Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reflections on the Future


apropos of nothing:

Believe it or not, though all three came out in 1979, "Moonraker" preceded both Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and Disney's "The Black Hole." The film version of "The Andromeda Strain" came out in 1971. The film "Colossus: The Forbin Project" came out in 1970.

These facts continuously blow my mind. This is because, watching them now, I can sense their futurism far more easily than I can Abrams'.* That term makes very little sense on its own, so let me explain: I am a sucker for good design. Good design might make me pick up a book off the shelf and consider it for purchase when the premise doesn't (not a very critical way of looking at literature, but I am a good little capitalist). Good prop and set design in a film (called Production Design) will make me like a film that I otherwise might not. All of the above films have similar production design and, for some reason, that particular design aesthetic to me immediately reads as "the future." This is, of course, because so many were trying to emulate the same production design that Kubrick created for the 1968 film, "2001: A Space Odyssey."# This has become interesting to me because, even though it is far more realistic, a recent re-watching of the J.J. Abram's "Star Trek" reboot does not seem "future" to me. The touch screens and general Apple-like gleaming surface aesthetic doesn't seem to be as "future" to me as the vaulted ceilings, avacado green or burnt orange wall panels and tiny screens with gibberish readouts of 1970's science fiction film.

1979's "Moonraker" is definitely proof of this. I don't like Roger Moore. I know that most James Bond fans will have a special place in Hell reserved for me because I said that, but it's true. I dislike Roger Moore, but I really like this film, and it has a lot to do with the production design. In fact, all the films I listed above share this characteristic: not particularly good films that have fantastic production design. Watching "Moonraker," and seeing just how similar it looked as a non-science fiction film to other films that I knew came from similar times, but had legit science fiction pedigrees, I naturally assumed that it had come later and filched their production design. Some night when you have some time, watch Disney's "The Black Hole" and "Moonraker" back to back and you'll instantly see what I mean. Now, though, seeing the release dates, it is perhaps them who were doing the filching. That's a hard thing to admit, but the film does precede the others by almost six months, meaning that production started earlier by at least six months, as well.

In some ways, I wish that I could feel that the polished, gleaming metal surfaces and the touch screens and immaculately clean glass of the current crop of future-visions was where we are headed, but time and time again, it is the rounded hallways and washed out gray jumpsuits that speak of "the future" to me.
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*= Also surprising to me because their sense of "futurism" seems much more relevant to me, so I tend to think of these films as occurring later than they do--1979 seems fantastically early for films like these to me.
#= Again, it seems nuts to me that a film like "2001" could have occurred in 1968.

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