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Ridley Scott: "After 2001 -A Space Odyssey, Science Fiction is Dead"

Ridley_scott_2 In a speech at the 2007 Venice Film Festival at  special screening of his seminal noir thriller Blade Runner, Sir Ridley Scott, the legendary director of Alien, announced that he believes that science-fiction as a genre is dead -gone the way of Westerns.

Scott believes, as we do at The Daily Galaxy, that although the flashy special effects of block-busters such as The Matrix, Independence Day and The War of the Worlds, may sell at the box office, that none can beat Stanley Kubrick’s haunting 1968 epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. The film is as fresh (and perhaps more relevant) today as the day it premiered.

The video at the end of the post -Kubrick 2001 -The Space Odyssey Explained- is a minor masterpiece in itself and is not to be missed.

 “There’s nothing original. We’ve seen it all before. Been there. Done it,” Scott said.

Made at the height of the “space race” between the United States and the USSR, 2001 predicted a world of malevolent computers and routine space travel. Kubrick had such a fanatical eye for detail, he employed Nasa experts in designing the spacecraft.

Sir Ridley said that 2001 was “the best of the best”, in use of lighting, special effects and atmosphere, adding that every sci-fi film since had imitated or referred to it. “There is an over reliance on special effects as well as weak storylines,” he said of modern sci-fi films.

2001-Alcott3 More than anything, 2001 and its journey from the origins of life in prehistoric Africa in 4 million BC to Jupiter, where a new creature, the HAL 9000 computer inhabits the dark void of space. The film is Kubrick's philosophical statement about humanity's place in the universe, about where we as humans rate in the pecking order of life -- "feral, intelligent and hyper-intelligent."

The famous Monoliths at the opening of the film and the Star Child at the end indicates that entities have reached a higher level of consciousness. Despite the fact that humanity remains more or less earthbound, Kubrick -- through his strange, infuriating and by turns terrifying movie points towards our future: to our destiny beyond the Solar System.

The film's primary themes include the origins of evolution; sentient computers; extra-terrestrial beings; the search for one's place in the universe; and re-birth all seen within a cold, foreboding light.  Viewers often read the monoliths as signposts of our discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Shortly after the film's release, however, Kubrick told a New York Times reporter that it's more a matter of the other beings discovering us.

Steven Spielberg called 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) his generation's "big bang," focusing its attention upon the Russo-American space race -a prelude to orbiting and landing on the Moon with Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. And it prophetically showed the enduring influence that computers would have in our daily lives.

The special effects techniques Kubrick pioneered were further developed by Ridley Scott and George Lucas for films such as Alien and Star Wars. 2001 is particularly notable as one of the few films realistically presenting travel in outer space, with scenes in outer space completely silent; weightlessness is constant, with characters are strapped in place; when characters wear pressure suits, only their breathing is audible.

Stanley Kubrick -director of Dr Strangelove, Lolita, and Clockwork Orange- spent five years developing 2001, collaborating with SF legend Arthur C. Clarke on the script, expanding on Clarke's short story "The Sentinel". The screenplay and the novel were written simultaneously. The novel and the film deviate substantially from each other, with the novel explaining a great deal of what the film leaves deliberately ambiguous.

The film is notable for its use of classical music, such as Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra and Johann Strauss's The Blue Danube waltz, as well the music of contemporary, avant-garde Hungarian composer, György Ligeti (though this was done without Ligeti's consent).  Atmospheres, Lux Aeterna, and Requiem on the 2001 soundtrack was the first wide commercial exposure of Ligeti's work.

The moon docking sequence, which preceded the actual moon landing by a year, looks remarkably accurate. It's no wonder so many people believe the Apollo 11 landing was filmed on a Hollywood sound stage -- Kubrick had already done it, and he made it look easy.

One of the more crucial elements of 2001 is the lack of sound  that dominates the film, which is true to that there would be no sound in space (no atmosphere means no medium for sound transmission).

Damian_2_hal-9000_focus_jpg1 The real drama begins when  HAL, one of cinema's all-time evil and terrifying characters, makes his appearance. The HAL 9000: a malevolent, homicidal, and sightly effete (he sings "Daisy")) intelligent computer that controls the operations of the spaceship Discovery, which is on its way to Jupiter with a team of astronauts to explore the monoliths' origins.

In the movie's climatic sequence, Discovery crewmen David Bowman and Frank Poole attempt to disable the computer after the stability of his programming becomes suspect. Omnipotent in their microcosmic on-board setting, HAL doesn't take kindly to this suggestion. Bowman and Poole hole themselves up in space pod to engage in what they think is a private conversation. HAL, however, watches, reading their lips. Not good...

Sir Ridley is one of Britain’s most acclaimed film-makers. His extraordinary number of box-office hits include Alien – another sci-fi classic, best remembered for the scene of an infant creature bursting through John Hurt’s chest – as well as Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down.

But it is for Blade Runner that sci-fi fans revere him most. Ridley's vision, writes Cinematical writer Kevin Kelly, turned Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? "into a look at a dystopian future that still influences the look and feel of science fiction films to this day."

Scott began his feature film directing career with The Duellists, a small but dazzling masterpiece, which brought him the Grand Jury Prize at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. His second film was the breakthrough hit Alien, which won an Academy Award for Special Effects. This was followed by Blade Runner, now considered one of the landmark science fiction films of all time. In 2003, Scott was knighted by the Queen of England.

Posted by Casey Kazan.

Related Galaxy posts:

For the rest of the 2001 plot action, don't miss this video:

Kubrick 2001 The Space Odyssey Explained -Video

Related posts:

"Andromeda Strain 2" - Is a Pandemic from Space Possible?

Future Present -Science Fiction as Prelude

James Cameron & Arthur C Clarke on Space Odyssey 2001 -A Video

"42": Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Foreshadows Actual Weight of Universe!

"On Two Planets" & "War of the Worlds" -The Origins of Science Fiction

Sunshine -Heir to Space Odyssey 2001

Orson Wells & his 1938 Mercury Theater Broadcast of H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds"

Video Link


thank you

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He ease, please. Both Kevin Kelly and Cinematical were given proper credit(s). Sorry about the commas...we'll tighten up on the copy editing --we don't have a Time-Inc sized copy-editing department.

This post is a tribute to 2001-A Space Odyssey. If nothing else, enjoy the video link at the end of the post "Kubrick 2001 The Space Odyssey Explained -Video" --it's a masterpiece and it's timeless. This is not a news article -it's a post about a great film. Cheers, Casey Kazan, editor.

It's sad to see that you're willing to actively engage in the censorship of any illumination of error or lack of quality in your "content," as per the deletion of my original post.

"We don't have a Time-Inc sized copy-editing department"
While this may be true you are a RESPECTED daily blog... that respect comes with the price of having to live up to standards that are well above rehashing old material that isn't even yours to begin with.

Come on.

I just made a account to say I really enjoy this site and visit it AT LEAST daily. I know there are always negative comments on here so I had to say thank you guys for bringing us *appreciative people* the latest and most interesting articles. :)

Salty Dog...good journalism means using two or more sources with attribution and with varying degrees of originality depending on the nature of the post. posted a piece yesterday that was close to a post we did back in February on the 1958 Gulf of Alaska "tsunami." Several of the major online pubs track and mimic our work -it's the nature of the business. We're trying to bring you the best content on the planet. Sometimes we screw up -more than we like. Apologies for the delete. We've hired a worldclass copy editor who is joining us next week. My best, Casey.

Sorry, Ridley Scott is a tool for saying that. There are thousands of awesome scifi stories out there in novel form that have never been turned into screenplays. THOUSANDS. They may not be blockbusters at the level of '2001', but that's irrelevant. The fact remains that there are totally awesome stories that I've personally read that have never been turned into film.

Scifi is not even in the least bit dead. Just try to tell that to the tens of millions of scifi fans, both the writers and consumers.

There is no doubt that 2001 A Space Odyssey is one of the great science fiction movies; however, I don't believe that the science fiction genre is dead and gone the way of the westerns. Perhaps it is simply that there are too few directors who are capable of translating some of the great science fiction novels in to a decent movie. Great article. Check out my first and recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal. This exciting tale is a romantic action adventure in space and is more about the characters than the technology.

Hey Mark...I agree, but we're talking about science fiction as film in the post. Alastair Reynolds' "Revelation Space" series is as good as anything by Arthur C. Clark and will probably end up as a great movie trilogy or something close.

All best, Casey Kazan.

Science Fiction Dead? I think it's as alive as it's ever been. Let's face it, sci-fi is underground (for the most part), nerdy, and has a deep seated and very intricate history.

I think that their are TONS of sci-fi novels that are not only amazingly original, but understandable enough where as any common person would understand the basic premise of the ideas, and where a sci-fi fan would be able to swim in techno-jargon with a giant smile on their face.

I for one would love to see Asimov's Foundation series on the big screen, and it would be interesting to see how a director would interpret and show-case the amazing ideas, twists, and social theories and concepts.

I think this article is totally wrong. What about Blade Runner? Science fiction is hardly dead. Plus the ending of 2001 was hopelessly confusing. Not only that, but none of these "predictions" are guaranteed. Corporations have overwhelmingly proved their ability and desire to stifle innovation and progress with their restrictive patents and controls over employees through contracts. Also, there are cultures with religious beliefs that keep a society from progressing technologically for thousands of years. Finally, the huge military budget diverts money from public education and pure research/scientific inquiry and retards technological and scientific progress.

All these starry eyed predictions and statements are just silly.. it wounds like an article in WIRED or H+ magazine. It's all crap. The only way to truly be sure something is going to happen is to be a scientist actually working on a project, all other "predictions" are just speculation.

Generally, I love the material on Daily Galaxy, but I'm a little baffled by this piece. There are less than two sentences of support for the "science fiction is dead" argument. Was 2001 a groundbreaking, epic piece? Of course. Does that render all future attempts obsolete? Of course not. A short list of compelling (post 2001) sci-fi movies that occurs to me:

Blade Runner
Moon (though somewhat derivative of 2001)
Minority Report
Children of Men
Code 46 (highly recommend if you haven't seen this one)

In what way are any of these pieces not relevant or forward thinking?

The bottom line is that many baby boom-era directors and writers were so awestruck by 2001 that they refuse to acknowledge later groundbreaking work. But it's out there, for those who care to look.

SpaceSkeptic: We posted this piece to provoke comment and discussion. I for one agree that that SF is far from dead! There are some great SF films out there (Blade Runner, Sunshine, Solaris)and a library-full of great fiction. Casey Kazan.

To mr. Scott; PlanetES...

It is indeed the canonical sci-fi movie, once you understand its message there is nothing left to say.

written oreginalno, but with the sense

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No, Science Fiction is not dead. Far from it. The sad thing is that, from a movie perspective, there are few directors and even fewer people with money willing to fund good ideas who will do the work necessary to make a good film; not the same thing as a high grossing film.

Of all genres Science Fiction is the most alive, imaginative, and filled with brilliant people.

Do not sound the death knell prematurely for the genre, get all those lazy money hounds off their asses and let some of the spectacular literature shine.

I also agree with many of the comments, while 2001 is an amazing movie and a hallmark of science fiction, there are other movies that can easily compare with it, Gattaca immediately comes to mind as one example and . There is perhaps a small nugget of truth to Scott's statement of a been there, done that-- as much as I love Moon and Primer and in my opinion I think Moon compares with 2001 as a cinematic masterpiece, I doubt they would have existed (especially Moon) without 2001's guiding influence.

I don't think science fiction is dead, It has just changed. Space opera is far less interesting than the changes that occur to otherwise seemingly small parts of our lives and culture over the large or short time spans that exist as a part of science fiction. I'm tired of the space battles and horror sequences, I just want to see what such cultures look like 1000 years from then, I want to see how people of these different species and groups see one another, or what a normalized society would look like, after the dramatic first encounter, after the groups at least think they have come to understand each other on some level. I want to see what happens when cultures blend. I want to see what happens when people try to interact with people with potentially different emotions and perceptions, and how the views of these species or groups change over generations. I want to know if after 100, 1000, 10000 years of interaction, between groups or species that once considered each other monsters or uncanny, can eventually see beauty in each others forms. I want to see when views of normal people like me are considered ignorant like the racism that was so common in our past, and when people and cultures in these times have prejudices like those in our past, but are blind to them. It's just that movies are not necessarily the best way too explore these themes, as they might be too short, or require too many sequels, so you see them pop up more in comics, cartoons, anime, and video games, which can occur over the time scales required too fully explore these themes.

Behold - I come from the distant future of 2012 AD!

And you're wrong. So very wrong. We still have sci-fi. Lots of it. I am awed by how wrong this is. Declaring an entire genre dead even as films are being made and released - classic films to us future people - is just astounding.

I'm tired of the space battles and horror sequences, I just want to see what such cultures look like 1000 years from then, I want to see how people of these different species and groups see one another, or what a normalized society would look like, after the dramatic first encounter, after the groups at least think they have come to understand each other on some level. I want to see what happens when cultures blend. I want to see what happens when people try to interact with people with potentially different emotions and perceptions, and how the views of these species or groups change over generations.

I'm tired of the space battles and horror sequences, I just want to see what such cultures look like 1000 years from then, I want to see how people of these different species and groups see one another, or what a normalized society would look like, after the dramatic first encounter, after the groups at least think they have come to understand each other on some level. I want to see what happens when cultures blend. I want to see what happens when people try to interact with people with potentially different emotions and perceptions, and how the views of these species or groups change over generations.

Another though occurs too. I don't subscribe to the idea of little green men in flying saucers. The idea that a super-advanced species would travel the gulf of space only to steal cows (or crash their ship) is pretty laughable.

... but I wonder could we even perceive the existence of a more advanced form of life? A species thousands, millions even billions of years more advanced than us would be so different. Would we be like ants trying to comprehend the human world?

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