Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2001 vs 2010, part 2020

Over the years, many people have asked me why, as Editor-in-Chief of the magazine [Starlog], my editorials don't appear in the front of each issue. Well, there are several reasons — not the least of which is that STARLOG's publisher, Kerry O'Quinn, uses the front editorial space for his comments, which come "From the Bridge." But I really do enjoy having the last word, a habit which I picked up early in life.

I bring this up now because there is something about which I would like to have the last word this month. The subject at hand is "2001 vs. 2010." Filmmaker Peter Hyams is in an extremely ticklish position, because 2010 certainly will be compared with 2001, regardless of the fact that it is definitely not a standard sequel.

The two films really have little in common: both are translated from Arthur C. Clarke novels and both have a Monolith and David Bowman. Unfortunately, this is enough to cause comparisons. The cast and production team of 2010 are painfully aware of this fact and, perhaps, a bit defensive about it. After all, 2001 is a classic, a landmark motion picture, an international phenomenon and the philosophical statement of a generation.

In explaining the difference between the two films, it has often sounded as if the people who are associated with 2010 are putting down 2001. This is unfortunate, unnecessary and clearly not the intention of Hyams and his team. And yet ... .

And yet there are certain comments by Hyams and "visual futurist" Syd Mead with which I must take issue. Specifically, in terms of the design differences between the two movies. According to these two multi-talented men, the Discovery is a work of pure fiction, while the Leonov is more reflective of reality. To a certain extent, they are right. Back in 1968, no one had any idea of how an actual interplanetary spacecraft might look. Today, as Mead has pointed out, we have walked on the Moon, sent remote-controlled craft to the outer planets, and seen a Presidential mandate for a manned space platform in the next decade. Today, we know how space looks, how spacesuits look, how the Shuttle was designed to take maximum advantage of limited space.

However. . .what Mead, Hyams, Clarke, et. al. fail to take into account is the ever-increasing speed of social and technological change. One must bear in mind that Stanley Kubrick's task was to extrapolate 33 years up the timeline. He had every reason—and every right—to believe that the speed of change would obsolete any subtle extrapolation from then-current designs. This is the crucial point.

Today, the speed of change has increased: Hyams' task of extrapolating 26 years up the timeline is an even greater challenge, due to that fact. A challenge which, I feel, he has not met as successfully. Let's face it: with enough time and money, the Leonov could be built now— pretty much as it appears in the film. Certainly, this gives filmgoers a reality base with which to appreciate the design work, the look and feel of astronauts in space. But it is definitely not a better job of extrapolation than that done by Kubrick's team. In fact, the Leonov would have been a better design for 2001, while the Discovery is still futuristic enough to look good as a ship designed in 2010.

I have much more to say on this subject, but, as usual, no more space. See the film and let me know how you feel on this subject.

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