In 1902 Georges Melies took audiences on their first trip to the Moon in his H.G. Wells inspired Le Voyage dans la lune. Sixty-seven years later, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Twenty years after that, Apollo Associates released an 80 minute documentary entirely composed of NASA and astronaut shot and recorded audio and 16mm footage from all of the Apollo missions of the 1960’s and 70’s. Al Reinert’s Academy Award nominated documentary For All Mankind quickly earned its place as one of the most transformative films ever made. Jokingly sold as “the most expensive movie ever made,” For All Mankind took us where Kubrick, Lang, and Melies himself could only previously imagine.
Among each of the equally standout scenes in this true account of scientific exploration, one scene in particular always struck me as absurdly meta. As astronauts float towards the moon, weightlessly spinning in the Apollo spacecraft, they blare Richard Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra,” better known as the theme from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a moment of wondrous self-reference, recalling a movie released just a year before the first moon landing that featured astronauts at work on a lunar base. I often wonder, will the next astronauts who travel to the moon listen to Brian Eno’s score from For All Mankind as their in flight soundtrack? Its a strange moment, creating a parallel between real life and fiction. It can’t help but make you wonder; Have we come to a point where instead of creating art to represent life, we are shaping life around art?
There is a predictive nature to science fiction that has had an actual effect on the science and technology that drives society today. For 2001, Kubrick famously used NASA and aeronautic engineer Fred Ordway to shape a future as realistic as possibly imagined. But where did that shape evolve from to begin with? In many ways, we model our futures after the ideas in these films as much as we model the films themselves after our dreams and nightmares of what the future may hold.
Film is our greatest mirror. From the period between 1902 (when Melies released Le Voyage) and today, technologies in both film and science have advanced, and continue to advance in ways even the boundless imagination of Melies would have found inspiring. Then again, some of these technologies would likely cause Melies to smack hand against head (I’m looking at you 3D conversion).
This is what this column, “Hey You Geeks!!” is all about.
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Comic Book Films and TV shows are the mirrors of the Geek. We look for ourselves in the characters and situations on-screen, while acting as the harshest of critics when it comes to change. Living vicariously through their fantastic existence, we pinpoint similarities that transport us all. We catch onto their webs of intrigue and flaw, and are always the first to criticize and then contradict ourselves for the purity of fandom. This is where we come to celebrate and criticize all that we love with a cinephile’s sense of unapologetic nerdiness.
Geeks really do shape their lives and dreams around art. For me, a love of space led to dreams of becoming an astronaut, which ultimately led back to film. I fueled these dreams with the fantasy and expansiveness of Star Wars, ET, and The Last Starfighter, the childish adventure of Explorers and Space Camp, and the precocious dreams of spaceflight heralded by another child of the 80’s, Punky Brewster.
I know there are a lot of people like me and I invite you to join me on my weekly accounts of the greatest (and sometimes worst) that Geek Culture has to offer. I call out to you; “Hey You Geeks!!”