Publication Date

April 2018

Advisor(s)

Scott Higgins

Major

Film Studies

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Since the dawn of cinema, outer space has both fascinated and challenged filmmakers. Though space has been a subject of film since A Trip to the Moon (1902), concerns of accuracy and realism didn?t enter popular cinema until Destination Moon (1950). This film laid the foundations for a genre I call the Hypothetical Space Film, a tradition of film born from a desire to distinguish itself from mainstream science fiction. In this thesis, I trace the development of the Hypothetical Space Film by analyzing the genre?s conventions and elements that filmmakers have interacted with for the last 68 years. I start with a study of Destination Moon, picking apart the elements that come to define the hypothetical space film. From there, I chart how these elements are repeated and modulated in later films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Armageddon (1998). Next, I discuss how the aesthetics of hypothetical space films use realism to make the environment of space expressive and how they differ from the aesthetic style of fantastical space film. I conclude with a case study of Alfonso Cuar?n?s Gravity (2013) wherein I analyze how the film widens the narrative potential of the genre through the reworking of its conventional elements and innovations in aesthetic techniques. Ultimately, I come to a conclusion on the unique position outer space holds in cinema and the experience it offers to viewers.

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