Monday, October 8, 2007

2010 A Space Idiocy

My wife is a dedicated "space opera" freak, and dearly loves any movies involving flight, space travel, or time travel. She knows every Star Trek episode -- the original plus every spin-off -- by heart, watches decade-old videos of Babylon 5, and is now in the process of memorizing the Stargate series -- the original plus every spin-off. I've always figured that if Captain Kirk isn't somehow involved, I don't need to watch. His approach to foreign policy -- "We come in peace. Shoot to kill!" -- is as timely then as now.

Tonight, the wife popped in one of my least favorite movies -- "2010", the cinematic realization of Arthur C. Clarke's best-selling book and sequel to the vastly overrated "2001 A Space Odyssey". If you like your sci-fi done up pretentiously superior and sanctimoniously obscure, with a side of "we the puny humans stand in awe of a vast intelligence", 2001 is for you. Some folks thought this was refreshing, after a decade of movies in which humanity was always under attack by hideous aliens, who were ultimately vanquished in the Captain Kirk tradition -- namely, we killed them. These folks are also the same ones who draw horrified parallels between "evil aliens" movies and the "paranoid" McCarthy era -- "paranoid", as if having to cope with a superpower with nukes who infiltrated our government with spies and moles was no worse than listening to an insurance salesman. Like a good neighbor, Khruschev is there -- assuming your good neighbor doesn't mind lending you his T-94 super tank when your riding mower breaks down.

Clarke gave us a kinder, gentler sci-fi where aliens were distant and, at most, interested but detached. We were not the center of their evil machinations, just specimens in a petri dish. They might destroy us, of course, but it certainly wouldn't be personal. We're not important enough for that. This is a common theme in liberalism: humanity is nothing special -- as with most things liberal, the precise opposite of Biblical truth. Also, you get the idea that these unseen aliens were somehow our creators, which is interesting in light of the modern debate between Darwinists and proponents of Intelligent Design: we were designed, which meets the ID folks' requirement; and God was not involved, which meets the Darwinists' requirement. Something for everybody. Aliens are not just an excuse for driving off the road or explaining that drunken weekend in a Tijiana hotel anymore; they're also here to rescue our teleological debates. Sort of "The Aliens Ate My Homework" school of philosophy.

Anyhow, Clarke was never my favorite sci-fi guy -- drier than a good martini, but without the refreshing zip. I always preferred Robert Heinlein, who was a story-teller first and a sci-fi guy second. Not to mention, he was also a right-winger like me, as best as I can tell.

The next time someone in the liberal media or academia talks as if the disintegration of the Soviet Union was obvious and inevitable, one thing is for sure: it wasn't obvious to liberals before the fact. Clarke was a big-time liberal, and here, you'll find not a hint that the whole rotten house of potatoes was about to collapse. The movie 2010 was released in 1984 and thus probably written a couple of years earlier than that. Yet Clarke writes not only as if the Soviet Union was going to survive into the next millenia, but that it would rival and perhaps outstrip the United States in power and technology.

The story's backdrop: a world-threatening conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union is brewing over a crisis in Honduras. And get this: America's political leaders are depicted as dangerous, trigger-happy "reactionaries" -- that's liberalese and Hollywoodese for anyone who stands in the way of communist expansion. I.e., "conservatives". With the Soviets turning Honduras into a client state, presumably after having been successful in Cuba, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, why, it's hard to imagine what a bunch of right-wing cowboys could possibly be upset about, isn't it? The Evil Empire's expansion into our hemisphere is just fine, but it's going too far to defend ourselves. Go figure.

The movie has an excellent cast -- Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren, John Lithgow, Bob Balaban, and a too-brief part by the absolutely stunning Madolyn Smith (as Scheider's suffering wife). For 1984, the special effects (which we take for granted even in B movies today) were quite good. At least 2010 has an actual plot in something more than trace amounts, which is more than can be said for 2001. In short, if you find late 20th century liberal thinking to be profound on an intellectual and especially a spiritual basis, then I can recommend this movie to you -- but I'll add that you really need to get out more.

No comments: