October 10th, 2010

Whale fluke

2010 in 2010

Let's go miscellaneous in conveying thoughts about the movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact:

  • It's a reassuring movie. A mother, early in the film, tells her son to eat his spaghetti and says "Hey. You'll love it. It's got a lot of stuff that's bad for you." When I saw that in 1984, at some level my 11-year-old self figured that come 2010, we wouldn't, to quote Danny Elfman, be getting our nutrition from eating protein biscuits recommended by the system. We'd still have food in 26 years, good food and junky food. More broadly, Arthur C. Clarke's inherent optimism still becomes obvious even with the Cold War still happening in 2010 and threatening to turn into nuclear war (a story change which I understand; it ratcheted up the story's drama, and I accept it on those terms even though the U.S. and Russia have been getting along decently well for a lot of those intervening 26 years).

    Also reassuring: the year 2010 as imagined in 1984 looks reasonably close to what we got, which is better than most SF films manage. Roy Scheider using his computer on the beach? I can see that happening now. (Just not with Scheider, since he's dead.) Most of the differences are subtle -- the air traffic noise in Washington, D.C. doesn't sound quite like modern-day airplanes, and of course we don't have a replacement yet for airplanes but in 1984 that was a possibility, one hinted at unobtrusively. I find that neat.

  • It's still a quotable movie. Especially space agency chair Milson, whose dialogue was almost entirely the creation of screenwriter/director Peter Hyams: "The one good thing about a reactionary president, he's not into health foods." I'd known that it was quotable; it's helped that KINK FM 101.9's Saturday night electronica show Trance Formation has been dropping in 2010 quotes this year. "Whether we are based on carbon or silicon makes no fundamental difference; we should each be treated with equal respect."

  • I let myself not be amused by a scene that, in 1984, was inadvertently amusing for many people: John Lithgow's space walk from the Leonov to the Discovery. He's nervous to the point of losing breath, and it was meant to be tense and difficult, but movie audiences chuckled at it. I tried to forget about that while watching it.

  • I mentally replaced a couple of now-anachronisms. Floyd and Curnow talk about stadium hot dogs, and they mention the Astrodome and Yankee Stadium. Since the Astrodome no longer exists, I imagined Curnow referring to St. Louis's Edward Jones Dome, because one can call that "The Jones Dome." I kind of like the name "The Jones Dome." Floyd mentions Yankee Stadium, which was replaced with Yankee Stadium (makes sense to me); I imagined him saying "Yankee Stadium. Yeah, even now. September. Dogs have been frying since opening day in April. THAT'S a hot dog."

  • If this film had been made this decade, the filmmakers would've recreated the Discovery's centrifuge set -- as a computer-generated set. Would've been easier than trying to recreate what what built in the 1960s. (Probably the original plans for that set were among what Stanley Kubrick had destroyed so it couldn't be used in other, lower-rent science fiction films.)

  • Keir Dullea when he's the black-clad version of Starchild Dave Bowman? Looks like recent Jon Voight. Just sayin'. (And I wonder if his white-clad oldest self was meant to look like Arthur C. Clarke.)

  • "Choppy": That's the music, whether the re-use of Gyorgi Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna" or David Shire's original score. The big exception, of course, being the opening minute-and-a-half of "Also Sprach Zarathustra," because what could you cut? It's short and it's too iconic. But the Ligeti piece "Aeterna," which was used in 2001 for one giant stretch of film (the Moon flyover stuff), just shows up in certain shots, then is gone in others. I do wish there'd been more of an effort to give the music room to breathe, as music was so gigantically important to the original.

  • Detail I'd never noticed: the sulfur that the first two astronauts track into the Discovery is, later, still on the walls where they walked. Of course: no one on the crew would've had time to clean that.

  • That said, it's maybe slightly too clean a movie.

  • I still like this movie quite a lot.