Thursday, 7 August 2014

A Grand Odyssey For Mankind

Recently the third trailer was released for Christopher Nolan's upcoming film Interstellar, and I'm hyped. I'm super-excited to see this movie and it looks like it is going to be something amazing. One thing in particular that makes it look extraordinarily interesting is that it seems to be a very distinct type of film. 

This isn't going to just be "the first interstellar travellers crash onto a planet and get picked off one by one". If anything it looks very much like this is going to be a story of the future, an odyssey if you will, not of one character but mankind as a whole. Very few science fiction movies have succeeded in pulling off this approach, but this particular style of film-making has a long history. 

This is a story of tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. That line opened one of the very first efforts to create such a film. George Pal's Conquest of Space may have been a colossal flop on its initial release, but little could he and director Byron Haskin have realised the door they opened for science fiction filmmakers to come. 

 Using the best science available at that point in time, Pal tried to accurately envision what the future of space travel might look like. He wanted to create an experience. Say what you will on whether he succeeded or failed. The final movie is enjoyable but does have its flaws, but such an idea was relatively new back then. You can't expect absolute perfection the first time round. However, what it may just have done was opened the door for greater and perhaps more ambitious efforts.

Only 13 years later, another science fiction movie the likes of which had never been seen before arrived in cinemas. With the debut of 2001: A Space Odyssey audiences were initially puzzled and only gradually won over by its brilliance. That film was a masterpiece in itself, no doubt about that, but could it have worked without its predecessor? Did Pal's failure with Conquest of Space open the door for Kubrick to succeed? It just might have.

It wouldn't be too great a stretch to assume Kubrick saw Conquest of Space, and even less of a stretch to assume it inspired him at least on some level at least insofar as the ultimate aim to realistically depict space travel. Pal's film only went as far as Mars, but ended on the optimistic note that it was a significant step in our exploration of the universe. Kubrick's would go further, sending us toward Jupiter, and ultimately "beyond the infinite", wherein we see a brief glimpse of just what might lie in store further down the road.

We don't see very many other films of this sort over the following years. Contact borders on it, but even then the story is very much Ellie's as opposed to one of mankind as a whole. That may change with the release of Interstellar. Pal's Conquest of Space took us to Mars. Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey took us to Jupiter, and now Nolan's Interstellar seemingly launches us beyond the furthest reaches of our Solar System to exploring the stars. Perhaps here we'll see a further step in human exploration, given the trailers showed several alien landscapes.

There seems to be an overall sense of progression that comes from examining these three films at length. Each one represents a journey of humanity and what the future might conceivably hold for us. With each one the vision becomes grander, more elaborate, and ambitious, as we make a bold plunge towards the universe itself. I'm personally looking forward to seeing Interstellar and if it really is a worthy follow-up to its predecessors.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an intelligent film having to do with space...I am amazed.