Saturday, November 08, 2014

Is Everything Just A Response To Something Else?

The comics were sent to his address, meaning my comic guy's. I'm going to assume shoddy handwriting, and it has been suggested I send him some mailing labels, but I'm not sure if that would come off as asshole behavior. Hardly seems like it, considering this is the second time we've had difficulties with the Postal Service reading his handwriting, but you can never tell with people.

To other business. I was reading this Grantland article by Alex Pappademas about 2001: A Space Odyssey, done in part because of the anticipation over the new film Interstellar. I mean the article was done because of that, not my reading it. I don't care about Interstellar one way or the other. Frankly, I'm not that big a fan of 2001 as a film. The book was fine, but the movie was ponderous, dull, and I didn't care about any of the characters. I'd have been better off rereading the book (which probably would take me less time than watching the movie).

The point I noticed was #4, where Pappademas argues that every 'realistic, adult sci-fi movie' since 2001 is a response to 2001 in some way. Which strikes me as ridiculous, because he's assuming every one of those people has seen 2001 and had some kind of significant reaction to it, since he asserts in the footnote that even films which envision the future looking much differently (such as Alien, or Blade Runner), are a rejection of Kubrick's clean, sterile vision of the future and space travel. Though really, it's Arthur C. Clarke's vision, isn't it? The massive ships or structures, the idea there are vast intelligences out there with plans we can barely fathom (if we can understand them at all). Clarke used them in his Rama series as well, so attributing it to Kubrick doesn't seem right. Unless we're going to argue Kubrick influenced the guy wrote the book Kubrick adapted

Honestly,even if you're talking about films, it isn't as though 2001 is the first one to posit that space is a hostile place, full of stuff humans probably aren't ready to be messing around with. Look at Forbidden Planet. Guy finds a host of alien technology, uses it to make himself seem smarter and then whoops! turns out his subconscious mind is taking physical form and killing people, running off the vast power sources the aliens left behind. The movie doesn't focus on the immensity of space, and there's even indication the aliens were destroyed by this technology as surely as humans nearly are, rather than the Monoliths which are equipment for monitoring the human experiment. But the sense it would be very easy to get in over our heads is there for sure. I mean, all the humans can do is run get the hell off the planet, basically. No clever, "reverse the polarity of the tractor beam to short out the connection to his id" strategy. Perhaps Forbidden Planet doesn't qualify as an adult, realistic sci-fi movie, but Pappademas brought up Star Wars in the conversation, and I wouldn't use "realistic" to describe that film, either, so blame him, he started it.

I'm guilty of this thinking, too, more with Westerns. I tend to compare most Westerns to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. But I don't take the approach that every Western since then is in some way a response to it, only that it's my favorite Western and how much do I like others compared to it. Yeah, there were many Westerns made in the '70s trying to ape Leone's style to cash in, and Leone himself was influenced by John Ford's work. But not every Western necessarily is a response to Leone, and for whatever inspiration John Ford's work had on Leone, his films are still clearly his own work. Viewing them strictly - or even primarily - in relation to an older film is fairly reductive. One, it's assuming we know what the filmmaker was thinking, and two, it's not really assessing the film on its own merits. Maybe it's unavoidable, compare one thing to something else we either liked or found similar. I just hate generalizations like that. They're too, well, general, and over-simplified.

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