We may as well put it out of our minds that Stanley Kubrick would have directed any of the potential sequels to “2001: A Space Odyssey.” We all know he refused “2010: The Year We Make Contact” (despite a subtle prodding from Arthur C. Clarke to do so without collaborating) and likely wouldn’t have been interested in filming “2061: Odyssey Three” or “3001: Final Odyssey.” That may have had something to do with the shaky working relationship between Kubrick and the late Clarke (who just passed away at the time of this writing). It seems Clarke quietly vowed he’d never work with Kubrick again because of Kubrick going his own (arguably better) way on “2001” and giving the subtle impression that Clarke’s novelization of the movie was something after-the-fact rather than the reality that both worked developing the screenplay years before.
It also seems likely that Kubrick wouldn’t have loved the CGI era when he proved you can make a stunning-looking film about space using old-fashioned special effect techniques. For the futuristically-inclined Clarke–he probably wouldn’t have minded CGI at all.
Now with Clarke’s death–it makes one wonder whether the last two stories in the “2001” saga will be made into movies. Kubrick made “2001” such a profound (and malleable) masterpiece that I usually skip “2010” whenever a showing comes up about as often as TCM shows “2001.” While Clarke deliberately wanted to give extensive plot details as a true writer who writes hard science fiction would–Kubrick’s more ambiguous and minimalist stance on the film was by far the most brilliant. And it was almost a second thought (well brilliant thoughts sometimes are) when we hear stories of him initially using Orson Welles’s voice in the opening segments with the Neanderthals to explain what’s happening. Having Welles’s deep voice contrasting with the opening desolate vistas would have possibly added luster, but it also would have ruined our ability to fill in the unknowns on our own.
All stories say that eventual “2010” director, Peter Hyams, went to Kubrick and Clarke to make sure they were happy with Hyams directing the film. Kubrick typically didn’t give a damn one way or the other and knew his own adaptation “2001” would never be matched anyway. Any other director wouldn’t even bother to direct a sequel to a film directed by Kubrick. But Hyams had already directed a few good to fair movies about space during the 1970’s/early 80’s and apparently felt comfortable enough to give his own vision, particularly because this sequel would be sure to follow the actual (overly literal) plot points via Clarke’s directions.
In a clever way to possibly make each film stand alone with a different director–Clarke has always stated that each book was set in its own set of alternate worlds. It also explains why all four books in his “2001” quartet have differing references to things happening in the protracted story. Or, maybe that was just a clever cover by Clarke so he wouldn’t have to take notes and remember every detail of events in the previous books.
“2061” and whether it could be filmable…
Most people who read about film often probably are aware that Tom Hanks was reportedly interested in producing (and starring in) a film version of “2061” back when the book came out in the late 1980’s. He also wanted to make a movie version of “3001” when the book released in the late 90’s–with some of the original cast returning if available. It seems logical that Hanks could have done it by the 90’s thanks to his superstar power by then. In the late 80’s, he was still known as being the former “Bosom Buddies” star who held a lot of acting promise in movies such as “Big” and “Turner &….I mean “Punchline.” It would have been interesting to see Tom Hanks’ take on the role of Dr. Heywood Floyd back then (who he wanted to play in this) and manage to bring back Keir Dullea–plus the voice of dry-voiced HAL: Douglas Rain.
Then again, he would have needed makeup to make him look older due to Floyd being a very old man in the book. In fact, Floyd is 103 during the story and would have made Hanks unrecognizable in prosthetic makeup.
This isn’t to say that flashbacks wouldn’t be needed in the plot. The book gave details of what happens to Floyd after “2010” ends. He has a son named Chris who dies, but who also has a son (yes, Hanks would have to play a grandfather) named Chris who becomes an astronaut working aboard a spaceship called Galaxy. Floyd also was injured at some point on Earth and had to go up and live in a space station hospital for years. While the book obviously tried to show that people like Floyd could live to well over 100 by 2061–his being there almost seems irrelevant due to other characters (some satiric) taking over for the bulk of the story. Part of it is an amalgam of poking fun at future Hollywood stars in space, showing some of the cool advancements in space travel–and another mind-blowing ending that deals with the monolith and Dave Bowman again.
Perhaps one attraction for Hanks to this project was the plot point of fictional future members of Hollywood (loaded with hilarious inside jokes about future films that get made in the 21st century) getting a chance to go up and land on Halley’s Comet that’s making its return to our solar system for the first time since 1986. Floyd gets a chance to be one of the celebrity guests who does this…albeit seeming unlikely he could withstand such a thing at age 103. These moments of the story would be fun and creative, along with the interesting invented history of Earth developing into two major warring governments (one consisting of the U.S./Russia–or U.S.S.R in the book/China battling it out with the United States of Southern Africa) and a lone world leader that seems to mimic biblical predictions.
While the rest of the story has a protracted story of a giant mountain found on Europa that turns out to be the universe’s largest diamond (based on real scientific theory that Clarke placed in his novels for more believability)–the most interesting segment comes when Floyd has another encounter in a dream with the monolith that eventually leads him to reunite with his grandson Chris. They end up visiting the “Great Wall” on Europa where the monolith has toppled over from the impact of the diamond mountain sinking back into the core of the planet.
I can picture Hanks and his acting ability being able to handle the last scene of the monolith creating two other versions of Floyd who commune with Dave Bowman and HAL on Europa. It’s assumed that the “immortal” version of Floyd (as what happened to Dave already in “2001”) will reside on Europa forever with Dave and HAL. Yes, it might be annoying to have to commune with HAL for all eternity, but having Floyd becoming eternal and living within the world of the monolith and the Europan race could prove either a profound moment in film history (especially the past pop culture ties) or a complete disaster. Kubrick would have handled this one with absolute flair.
The only trouble is that the mountain (Mount Zeus) tale on Europa might bore non-Sci-Fi fans to tears. Having the beginning and the ending with Floyd, however, could save the whole film if it’s ever made. And, if Tom Hanks waited years to make this–he wouldn’t have to be subjected to ten layers of prosthetics for the entire film.
“3001: The Final Odyssey” would probably be the most expensive movie ever made…
When Tom Hanks was said to want to make “3001”, also, he said he’d play the new resurrected star of this one: Frank Poole–who was played by Gary Lockwood in 1968’s “2001.” It’s certainly possible that Hanks could play both Heywood Floyd in “2061” and Poole in “3001” thanks to his Floyd character being possibly under heavy prosthetic makeup. It could also display Hanks’ hopefully still-formidable acting ability to play two different characters from the same story. Thankfully, too, “3001” stands alone without really needing to know anything about the events of the last three books.
This one has the basic story of the long-dead man (in this case, Frank Poole, whose body is found floating in space after being killed by HAL in “2001”) being resurrected through modern science to a future world that he no longer recognizes. So many other stories have dealt with this genre, even though this one has some profound revelations at the end that brings the “2001” saga full circle. It also features awe-inspiring technology Earth would supposedly have by 3001 that would tax a movie studio’s CGI computer bank to the breaking point to make things look believable.
The largest amount of CGI used would have to be on the space elevators (another real-life science theory) that have been constructed on Earth’s equator since 2061 and can enable travel to places in space people only dreamed of before. A CGI studio could dip into the “Jurassic Park” files and create resurrected dinosaur species brought back to be trained as helpful servants to mankind. (Yeah, that’s almost a little satirical wink to “Jurassic.”) And then there’s the eerie brain-computer interface (BCI)–or called “BrainCap” in the book–where our brains are hooked up to a computer.
Sure, many of those elements have been explored elsewhere, though the BCI is the closest to proving Clarke’s ability to predict the future–considering such a thing is being tested now.
The biggest twist in this story is finding out exactly what those monoliths had in mind. It seems they always wanted to destroy us all–but it took 450 years for one of them to report back to a superior to get permission. This would give Hanks a chance to play scientist who has to find some way to save the world…as contrived as it all sounds. Trying to depict in CGI the new entity “Halman” (that’s an amalgam of Dave Bowman and HAL) would be another 50 million dollars onto the budget alone. But the plot point of Poole successfully infecting the monolith’s computer system (and, yeah, where did that come from?) with a virus to prevent them from destroying us would be quite fascinating in bringing the idea that the profoundly intelligent race that captured the imaginations of Earth have some kind of artificial intelligence DNA in their existence. That might make this too close to “The Matrix”–though the book was written before that movie series was released.
It’s probably unlikely Tom Hanks will take on these two monumental projects in his lifetime, unless he gets really hungry to do something ambitious again. He’s a bit overdue for that in the movies anyway. If anybody does take them on, they could, in the age of CGI, provide us with definitive statements about where we’re going technologically and perhaps understanding higher intelligence as “2001” managed to do without revealing exactly who or what the monoliths are. If a new director could follow Kubrick’s defiance against Clarke’s literalness and continue to make the monoliths ambiguous–it could make “2061” and “3001” definitive Sci-Fi movies for the future.