Greetings Manic Fans. Les here to talk about 2 Science Fiction films separated by 46 years, but having one detail in common that distinguish them from almost all other Science Fiction films:


2001: A Space Odyssey


and Gravity


Now, I’m sure you’re scratching your head at this point wondering what these two films could possibly have in common. The first film about a bizarre black monolith that affects a mission to Jupiter, a malfunctioning supercomputer and the freakiest trip that left the audience wondering what they’d just watched, and the second about 2 astronauts attempting to survive lethal collisions with satellite debris that destroys their space shuttle. What do they have in common? Simple:


They are two out of hundreds of films breaking tradition in the history of Science Fiction that correctly portray the soundlessness of space.


For those of you that may not know, there is no air in space, hence there is no sound in space. You could put “The Who” in space suits on the surface of the moon with the biggest speakers ever built, and all you’d hear is silence. It’s that quiet, my friends.


Warning: Small spoilers and genuine admiration ahead…


Now, I get why most Science Fiction films put sound effects into their space scenes. It makes the films more exciting and pleasing to the ears of the viewer. Would the Millenium Falcon jumping into hyperspace have been half as amazing if it was completely silent? Or the Starship Enterprise going into Warp Speed? Or the Death Star exploding? Of course not! However, they are completely inaccurate. There is no sound in space-period.


Now, both “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Gravity” follow the rules, and find great ways to capitalize on this phenomenon instead of trying to change it.


In the case of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Director Stanley Kubrik accented the silence by cutting those scenes with clips inside the travel pods(with all the instrumentation giving pulsing sounds) and showing some of the space scenes with the audio of the inside of the spacesuits to show the hiss of oxygen and the sounds of the astronaut’s breathing to give the eerie quality of claustrophobia for the poor guy stuck in the suit with only the sound of his breathing to keep him focused.


In the scene where Dave Bowman(Keir Dullea) uses the explosive bolts hatch in his spacepod to launch himself helmetless through the emergency airlock to gain reentry into spaceship Discovery, there’s the sound of the alarms while he curls up and shuts his eyes. Then you see the explosion and flying astronaut in complete silence until he manages to activate the emergency door close and the HISSSSSS of fresh air brings back the sound after the door is sealed. That’s great use of sound and soundlessness.


“Gravity” uses very subtle music to bring the intensity of the scenes as chaotic soundless destruction occurs around our protagonists. Where another film would add collision sound effects to heighten the scenes, “Gravity” follows the laws of sound in space-and make the scenes all the more amazing, allowing you to fill in the sounds in your head, rather than cheat in the sound editing room. I respect that. I’d like to see more films do this, but understand why explosion/engine/laser sound effect will reign supreme in future films. I just wanted to give props to the 2 films that got it correct.


What are your thoughts on this topic, my friends? Do you think Science Fiction films should accurately portray soundlessness of space, or add the sound effects, instead? I’d love to hear your opinion. Peace.

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