In the past two weeks or so I purchased six movies on disc. One of them (ostensibly) has nothing to do with the future (one of the Lord Of The Rings series) and one is marginally about the future (mostly about the near past) but included here as a kind of reality check. The first one on the list was purchased earlier.
During the last week I watched (or re-watched) all these movies on my new A/V system (see previous post). Let’s list them out in the order they were released:
The Mouse that Roared (1959, based on a 1955 novel).
2001 A Space Odyssey (1968, Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke collaborate).
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005 – based on an idea that started around 1978).
Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006 – based on historical events of the previous ten years).
Oblivion (2013 – based on a graphic novel by Joseph Kosinski).
Elysium (2013 – based on an idea by Neill Blomkamp).
I mentioned writers’ names for most of these films, but I won’t get into who those people are and what their purposes are. They are all dealing with timeless themes that we, as a “maturing” society, are being pushed into whether we like it or not.
The Mouse that Roared deals with the human potential to blow up planets and dreams up one fanciful handling for this “little problem.” The remains of one less fanciful result of this technology exists in the form of the asteroid belt. Yes, several researchers are quite sure it was once a planet. Hubbard is quite sure that planet was destroyed in a war.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide (the movie – I haven’t read the book) begins with the total destruction of earth by a moronic group of bureaucratic ETs. I wonder if Adams knew how possible this actually is! Of all these films, it is my favorite.
To me, A Space Odyssey (which obviously refers back to the ancient Greek Odyssey and its hero Odysseus) is mainly a setting for 2 major works of music: Also sprach Zarathustra and The Blue Danube waltz, and “four highly modernistic compositions by György Ligeti that employ micropolyphony…” (Wikipedia). Though definite themes regarding Man’s reliance on machines, etc., exist in the story, these seem downplayed in favor of pure art.
Who Killed the Electric Car documents the events surrounding the creation and destruction of a fleet of battery-powered cars by General Motors Corporation between the years 1995 and 2005. The biggest problem with these events was that GM was less than forthcoming concerning their motives in creating the cars and their subsequent plans to destroy them. Out of over 1,000 vehicles produced, only about 40 were not destroyed, and all those had their engines removed. The cars were not destroyed because they didn’t work; all the cars worked great.
Now we jump to Oblivion. Here we get a bit more on the edge, partly because the whole story is never told; you have to piece it together yourself. As the story goes (if you re-linearize it) in about 2017 earth is attacked by ET invaders. Some of the survivors of the war are made to think that they won, and that more survivors left on earth who are still fighting are of ET origin. However, the situation is actually reversed. The ETs did win, leaving a huge artificial intelligence craft called the “Tet” (tetrahedron – it looks like an inverted pyramid) to run the place. When the Tet was first approached by a human craft, it captured its crew, wiped their memories, cloned them, and used them as its workers. The cloned workers thought the Tet was theirs, but it wasn’t. It was an ET machine. By implication, most if not all of the human clones looked like the commander of that last human ship (Jack Harper played by Tom Cruise) or one of his female crew mates (called Victoria). Jack’s real-life wife was also on board that ship, but in a rear compartment in “delta sleep.” At the last minute, when the original Jack realizes they have been fooled, he releases the rear compartment which eventually (60 years later?) lands back on earth. The Jack we are following when the movie starts (#49) is having memories of his earlier times with his real wife. Apparently all the Jacks on earth share these memories to some extent. Jack #49 finally figures this all out, and accomplishes a suicide mission to blow up the Tet. Two years later Jack #52 finds Jack’s wife living with her two year old daughter at Jack #49’s hideout in the hills. They agree that #52 is a good enough copy to make it work.
Elysium (after an early Greek concept of a kind of heaven on earth, reserved for special people) is contemporaneous with Oblivion. But no evil and deceptive ETs this time. In this story all the evil comes from humans. The movie is basically a scifi action flick. Elysium is an invitation-only space colony. Most people on earth were not invited. Earth has been allowed to deteriorate into a place that is almost unlivable. And yet it still remains overcrowded! The story tells how, by a series of somewhat unlikely events, all of humanity on earth get accepted for citizenship at Elysium. The hero, again, dies in order to save the human race. Several bad guys die, too.
Concentration on the physical
Physicality has been a prime fascination for us since it was invented. And that was a long time ago! Yet we have also always given importance to the non-physical, and Hubbard discovered more than 60 years ago just how important it is. Many others besides Hubbard have realized that assigning cause for the creation of physicality to that same physicality makes no sense. If physicality WAS created, then only something non-physical could have created it. Many people, even scientists, have had to admit that all the evidence points in this direction. Yet none of these movie-stories take us in that direction. A Space Odyssey probably comes the closest, with its long sequence of abstract images near the end, accompanied by bizarre modern music. And then the hero dies, and when he comes back to earth he sees it from the eyes of a glowing being that looks like a fetus. The imagery is extremely abstract!
And again, only A Space Odyssey tries to deal with the idea that evil entered into the human psyche from some poorly understood and enigmatic source. Even the computer HAL 9000 somehow gets infected by this mysterious source, and is only turned off by the hero after killing several humans in its care.
In these stories, standing in, in a way, for the world of the non-physical, we have deception. It is actually a major theme in the first movie. A tiny “country” declares war on the US for the sole purpose of losing the war and collecting foreign aid. Then at the end of the movie, the “Q” bomb which this tiny country has come to possess turns out to be a dud. But this is kept secret because that bomb has become the key to world peace.
In A Space Odyssey, the US space agency decides to keep secret the fact that it has found evidence for the existence of a higher ET intelligence on the moon. It instead spreads the story that there is a disease epidemic on the moon base which has been placed under quarantine. Likewise, the two astronauts try to deceive HAL that they plan to turn him off, but HAL finds out by reading their lips, while keeping his own plans to kill all the humans on his ship a secret from them.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide, being a comedy, does not dwell on this subject so much. However, it does deal with all sorts of supernatural phenomena and ideas, and postulates a large and vibrant ET community. This is more in line with other popular scifi stories such as the Star Trek series, the Star Wars series, and other “space opera” stories that are actually laced with big doses of possibility.
Who Killed the Electric Car makes a strong argument for a deceptive angle to those events. GM swears by its version of the story, but the facts just don’t add up. There was obviously oil money at work, and that means banking interests, and that means City of London. And that leads to a pretty much proven den of thieves. Yet no one can come out and just talk about that aspect of life on earth!
Oblivion is all about deception and in particular, mind control. This is a much-rumored ET ability and demonstrable at the human level in the form of stage hypnotism. Mechanisms for “mind control” definitely exist and have been used. Yet the average person is told almost nothing about this, even through these movies. This was Hubbard’s bridge into the realm of the spiritual (the non-physical) and it could be that be for all of humanity if we could just confront it. I am aware, however, that it is a subject not easily confronted.
In Elysium deception is mostly of the classic good-guy versus bad-guy form. When skillfully done, such stories show up the weaknesses of evil. Yet, when the hero has to die at the end, the incentive to fight evil does dull a bit.
This is of course a hallmark of scifi. It made sense in the times of Jules Verne (France, late 1800s) but starts to feel a bit quaint now. The question now is not how advanced technology can get, but how does it work, how do we make it, and is there any way to make it safe in human hands?
These are eternal questions when we realize that advanced technologies have been in use in the various “space opera” societies for millions of years. They include all those recently (past 200 years) discovered on earth as well as many more yet to be discovered. Being familiar with Hubbard’s findings on this subject, one becomes curious about aspects of it that most popular stories don’t touch, such as: How do these technologies get rediscovered on developing planets? Do any of the discoverers ever become aware of where their knowledge came from? How much imbalance between helpful and harmful uses of technologies can be tolerated before a society starts to decay? How decayed (really) are the space opera societies that still exist, after using such technologies for uncountable thousands of years?
Elysium concentrates on medical advances and the use of robots to control (police) people. These are all real possibilities. It touches on mind-machine interfaces, which the Matrix movies are famous for. But I think this theme is not well thought out. In A Space Odyssey (and Star Trek) people just talk to the computer system and it does what they ask…usually. The issue of how a machine mind could be corrupted is important and not much developed in these stories, though many of them use it as an important plot angle. The idea that a being could directly take over a computer is not much touched on yet in scifi, yet per Hubbard’s work is a distinct possibility.
Questions that really matter
None of these films are particularly good at delving into the questions that really matter. I like Hitchhiker’s Guide because it at least plays with some of them a bit.
One theory on why this is is that the story writers are just not that aware.
Another theory is that such discussions are being actively suppressed by a ruling group whose power depends on us not confronting and working out real answers to these questions.
Here are a few:
Is there any way to make biology a viable game, or should we abandon it in favor of more robust life forms?
Could the whole deteriorating trend in the universe ever be reversed?
How would a society work if biological beings in it had supernatural powers? If it was only the ruling classes? If it was everybody?
What can a race do if its planet is destroyed? Can it do anything? Is it worth it?
If we could create a new game in this universe, one that has never been played before and rises into tone levels that most of us lost the ability to maintain thousands, if not millions, of years ago, what would it look like?