A Tale of Two Movies

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1 min read

I recently rewatched Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Alien still holds up as a space survival horror flick.

2001 is still as visually stunning as when it was made in 1968, but the plot is even more paper-thin than I had remembered and the acid trip at the end is dull.

But, aside from their merits and failings, what struck me about these films is how, despite the atheism of their creators, neither of them could help but reject the tenets of Godlessness and inject some meaning at a metaphysical level.

With the Xenomorph, it went from the perfectly evolved species in Alien to being a product of an advanced civilization. Chalk it up to studio pressure or whatever, but the result is the idea that a species randomly evolved into that nightmare is so unbelievable it has to be retconned into a tool made by something smarter.

In 2001, Clarke is so unsure of evolution that he has to have some vastly more advanced entity put a thumb on the scale to bring man out of the apes, and then again to bring man out of the gravity well.

Their own concept of the universe is so lame they can’t even tell good stories about it, but always have to reach up to another level to solve the problems intrinsic to their world view.

Neither “solution” does anything more than kick the can down the road in terms of answering any serious questions that man has wrestled with for eons.

With Alien, this is forgivable, because it was more intended to bring you into a different, scifi world than scare you. The Xenomorph was just a vehicle for that fear of the unknown and unknowable.

With 2001, all it does is reveal the mediocrity of Clarke as a thinker and writer. If not for the superb technical skills of Kubrick, it would have been quickly forgotten and dismissed as the trite storytelling it really was. Clarke captured the imagination of nerds by writing about men with screwdrivers solving technical problems, and his hubris led him to believe that’s how you answer ontological questions.

Concerning generations, 2001 is Boomer. It’s slow, pretends it’s deeper than it really is, loves to think acid trips are mind expanding, and relies on the previous generation to do the actual hard work (Kubrick was born 1928, pedo Clarke 1917). In space, no one can hear you snore.

Alien is closer to Gen-X thinking: No one is going to save you from the monster your elders unleashed for their own gratification. No one cares about you. If you don’t band together and create your own family groups, you will die faster. In the end, you’ll be alone. In space, no one can hear the latchkey and no-fault divorce.

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