Friday, March 7, 2008

Rendezvous with David Fincher

I'm a big fan of director David Fincher.

Ever since his first mainstream foray into film, Alien3, Fincher has continued to develop his storytelling abilities and transform himself into, arguably, one of the best directors of my time.

He's literally churning out one great film after another including Se7en, Fight Club, The Game, Panic Room and Zodiac. And lets not forget the upcoming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald about a guy who is born old and ages backwards.

A couple months ago, Fincher announced his intent to direct the film version of Arthur C. Clarke's science fiction epic, Rendezvous with Rama.

In an interview with MTV, Fincher said the following about the Rama film:

It's my understanding that [producer] Lori [McReary] and Morgan [Freeman] have a script, and when they're happy with it, they'll send it to me. It's a project I've always loved. It's probably technologically within striking distance right now. That was always the thing: You couldn't afford to build these things as sets. It's just too huge.

Although I've heard of the book, I really didn't know too much about its content or plot. But Fincher's announcement had me intrigued. So I quickly visited, bought the book and read it within a month.

The novel, set in the 22nd century, involves a thirty-mile-long cylindrical alien starship (nicknamed Rama) that drifts into Earth's solar system. A group of humans from the spaceship Endeavour decide to explore the ship and, hopefully, unearth the strange mysteries of the Ramans.

And so begins the story.

In my opinion, it's a great book that should be read by anyone who has some interest in science, astronomy and science fiction.

Clarke's writing ability is seemingly effortless and reads surprisingly smooth considering the content. When he's tackling heavy, heady, scientific jargon, even the most unscientific of readers (i.e. me) can easily comprehend what the characters are talking about. And, by writing from the explorers' point of view, in a sense, the reader experiences first-hand what they're seeing, hearing and feeling as they enter the ship. The writing makes you feel like you're part of the story.

The creative world in which Clarke creates on Rama is, for lack of a better word, fantastic. I really don't want to give too much away because I think the reader should experience the novel first hand. But, to comprehend the vastness of a spaceship that is 30 miles in length is, to quote The Princess Bride, inconceivable.

And although the end of the novel hints at possible sequels [which did happen, by the way, but without Clarke behind the typewriter] this book can stand alone as one of the most important science-fiction books of our last century. And to think that it was written in the early 70's should be a further testament to Clarke's creative genius and insight. And I don't toss the word genius around too often.

In addition to winning every possible science fiction award upon its release, Rendezvous with Rama also influenced generations of science-fiction writers and films including Ridley Scott's Alien, Robert Wise's Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Michel Crichton's Sphere among others.

Which completely explains why I had a sense of deja-vu when I was reading this book. Because I've seen the basic premise so many times in other movies and books. (i.e. A crew or person goes on a mission to search a strange object or place with some rather peculiar, if not fantastical results.)

So my question is, how do you make a movie where the plot has been virtually copied, dissected and remade by producers, screenwriters, novelists and directors since its inception almost 40 years ago?

I'm sure Fincher realizes this fact. At least I hope. And I'm sure he has some ideas on how to make this novel seemingly 'new' to the eyes of science fiction and movie fans around the world.

Whether or not the film comes to fruition, I'm just happy that I was able to read the book. And I strongly urge you to pick it up. Heck, you can even borrow my copy if you want.

On another note, Clarke was 55 years old when Rama was published in 1972. Four years prior, he wrote the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey with Stanley Kubrick, at the age of 51.

With Clarke creating a masterpiece like this in his later years, this gives me some hope that my best days of writing are yet to come.

And, by no means, am I comparing his dedication to the craft to my own. I'm just saying his writing aged like fine wine.

And hopefully mine will as well.

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