Art attack: visual themes in movie SF

Tom James @ 25-11-2008

Ken MacLeod points to a visually arresting web-essay called Star Wars: A New Heap, or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Death Star that highlights connections between architecture, design, movie SF and art:

Lucas envisioned a World of Tomorrow dominated by black, white, and gray; hard-edged, massive, and inorganic forms, covered with a salty acne of apparatus.

The film’s visual program was a departure from the saucers and occasional capsules writ large that sci-fi audiences had grown accustomed to, but its colorless symmetrical ships should have been recognizable to at least a small portion of its audience—those familiar with contemporary art.

Lucas hired so many members of Kubrick’s team that their subset of the Star Wars crew was dubbed “The Class of 2001.” But he borrowed selectively. Kubrick’s 2001 environments were cohesive and balanced, informed by architectural theory and late-’60s aesthetics; they upheld the distinction between the astronaut modernists and the alien minimalists.

By contrast, Lucas willfully mashed together minimalism, modernism, and NASA design. Two visual rhetorics are at war on-screen: The first is that of an industrial superpower; the second is that of a rogue fringe of misfits and mismatches.

[via Ken Macleod][image from Phil Romans on flickr]

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