In the spring of 1964 the filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was very worried. NASA was about to fly the Mariner 4 space probe past Mars.
1964年春，美国航天局(NASA)的“水手4号”(Mariner 4)航天探测器即将飞过火星，电影人斯坦利·库布里克(Stanley Kubrick)不禁忧心忡忡。
At the time he was deep in development of a blockbuster film about the discovery of alien intelligence. Word was that MGM had bet their studio on the film. What if Mariner discovered life on Mars and scooped them?
Kubrick looked into whether he could buy insurance against that event. He could, but the price was astronomical. Kubrick decided to take his chances, according to a new book about the making of the movie, “Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece,” by Michael Benson. (Simon & Schuster 2018)
库布里克研究了是否可以针对此事购买保险。可以，但价格是天文数字。迈克尔·本森(Michael Benson)关于这部电影拍摄过程的新书《太空漫游，斯坦利·库布里克，阿瑟·克拉克以及一部杰作的诞生》(Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece)中说，当时库布里克决定冒这个险。
That was 54 years ago. We still haven’t discovered intelligence or even believable evidence of pond scum anywhere else in the universe — not for lack of effort. A new spacecraft, TESS, designed to look for habitable nearby planets just vaulted into space, and an interstellar asteroid recently spotted streaking through the solar system was inspected for radio signals. Another robot is on its way to listen in on the heart of Mars. We still don’t know if we are alone.
Mr. Kubrick’s movie, “2001, A Space Odyssey,” finally debuted, late and over budget in April 1968, to baffled film critics and long lines of young people. John Lennon said he went to see it every week. It was the top-grossing movie of the year and is now a perennial on critics’ lists of the most important movies of all time, often the first movie scientists mention if you ask them about sci-fi they have enjoyed.
In honor of its 50th anniversary it is being rereleased at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday and then in various cities around the world in a shiny new version overseen by Christopher Nolan, the director of “Dunkirk” and “Inception,” among other films. He told The Los Angeles Times the original film had been a “touchstone” from his childhood.
The movie, written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke (whose books and stories the movie was based on), and directed by Kubrick, is a multisensory ode to cosmic mystery, fate and the future. Long stretches happen with no explication or action except the zero-gravity ballets of spaceships immaculately imagined.
The movie broke with many of the conventions of the time, like mood music to tell you what to feel and think. “2001” left you alone in space with your thoughts.
The story begins four million years ago in Africa, where a bunch of bedraggled primates are losing the battle of the survival of the fittest until a strange black monolith appears. To the thunder of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” one of those apemen is inspired to pick up a bone and use it as a club to kill the animals that have been pushing him around.
故事从400万年前的非洲开始，在适者生存的战斗中，一群脏兮兮的灵长类动物就要落败，直到一块奇异的黑色独石突然出现。伴随着《查拉图斯特拉如是说》(Also Sprach Zarathustra)的轰鸣，一个猿人受到启发，捡起一根骨头当棍子，杀死了身边推搡他的动物。
Suddenly, the apemen are eating meat and chasing their rivals away from the water hole. In a moment of exultation the ape throws the bone into the sky where, in what has been called the longest fast forward in film history, it turns into a spaceship.
Around that toss Kubrick pivots his movie and all of human evolution. Another monolith appears on the moon, and yet another in orbit around Jupiter, where an astronaut named Dave Bowman connects with it after subduing a neurotic computer, the HAL 9000, which has murdered his shipmates. In the finale, Bowman is sent through a “star gate” on a trip through space and time, death and rebirth, returning as a glowing Star Child to float like a fetus over the Earth.
库布里克以这一扔作为他的电影乃至整个人类进化的核心。另一块独石出现在月球上，又一块独石出现在环绕木星的轨道上，在那里，宇航员戴夫·鲍曼(Dave Bowman)制服了飞船上杀死船员的神经质电脑HAL 9000之后，与独石取得了联系。影片最后一幕，鲍曼在穿越时空、死亡与重生之旅中被送过一道“星门”，成了一个闪闪发光的“星童”，像胎儿一样漂浮在地球上空。
1968年春第一次看《2001》的时候，我和我所有的朋友一样，处于药物影响的状态之下。我不需要那种帮助，毕竟我从小就看克拉克的故事，特别是小说《童年的终结》(Childhood’s End)和短篇小说《哨兵》(The Sentinel)。
The last time I watched the movie (on VHS of all things on my tiny home television), was in 2000, on the eve of its eponymous year.
I never realized how much I had missed until I read Mr. Benson’s book, a deep, informative and entertaining dive into the making of the movie.
One revelation is how haphazardly the movie was made. Nevermind the special effects and the model spaceships, Kubrick and Clarke were making up much of the story as they went along. Up until the very end, Mr. Benson tells us, they were struggling with how to portray the alien being responsible for the monoliths, until they realized it couldn’t be done. We don’t know what is out there. It would be hubris to even try to imagine.
This is not a review of the book; Mr. Benson is a friend of mine, and I’m unabashedly ignorant of the history of cinema anyway. But it is a review of my own shifting attitudes and encounters with the movie itself over the years.
One mark of the movie’s status as a masterpiece is that it has something different to say to us every time we encounter it anew.
Like the monolith it appears to give us what we need.
Fifty years ago it was a harbinger of the future. We were about to win the race with the Russians to the moon. A whole generation was pumped and primed to tune in, turn on and transcend the whole dreary space-time continuum as we knew it.
Thoroughly researched by Kubrick and Clarke, large swaths of the film were like a documentary of the future: the space station, the moon base, the grand-stepping outward just as Clarke and people like Werner von Braun had prophesied.
库布里克和克拉克的功课做得很足，影片的大部分内容就像是关于未来的纪录片：太空站、月球基地、向外太空迈出的一大步，就像克拉克以及维尔纳·冯·布劳恩(Werner von Braun)等人预言的那样。
“2001” comes back at another poignant time in history, especially as it relates to space and the cosmos. Once we got to the moon, the script of future history was abandoned by the Nixon White House.
It’s now been 46 years since there was anyone on the moon. It’s possible to imagine a time in which there will be no humans alive who have been there.
But now the traditional sci-fi script has flipped. A generation of swashbuckling billionaires has taken center stage in the space business, as well as a new class of wealthy customers who can afford to indulge their services. Instead of Star Child these days we have the “Star Man,” launched into orbit past Mars in a Tesla convertible by Elon Musk.
I once wrote that I no longer expected bootprints on Mars in my lifetime. Now I’m not so sure. It’s not crazy to think that private outfits like SpaceX, which seem to be running rings around NASA and Congress, could beat NASA into deeper space. I’d happily come out of retirement sometime in the 2030s to write the words that humans have landed and walked on Mars.
Not that NASA has credible plans or the prospect of enough money to go anywhere exciting anytime soon. Under its new administrator Jim Bridenstine, a former congressman, NASA is taking steps to move forward on a long-range program of exploration and survey of resources that would lead to the establishment of a permanent base there.
But Mars is having a moment in the popular imagination — from the Matt Damon film “The Martian,” which got high marks for scientific realism a couple years ago, to an upcoming television series “The First,” about settlers on Mars being planned by Beau Willimon, the producer and showrunner of the Netflix series “House of Cards.”
但是，火星现在正活跃在大众的想象力中，从马特·达蒙(Matt Damon)主演的影片《火星救援》(The Martian)——几年前，该片凭借其科幻现实主义获得了很高的评价——到即将播出的电视连续剧《第一》(The First)，这部关于火星移民的电视剧正在由鲍尔·威利蒙(Beau Willimon)筹划。威利蒙曾是Netflix电视剧《纸牌屋》(House of Cards)的制作和运作人。
本周，太空领袖和热心人士聚集在华盛顿特区，参加由太空行业赞助的人类登陆火星峰会(Humans to Mars Summit)。这次会议发布了一份报告，概述了人类最早在2033年登上火星的可能性。
Where the script has really flipped is in the future history of evolution.
Robots have taken over the sacred task of exploring for us. Increasingly sophisticated and smaller machines have spread out to every world of the solar system, buzzing the rings of Saturn, daring the dark voids beyond Pluto and landing on comets, scanning the heavens for new planets, new places to dream about. There have been enough robots, landers and orbiters violating the skies and surface of Mars to spark legends and myths and paranoia among whatever life-forms might be there.
The next generation extending our telepresence across the universe will be even smaller and cleverer. Plans are afoot to send fleets of spaceships the size of iPhone chips toward Alpha Centauri, like clouds of butterflies across interstellar space. Even if our bodies don’t ever cross the voids between the stars, our DNA surely will, in a microscopic cascade of space invaders that could still colonize the galaxy.
We all carry HAL in our pockets now, and in a few years he, it, will be in our bloodstreams. The future, to the extent that humans are part of it, is bionic.
Computers, to the delight of surveillance states and the despair of civil libertarians, can now recognize faces. For all we know neural networks like Deep Mind can dream.
Worse, we may all be part of the dream. The news from some physicists like the late Stephen Hawking is that the universe might be a hologram, an illusion like the three-dimensional images on a bank card. Some cosmologists have argued that it is not inconsistent — at least mathematically — to imagine that the entire universe as we know it could just be a computer simulation, as in “The Matrix” — another movie with long shadows. In effect, we are all made of bits, so the argument goes, removable, deformable at the click of an interstellar mouse.
In that case, I have a bone or two to pick with the director.