so many science fiction movies about space, each trying to show the different world perspectives of Man and Space. Some films show how great space is. Others demonstrate how dangerous it is; its effect on humans and just how advanced the technology needed for space travel needs to be to achieve it. The question many of us tend to ask is, which movie has accomplished more in providing the world with explicit knowledge of space? In my opinion, each film has done just enough to give the world knowledge on a particular aspect of space. Take, for instance, the movie Gravity. It shows just how powerless one can be in space. Where the lack of gravity means your movements are strictly in line with Newton’s first law of motion. So many of today’s science-fiction films have achieved what they have only because of the knowledge Its predecessors have provided. 

When I talk about the movie which started it all, which provides the groundwork for many of today’s science-fiction films, especially those on space, the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” (also known as 2001) comes to my mind. 2001 is a groundbreaking film by Stanley Kubrick, who teamed up with the acclaimed science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. Together they developed a novel and screenplay in tandem, inspired by Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel.” It is about the discovery of a Mysterious artefact on the Moon left behind by ancient aliens. To avoid an exaggerated description of space, they focused on realism and scientific accuracy to provide proper backing to their ideas. The novel and script concluded after two years, and the film’s production began. The movie released on April 1968, and it had its world premiere in Washington D.C. This movie is a significant pioneer of space movies of today. You also need not look too far to see that this movie has influenced many of today’s technology and culture. I can even go as far as saying the “2001: A Space Odyssey,” has predicted what is to come in many aspects of our everyday life today. 

The first aspect of influence I will talk about is its influence on philosophical and poetic-science fiction movies. After the release of 2001, the market was very receptive of the subsequent massive science-fiction franchise such as Star Wars, Close Encounters and Gravity, and The Martian. The success of these movies depended primarily on the doors opened by the creation of Space Odyssey. For other cerebral science-fiction films that dealt with questions about the relationship of human with technology and the unknown universe; 2001 created a market for films to tackle the complexity and abstract ambiguity of such issues. Movies such as Andrei Tarkovsky’s SolarisNicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to EarthRene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet; and silent Running by Douglas Trumbull benefited from this market. The 21st century witnessed a lot of science-fiction movies by big studios which drew inspiration from Kubrick’s philosophical rigour. Films like Christopher Nolan’s interstellar, and Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. These movies dealt with ideas of space travel and artificial intelligence with Kubrik’s 2001: space odyssey philosophy serving as the basics. Other smaller-scale films dealing with such questions include Shane Carruth’s Upstream ColorJonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. These smaller-scale movies examined more complicated problems than technological immersion. The most recent success of the movie’ Annihilation shows that potent, imaginative science-fiction has a place in the ever-transforming cinematic universe.

The next influence up for discussion is the influence on Production Design and Visual/Special Effects. The visual effect team of 2001: Space Odyssey, led by Douglas Trumbull, was widely praised for their groundbreaking use of the in-camera technique; and pioneering front projection for extensive backgrounds. Intricate spacecraft models were photographed carefully, to provide a realistic depth of field. Large-scale sets, such as the rotating centrifuge, made interior shots of ship used. Many of these special effects, most of which were influenced by silent era practices, were applied to create a sense or feeling of realism that was mostly absent from science-fiction movies of that era. Ironically NASA successfully landed a man on the Moon the very next year, thus providing a real-life reference point for future films. The massive scale and skill used in 2001 were applied to future production/effects by other production teams for their science-fiction worlds. According to The Empire Strikes Back’s cinematographer, Peter Sushitzky, he argues that 2001 led to a Visual Effect (VFX) arms race. John Dykstra, an assistant to Trumbull, co-founded Industrial Light and Magic and directed the special effects on the blockbuster movie, Star Wars. The unique impact itself was created by Trumbull using Spielberg’s Close Encounters and introduced the use of lens flare to create the shape of a flying saucer. With the coming of CGI, many movies need not rely on literal models to develop new and existing worlds. Kubrick’s vision has influenced many working in new areas of technology. The visual supervisor for the movie “Matrix,” invented the Bullet Time effect because he was Lana and Lilly Wachowski gave him permission to explore new forms. According to him, “2001” has led to unexpected breakthroughs and a high level of immersion we have not seen before.” 

The nature of the use of music to Kubrick’s masterpiece much revolutionized the application of music to films. He famously used existing classical-music compositions such as leitmotifs for 2001. Most popular songs on 2001 include Richard Strauss’s ‘Sprach Zarathustra’ and Johann Strauss II’s “The Blue Danube.” The two pieces gained immediate popularity following the release of 2001. Movie directors such as Mike Nichols and John Cassavetes gave positive reviews to 2001’s soundtracks. A few years after the premiere of 2001, an episode of the Simpsons paid homage to the use of music in 2001. Kubrick’s soundtrack for 2001 became iconic in a unique way so that no one can replicate it. Subsequent science-fiction movies started applying specific film scores to convey how beautiful space travel is, rather than using existing recordings. It is, therefore, recognized that the films’ music has served as a reference to other subsequent movies and the unconventional application of music to science-fiction films. An example is the use of pop songs to convey collaboration or peace, as seen in David Bowie’s “starman” in The Martian and Daft Punk’s electro-orchestral score for Tron-Legacy.

Finally, we see one of the most significant influences of 2001 in the role played by the sentient computer HAL 9000, which was voiced by Douglas Rain. This character is one of the most outstanding figures standing at the heart of 2001. HAL represents the common fear of artificial intelligence, which is deeply rooted in that human-made technology will eventually turn against its makers after gaining enough consciousness and knowledge. Many 21st century movies have also dived into portraying of AI as significant characters in many popular films. It is described often as threatening the existence of humanity. This description is in Michael Crichton’s western world, where an AI programmed to fulfil human desire, develop ambitions of their own. James Cameron’s Terminator also showed a world in which Skynet, an AI, gains enough self-awareness and takes over the world. Other movies have portrayed AI in a world that features computer systems with distinctive human features, blurring the line between hardware and flesh, different for that showed by Kubrick. 

Everything in our modern-day world has always had a point of which it began. One can say without a doubt that Kubrick masterpiece has gone on to inspire many aspects of the entertainment industry. It has cast an enormous shadow on the last half-century of pop culture, let alone the science- fiction genre. This movie was designed to inspire wonder and contemplation, rather than providing a simple explanation. It shoulders the spirit of space exploration, together with the awe and terror of potentially discovering that we are not alone. 

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