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Silent Running

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Mark Kermode | 12:15 UK time, Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Silent Running, one of my all time favourite movies and one of the greatest sci fi films ever, is about to be released on BluRay disc. It was made by Douglas Trumbull as a reaction to Kubrick's much more celebrated 2001 and for my money it's the superior film.

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Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
Your Movie Heaven
Forgotten Classic: Silent Running

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The Tree Of Life

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    No it's not "better than 2001"! How can two such different films be compared? Is "Seven Samurai" better than "Solaris"? Silent Running is a wonderful film and I love it, and I see why you prefer it to 2001, but Silent Running, although it has a huge heart, doesn't have, at its core, the wonder and marvel that 2001 has.

  • Comment number 2.

    As long as Mark hits our nerves, he's doing his job. I haven't seen the film but I definitely will. Most probably... tonight! Can't wait to see the guy who was chasing Ryan O'Neal so unsuccessfully in Walter Hill's Driver being sent into the space. ;)

  • Comment number 3.

    I would say more accessible rather than better than. As much as I love 2001, I find myself more drawn to Silent Running or even Dark Star if i'm searching through my DVD's. The point the good doctor makes about 2001 being not a bout people, but the void is obviously the reason. While it's great to bask in Kubrick and Clarke's vision every now and then, it's too cold a film to just sit and enjoy.

  • Comment number 4.

    I watched this about a year ago on your recommendation Mark and I've got to say, it's one of the rare times I disagreed with you - I hated it. I didn't just not like it, I really disliked it. It was so self-important and dull, the central character was a maniac who I hated. Furthermore, if you haven't bought into the hippie message of the film, the schmaltzy quality that you referred to is no longer endearing but toe-curling. And if that is the wound the soundtrack is definitely the salt.

    Finally, I don't agree that Silent Running is about humanity any more than 2001. On the surface maybe, but films like 2001 and Blade Runner which are not directly about humans have a lot to say about them. 2001 is about our place in the universe and in time, I struggle to think of an issue that is more about humanity than that. A much more central and less superfluous issue than conservation which is the focus of Silent Running's boring lecture.

  • Comment number 5.

    But is it better than Battle Beyond the Stars?......I think not

  • Comment number 6.

    Silent Running's theme music has to be one of the very best but can't say it outshines 2001, Blade Runner or some of the other films mentioned in story or performance.

    Any SF film with cute squeaky robots as characters tend to lose their storyline along the way - even Star Wars stepped into this territory - Buck Rodgers was the worst though.

    Will enjoy seeing the film once more but mostly for old time's sake. Even so I would rather Hollywood created true SF originals than recycle films that have had their day.

  • Comment number 7.

    Sadly.... Silent Running on blu-ray on amazon was going for a grand total £3.99!!!!!!!!! but they realized their mistake won't be honoring the price but saying that I will still be buying it when it comes out.

  • Comment number 8.

    Entrusting the preservation of Earth's last forests to one man and three cumbersome robots? Sure, why not...

  • Comment number 9.

    Dr K you should definitely get the limited edition steelcase of the film on amazon. Its the same price (as of now 4:00 tuesday 1st Nov) and they look and feel great, plus there is less of a chance of those plasticy cases snapping.

  • Comment number 10.

    Dr. K -- Fully agree with your assessment of Silent Running. Great film.

    However, and I hate to be one of those nitpicking people who somehow expect all film critics to get all their facts right -- you can't all have the encyclopaedic knowledge of Kim Newman -- you have made the same mistake nearly every time I hear you mention the film. And this bugs me enough to nitpick.

    The music is by Peter Schickele, not Joan Baez. I know this not just as a fan of the movie, but because I am also a fan of master Schickele in his comedy career as the musicologist who has "discovered" the work of P.D.Q. Bach. His ingenious send ups of classical music, and often those who "appreciate" it are really worth checking out. He also went to uni at Swarthmore College, my hometown, where he returns every so often to play gigs. He wrote the music, and co-wrote the two songs that Joan Baez sings (but did not write) on the soundtrack.

    Sorry, geeked-out, got that out of the system. Pheww.

    Anyway, Silent Running, indeed the "human" side of science fiction, counters 2001: ASO in which the only character death we feel acutely is HAL's. That said, with Silent Running, I was more saddened by a droid's Bambi's Mom moment, than over the problematic murders earlier in the film. Trumbull's direction and Dern's performance (a shame that he so rarely gets to play sympathetic) humanizes space. One of the things I loved about Moon was the way it harked back to Silent Running's feeling of a genuine human dilemma played out in the workaday isolation of space.

    A tragedy that Silent Running is so overlooked, but even more tragic is the fact that the environmental themes, which at the time of release seemed bound to date the piece, are even more relevant today. It is the future, we should have sorted this all out by now. If good science fiction tells us anything about the future, is that as long as there are humans in it, it will always be the same.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great review mark. But for an even better salute to SR, you should check out the episode of Six Feet Under, where Ruth gets recommended it by her lodger Arthur. You even get to see their total satisfaction after watching it together.
    According to Kim Newman, in Empire, the bluray is loaded with good stuff; so I'll be definitely looking at it.
    The 70s is my favourite era for movies, as it is for a lot of people, but it still irks me that studios don't make the most out of Bluray and DVDs capacity for extras. When you love a film, as you do this, there's nothing better than going through the lovingly created doc's and learning more about it.

    P.S If SR is up there with The Exorcist for you; any chance we can have your top 10, 25, 50 or whatever. I'd love to know.

  • Comment number 12.

    I was once like you 'Davor74'... I had never seen the film and here's Dr. K flapping his bass playing hands and declaring " it's the greatest movies ever made!" in a past blog post. I didn't take into account his personal tastes or my own opinion that Bruce Dern may in fact be the worst actor the world has ever seen to my PROFOUND regret having now witnesses that steaming pile of dog doo that is Silent Running.

    Trumbull is an FX genius, I'll give him that, but without the guidance of Stanley Kubrick in 2001 or Ridley Scott in Blade Runner... Well, "Silent Running" is how those films might have turned out. Ridley Scott was constantly dissatisfied with what was presented by Trumbull and crew. He continually pushed him to do better work. Both directors knew HOW to shoot the props to give them an authenticity that is severely lacking in Trumbull's film. The FX in Silent Running may have been impressive to Mark's eyes 'back in the day' (I'm sure nostalgia plays a huge part in Dr. K's affections... or affectations for the film), but now they look like typically cheeseball 70s FX. They remind me of the FX on Slaughterhouse-5 to a great extent. And Huey, Dewey and Louie did nothing but take me out of the film, making me think of the unfortunate actors' conditions that portrayed the robots.... EVERY TIME THEY APPEARED ONSCREEN.

    The script was terrible and combine that with Trumbull's inexperience of telling a story you get an illogical mess. There are scenes that have no business being in the film and almost EVERY scene meanders to the point of severe aggravation. We're expected to swallow that Dern's character is the ONLY man left that cares anything about trees. The other characters are all written as space rednecks that serve no other purpose than to offer Dern devil's advocates to respond to with his 60s style 'hug a tree' rhetoric. That the earth would survive with trees and plant life of any kind is preposterous in itself, but when the orders are given to NUKE the flora and fauna the film descends into complete ridiculousness. 'Nuking the cargo' has the same amount of logic as robots being armed with self destruct mechanisms. Do we nuke space stations when we abandon them? That's the central idea that the film hinges on and it makes NO SENSE. At the film's core is an extreme view that only a select few value nature. Who doesn't think that it's a really bad idea to get rid of every forest on the planet? Watching this is like having an old hippy fart wag his finger at you and admonish you for something that you don't disagree with him on.

    I'm surprised by that last fact that you like this Mark. You generally don't approve of films with this level of 'preachiness'. And for God's sake... The Joan Baez songs. This might have the worst and most inappropriate soundtrack of any film I've ever seen, not just a science fiction film. In fact, you could very easily do some editing and make this into a comedy.

    I have watched some films that you've recommended and liked them. This is certainly not among(st) those. I do disagree with you strongly about what 2001 is about. It's like we saw two different movies. And its clearly not better than Kubrick's film in any way imaginable. I'm sure you're saying that to elicit reactions/responses, but when you say things like that, it starts to eat away at your credibility as a film critic, I think. I like the John Frankenheimer horror film Prophecy (another environmentalist message movie), but I know its terrible. I saw it as a kid and like it, but as an adult I can see the glaring flaws. Surely this is the way you see Silent Running... And sorry for calling you 'surely'.

  • Comment number 13.

    Silent Running was one of my favorite films as a child and young man as well, until I saw it again a few years ago and was embarrassed at how sentimental and illogical it was. This “not human” complaint about 2001 is also supposedly why Tarkovsky made Solaris. It seems a strange complaint and motivation to create “an answer” to 2001 since any movie, including any previous science fiction movie, is “more human” than 2001. Kubrick's film is nearly unique in that by denying a central character the film becomes about the human race and not just one man's story, the way the sequel 2010 is limited to Dr. Floyd's point of view. 2001's grandness is too big for any one man's life to contain or express. By dividing the story between the protohumans on prehistoric Earth, Dr. Floyd's journey to the Moon, and Dave, Frank, and Hal's journey to Jupiter, by the time we are left with just one character, Dave, as he travels beyond the infinite and becomes the first sample of a new evolution of man, we don't feel this film is limited to just his story but the inevitable journey of the whole human race. I'll stack that up against Silent Running any day as a superior achievement in film.

  • Comment number 14.

    This came on TV at some point when I was quite a small kid, and I remember that I saw some or most of it and loved what I saw, but I've been meaning for years to finally see it all the way through and refresh my memory. I don't have a BluRay player but I'll get around to getting hold of the DVD soon, I hope.

    I think 2001 is fantastic, but I can believe that SR is better. What I remember of it was just beautiful. It sounds like it had a huge influence on both Wall-E and Moon, both of which I thought were great.

  • Comment number 15.

    Ian Schultz@7

    I also got caught out on that £3.99 blu ray cock-up! Still, it's worth £12.99 of anyones money IMO.

    Love, love, love this highly under rated flick. Why don't more people talk this one up as the great sci-fi with heart that it is? As a child I used to watched this every time it popped up, usually on BBC 2, falling in love with its simple story, loveable drones and bewitching folksy music.

    Bruce Dern gives a great performance as Lowell Freeman (get it?) struggling to save his little bit of 'greenbelt'. Outstanding.

    Mark, thanks for posting on this highly under rated gem of a flick.

  • Comment number 16.

    When you make such a bold comment as:

    "Better than 2001" - you really need to explain yourself you can't just throw it in at the end of this blog because you are going to start something!

    If someone said: "The Omen is better than The Exorcist" you would want a firm explanation.

    Dr. K please explain yourself!

  • Comment number 17.

    I forgot to mention the beginning of this video reminds me of another SF classic, Spaceballs. "No Sir, I didn't see you playing with your dolls again." :)

  • Comment number 18.

    Mark, i've only seen 'Silent running' once, but thought it needed a second viewing to get the measure of it because (and i've wanted to tell you this for ages) those Joan Baez songs are AWFUL, when she asked you if the film was "any good" you should've told her "it was great until you started warbling".

    As for being better than '2001' i may end up agreeing with you, every time i watch '2001' i see less in it and often feel bored.

  • Comment number 19.

    LJSShez @11 if you Google 'Mark Kermode top ten' you'll get what your looking for, althoght 'Silent running' is absent.

  • Comment number 20.

    Isn't it dark star without a sense of humour,? A self indulgent hippie sermon.

  • Comment number 21.

    Although Silent Running is an outstanding film and Mark Kermode is right when he says that it has the humanity which is lacking in 2001, I still regard 2001 as the greater film. I saw 2001 at the cinema when I was about 20. It is a film which really has to be seen on the big screen to be able to get the full impact. Although I had seen many films before then both on television and at the cinema, watching 2001 was a turning point in my life as it was the catalyst for me and sparked my love of films of all ages from around the world.

    I note in the first comment by Mick C that he raises the point that comparing the two films is rather like trying to compare Seven Samurai with Solaris. I take it for granted that he is referring to the original Russian version of Solaris from the late Andrey Tarkovsky. Solaris was said by some to be the Russian 2001. I saw Solaris at the cinema and a truly remarkable film, but so different to 2001 that comparing the two is pointless.

  • Comment number 22.

    Those who have discussed the soundtrack, the post-rock/electronica band 65daysofstatic have recently written, toured and are about to release an alternative soundtrack to the film. The first song released from it, Burial Scene, is absolutely beautiful. http://soundcloud.com/65daysofstatic/burial-scene

  • Comment number 23.

    Hmmm ... I like 'Silent Running' but in my opinion '2001 - A Space Odyssey' is by far the superior film and it most definitely is about humanity. If you don't have a tear in your eye when the bone to bomb jump-cut happens then perhaps it's too subtle for you.
    Oh ... and plants need light, even in space ... should have spotted that Bruce, trained botanist and all ... but hey.

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about Silent Running. In my opinion it’s defiantly up in the top 5 of my favorite Sci-Fi films. Most of the special effects hold up today. I would rather watch them than most of the CGI that we see in today’s films. I get so tired of people blasting Joan Baez’s songs from the movie. The songs were a perfect reflection of the movie in the early seventies. If you can watch the ending and not get somewhat teary eyed you are doing better than me.

    Interesting side note, when George Lucas sued Universal for the copyright infringement of Star Wars by Battlestar Galactica, Universal countersued for the copyright infringement of Silent Running by Star Wars.

    I see you have a framed one-sheet (movie poster) of Silent Running. That poster is one of my favorites of the 60s & 70s. I have always thought those 2 decades had the best movie poster art. Maybe you should do a show about the demise of movie poster quality in the last couple of decades.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 26.

    This is the second time this year that I've had to say "Oh, just stop it Mark!". If you were Private Eye magazine and this were the letters page, I think I'd announcing the canceling of my subscription right about now. Silent Running is a lot of things; better than "2001: A Space Odyssey" it is not. In fact, the weird thing is that the opening half hour of the film features the murder of three people by a deranged serial killer and yet it's a U certificate! I watched this for the first time quite recently (well, in the last 6 months anyway) - I really wanted to like it but I was thoroughly un-impressed.

    Of all the low-budget 70s sci-fi, it's probably at the bottom of the list, way behind "Demon Seed", "Saturn 3" and "Logan's Run"... the original "Battlestar Galactica" series is better, even.

    No, Mark... just... NO!

  • Comment number 27.

    Is this not simply nostalgia? Kermode was 11 when he saw Silent Running, and was also very young when he saw The Exorcist. Critical faculties out the window - it's an attachment to that place in the past. Still, that doesn't excuse calling it "better than 2001"!

  • Comment number 28.

    2001 is a film about humanity.

    Silent Running is a film about a human.

    To argue that one is better than the other is to miss the point; watch them back to back and marvel.

  • Comment number 29.

    Missing Post@24

    Oh come on guys, I went to all the trouble of blanking out the words you asked me to before I could even post it.

    I'm just making valid points with a healthy dose of humour. There's no way anyone could be offended by the post. I followed your house rules until you allowed me to post the comments.

    If the BBC has an issue with a particular post then, please, don't allow me to post it in the first place. It just annoys the hell out of people and it's most unfair when someone is trying to follow the house rules as set out by the beeb.

    Please let the post @24 go live as it was earlier today. Thank You in advance.

  • Comment number 30.

    Couldnt finish it, didnt like anything about it. Alternately I loved Moon.

  • Comment number 31.

    It was your regard for Pan's Labyrinth and Silent Running (2 of the most affecting films I've ever seen) that convinced me that you were my critic to trust, Mark. I saw Silent Running when I was about 13 years old and afterwards I literally cried for about 2 hours. I haven't seen it since and I can't wait to rewatch it and see what I make of it now.

  • Comment number 32.

    Great film, really looking forward to the Blu ray

    Silent Running also inspired the greatest TV show of all time, Mystery Science Theater 3000

  • Comment number 33.

    Douglas Trumbull also did the TREE OF LIFE 20 minute universe segment!

  • Comment number 34.

    YOU TOOK THEM OUT OF THE BOX!! what kind of movie geek are you?

    i like silent running very much, and although it's a long time since i saw 2001 i remember being a little bored having liked the books (which are not without their own flaws by the way).

  • Comment number 35.

    Recently had the chance to see it at Sheffield Showroom with a live soundtrack by 65daysofstatic; absolutely kicking myself that I decided not to go. From what I've heard it's absolutely beautiful.

  • Comment number 36.

    Best science fiction film ever and generally in my top 3 or 4 movies of all time - and geek I aint. Nuff said.

  • Comment number 37.

    Crash Landen@12

    Yes, you're absolutely right about much of what you point out. I agree. However, I would also argue that most of those elements are exactly what give this particular film it's sweetness, sentimentality and inescapable 70's charm.

    I dread to think what we'd end up with if this ever went to the remake factory. Imagine 'Michael Bay's Silent Running'.

    INT:DAY VALLEY FORGE JUNGLE DOME 2

    FREEMAN LOWELL SITS ON THE LAKE SHORE WITH EMMA 5. EMMA 5 IS DRYING HER HAIR WITH A TOWEL. ANDY LOOKS ON. HE PLACES THE SECOND CHARGE INTO THE HOLDALL.

    ANDY

    We lost out here, just floatin' in the big black, ************! We got us two outa' three drones, one crazy stowaway, two missing crew and a hundred thousand acres of Amazon jungle, and now you about to get all Tarzan on my ***?

    FREEMAN

    It's all there is. Hell, just think about it for a minute would ya'!

    ANDY ZIPS UP THE HOLDALL. SMILES.

    ANDY

    This **** just got real.


    EMMA 5 REVEALS WEAPON FROM BENEATH HER TOWEL. AIMING IT DIRECTLY AT ANDY.

    EMMA 5

    (SMILES) I'll say.

    ANDY DROPS THE HOLDALL. FREEMAN STANDS UP. SMILING HE REACHES OUT FOR THE HOLDALL.

    FREEMAN

    If I'm Tarzan, I guess that makes her 'Jane'.
    Now throw me the damn charges *******!


    You see? It would be so much worse than this I'm sure, littered with sexist, voyeuristic slow motion shots of everything from EMMA drying her hair to FREEMAN's crash, bang explosive last minute escape from death. Let's just love Silent Running for what it is and how it makes us feel. I maintain it is a lovely 70's gem and there's nothing wrong with that.


    *NOTE: Due to house rules, this is an edited version and no offence is intended in any way, but you get the point.

  • Comment number 38.

    Just thought Mark, if you really do love the film so much, why didn't you put in your top ten!? Rectify this immediately!

  • Comment number 39.

    Better than 2001? Well, that's a statement! I meen, I don't believe it for a second, because 2001 is for me, what for Dr.K. is "The Exorcist"; my all time favorite.
    Nevertheless, I'll probably get the blue-ray. Thank's for the tipp, Dr.K.

  • Comment number 40.

    Great to see Mark once again giving Silent Running some love. It's a film I have cherished since I first saw it decades ago as a boy. I loved everything about it; the story, the sense of aching loneliness, the acting and the beautiful - somehow impossibly authentic - sci-fi design. I know now that Trumbull chose to film aboard a retired aircraft carrier to lend the set design authenticity (what a masterstroke). I never quite got over the death of one of the drones. It was truly heartbreaking. Bruce Dern made a lasting impression as Freeman Lowell and his performance was truly outstanding. This film remains the spiritual source for 'Moon' without a doubt and two would make an excellent double-bill.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm shocked.
    After a "better than 2001" comment no one so far has mentioned Andrey Tarkovskiy's Stalker (1979). Surely better than anything!

  • Comment number 42.

    When I first saw SR as a kid in the mid 70's, I Wept like a baby during the closing moments and it remained a firm fave for a number of years. I caught up with it again very recently and within the first 30 minutes I wanted to do nothing more than climb inside my tv set to strangle Dern (a more morbidly humourless and irritating performance I cannot bring to mind) and torch those rotten robots, who for my money have less in common with R2D2 from Star Wars, than they do with the Dusty-Binesque tin-can that was Vincent in Disney's The Black Hole.
    Trumbell is indeed a great SFX wizard and I love his work in Blade Runner, CE3K etc, but as a director he's a lost cause with almost no sense of timing, pace, incident and drama. SR has amateur hour written all over it, as well as a stupefying absence of logic: why on earth are they sending rain-forests into outer space for preservation only to have them destroyed when the astronauts are ordered to return home??? - could somebody explain that one to me please?
    '"Better than 2001"?!! - Stop being perverse.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm sorry Mark but you are wrong

    this whole schtick from you and certain other film critics about how Kubrick doesn't "get" humans is a load of rubbish to be honest

    I remember seeing 2001 when I was around 11 and being completely moved, saddened and left quite distruaght when the surviving astronaut in unplugging HAL.

    HAL is one of the most wonderfully human characters ever created in film. Much more human than Bruce Dern. The fact that he is a computer might have blinded you to this fact.

    2001 reaches a level of transcendence few films have ever reached and which Silent Running comes nowhere near

  • Comment number 44.

    @ 41: Zack_Blastoff

    I absolutely love Stalker. It's such a pity that it isn't that well known compared to Solaris as Tarkovsky preferred Stalker more to Solaris. It is one of my favourite sci-fi films and definitely in my top 10. To some extent it can be perceived as a kind of hippie, tree-hugger film, but doesn't preach about it. Although I suspect that the majority of people might find it a boring as it's not action based, even though it's not at all meant to be. Whether it's better than 2001, I don't think you can compare the two.

    Anyways Silent Running. I had to watch this for my dissertation and knowing Dr. Ks feelings about it I was quite looking forward to watching it. All I can say about it is that it's an interesting idea, but not a good film. The script is fairly awful and is overtly preachy which is annoying. I couldn't really give one about the Bruce Dern character, so I found it neither heart-breaking nor wonderful. Less said about the music, the better. Silent Running is nowhere near 2001 or HAL is far more human than Lowell.

    Sorry Dr. K

  • Comment number 45.

    @Zack and Luke Smith re: Stalker. Totally, totally agree: Stalker is magnificent. A film I've seen once but am still haunted by the visuals and particularly by the music - I also love the ambiguity and the sense of dread that permeates throughout.

    About several million orders of magnitude better than Silent Running, to bring it back on topic...


    Really, Mark, really. I think this is where we part ways, taste-wise. {shakes head dispairingly}

  • Comment number 46.

    Quite agree about the nuking - it makes NO sense.

    But hey, if you're going to (re)evaluate 70's SF for a modern audience, may I suggest you wave the flag for the forgotten "Colossus: The Forbin Project".
    The mountain-sized hardware may date it, but as a SF thriller it still works for me.

  • Comment number 47.

    I totally agree with Mark and love the film!

    When I was a kid I loved the sci-fi, the robots and the "simple" but breathtaking storyline.

    When I was a bit older I could see how it linked into the hippy culture of the time, providing a statement of what was starting to happen to our planet, humanity's attitude to it, and that we needed to care enough and do something about it before it's too late.

    These days it is clearer than ever that natural habitats and species are gradually dissapearing due to "progress" by human kind, and I'm afraid it now feels inevitable to me. Governments and organisations will make token gestures to isolate environments for their protection, but eventually, for political reasons and over many generations, they'll pull the plug.


    P.S. My guess is that most people will not "get" this post. I feel an SL moment coming on...


    P.P.S. 2001? A great science fiction film - but only a science fiction film.

  • Comment number 48.

    Sorry Mark, but I must disagree.

    I saw Silent Running a few years ago after hearing you go on about it when reviewing WALL-E. While it's pretty good, it is essentially hippies in space, nothing more, nothing less. Bruce Dern's character was very irritating, his drawling delivery felt every bit as inane as characters in a Gus van Sant film, and I don't buy the awkward Malthusian logic of the film, i.e. to save the forest, Bruce Dern is willing to kill other human beings.

    Although I don't think 2001 is perfect, it has much more to say about the insignificance, or at least humble status of mankind in the universe. The only way you could make a film about the history of the world and the nature of space was to have as little of humanity in it as possible, because we have been around for such a short time and seen so little of the universe that we cannot treat space as something on which to impose our feeble emotions, e.g. sentimentality. This doesn't bother me about science fiction in and of itself (I buy your arguments about the genre using outer space to explore inner space), but with Silent Running I felt this facet of our existence was foolishly ignored.

  • Comment number 49.

    I found the film disappointing. The main character just came across as annoying and uptight and his bullies lacked depth and were just far too stupid and one dimensional to be believable. they were to unrealistically prickish. i can't say i was moved by the film. allthough i was very impressed by the opening credits sequence i thought it was very beautifully shot.

  • Comment number 50.

    It's hard to judge a film set in 2100, 2200 or similar with a 2011 sensibility. Harder still when that film has a 1970 resonance. Granted, what is hip now, is often retro 1900-and-something and it wouldn't be hard to imagine one guy and three 'droids lost in space with a "losing my mind/'70's hippy" outlook on life. Especially a technician with the responsibility for the survival of earth's flora weighing down upon him.

    What Silent Running lacks, for all that it gives, is science *fiction*. It feels (and I choose the word "feels" carefully) like science-history. It feels like I'm watching it from the future, a whimsical period piece, grateful that something of Plan(e)t Earth survived.

    And now I must declare my love of and for Blade Runner.

    What Blade Runner has, which no other film of its genre shares, is a creative arc not yet fully realised. An ongoing believability, almost thirty years past and not yet run its course. I could imagine an homogenised, single-lingual urban ghetto, a ground/aerial class divide, seedy bars and off-world (emigre) opportunities. I could even imagine that PanAm and all the other 1980's corporations which succumbed to the "curse of Blade Runner" might be resurrected in 50 years time, '80's graphic designed logos and all...

    I loved Silent Running when I first saw it. That said, and there is a "but" - "but I felt" or "but I feels" that it just doesn't have the pathos of Blade Runner, the character development cannot extend from one man and two or three machines, while Ford's Deckard explores a future - not just modern (or '80's) - of human sensibilities including race issues (skin jobs), mysogyny, empathy, crime, consumerism, death and ultimately what it means to be alive - artificial or born.

    That is why the genre fails to encapsulate what Blade Runner is. Blade Runner is Science Fiction but it is also a Chandleresque crime drama, a bonfire of the vanities, a Love Story.

    I love Silent Running and I love that it's arrival on Blu-Ray has made me reach for my Blade Runner disc for another journey into the human condition, past, present and future.

  • Comment number 51.

    @ Arch Stanton
    Well, we certainly both agree that we wouldn't like to see a remake... Your take on a Michael Bay take was actually more interesting than Trumbull's take, I think. I actually laughed reading that, while Trumbull's film just AGGRAVATED me for a couple of hours... Not to mention it made me think of those poor actors in the Huey, Louie and Dewey costumes. Nothing like having films inadvertantly remind one of completely non sequitur 'real world' tragedies.

  • Comment number 52.

    @DAJ
    I completely agree about Blade Runner. It still holds up, especially visually (as all of Scott's films do). And it's one that 'the critics' completely didn't understand or get right in their mostly negative opinions.

  • Comment number 53.

    I'm not sure if I agree with "better than 2001", but I do know that to this day I find myself avoiding Silent Running. Its one of the few films that affects me enough at the end to make me blub like a baby....

  • Comment number 54.

    I could not agree with the good doctor more. 2001 is incredible, historic piece of film making but it's a cold piece of film making. To me it's always seemed distant and dispassionate, rather like it's CPU antagonist. Silent Running has a warmth and an organic energy, and although schmaltzy in parts is, for me, also a film of incredible darkness.

    Silent Running perturbed me deeply on multiple levels when I first saw it as a child and still does - beginning with Freeman murdering his own colleagues and ending with the last scrap of organic Earth floating away into the black, never to be seen by human eyes again. Lowell isn't simply an idealistic 70s flower child either - he's an incredibly angry and misanthropic figure, arguing with his human crew mates (then murdering them - I feel this needs to be highlighted) but happy to play poker with a pair of drones.

    Ultimately, Silent Running was & is a far more relevant and challenging film then 2001 was, is, or probably ever will be. We live in a world rapidly warming, having recently passed the 7 billion population benchmark as mankind devours all natural resources. The bleak environmental future of Silent Running rings far truer then 2001's epic vision of Man's triumphant journey towards the emergence of a new species.

  • Comment number 55.

    Off Topic: an article from Roger Ebert, which amongst other things notes the sinister by-product of 3d digital projection was the insistence of manufacturers that analogue projectors be removed for digital installation. Another worrying trend.

    http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2011/11/the_sudden_death_of_film.html

    (Note to BBC web blog design guys, perhaps each blog could have a "bulletin board" for this sort of thing that would be of interest to blog readers, and perhaps the blog authors as well, but do not fit the topic to hand...)

  • Comment number 56.

    Back on topic: This has turned into a marmite topic. A lot of people have gotten sucked into the ranking argument, and I try to avoid quibbling as I don't see the point of ranking things myself. I love both Silent Running and 2001.

    I love Silent Running despite its heavy handed environmentalism. Before Alien came along it was one of the first space set films to show space as a mundane location for work as opposed to the gee whiz space cadet realm of adventure. That slice of realism does tie it into a more genuine sense of adventure and wonder.

    I love 2001:ASO despite its "coldness". Let's face it, as brilliant as Kubrick was, he lacked empathy, and, apart from his work with Kirk Douglas, you'd be hard pressed to find a single sympathetic character in his canon. It is telling that his most memorably human characters, aren't. (HAL, and if you take the work he put into A.I., android boy -- both of whom, as it happens, are seen to commit murder). There's nothing wrong with Kubrick's medium cool, it allows for aloof point of view, some great satire and story telling, but just look what happens when he tried to tackle sexuality and emotion head on, we got Eyes Wide Shut. I saw 2001 theatrically many times from its subsequent release, and its many re-releases in the early 70's. I enjoyed it even before I was old enough to understand it.

    Tarkovsky's Solaris which has usefully come up in the discussion, is a great film, but, from personal experience, a truly disastrous "date" movie.

  • Comment number 57.

    I remember watching '2001: A Space Odyssey' as a child and remembering how long and boring it was. But I was watching it through naive, impatient child eyes. As an adult I've come to appreciate it for what it is: a glorious art installation. You bring to it whatever you want.

    As for 'Silent Running', it's absolutely true it is filled with soul and feeling, in perhaps complete contrast to what could be argued as 2001's cold, clinical and unemotional feel. Except I don't think it *is* unemotional. Or maybe it is exploring the *absence* of emotion itself. Either way, they are both great films, from entirely opposite ends of the sci-fi spectrum.

  • Comment number 58.

    I've heard of it but never seen it so have just sat and watched it - It is a good film without being a great film - 2001 is a masterpiece - SR is another one of those films that the good Dr loves that in reality is just OK - Those songs by Joan Baez stink -

  • Comment number 59.

    I watched Silent Running recently on your recommendation and I'm sorry Dr K, but Silent Running is a load of guff. Preachy, vaguely ridiculous and worst of all boring. I was thinking of quitting when I saw Dern doing his Dr Dolittle schtick at the beginning with the rabbit and the hawk, but I stuck through thinking that there must be something to it since Dr K speaks of it so highly. I was wrong.

  • Comment number 60.

    Like Mark, I saw silent running as a child, and, although I loved the special effects, and the cute robots, but it made me cry (being a bit younger than Dr. K, I have an excuse (!))

    Watching it again as an adult, I spotted all the silly plot holes (why spend all that money shooting gardens into space in order to preserve them, and then just decide it's not worth it any more and blow them up; why hire an astronaut so stupid he can't figure out that plants need light (duh!) -is that an indictment of the American educational system?

    But it still made me cry again.

  • Comment number 61.

    But none of these films are Battle Beyond the Stars............. :)

  • Comment number 62.

    30 Years! 30 long years I've been walking around aimlessly wasting my vision on things like tax bills, dog crap, Danny Dyers face and the films of Michael Bay. Finally though last night, thanks to your recommendation Mark I finally gave them something worth looking at, what a wonderful wonderful film.

    I always rated 2001 as well it should be, but after each viewing I always felt slightly.... irritated, in a bit of a bad mood.

    Step forward Silent Running.

    Thanks humans, you're alllllllriiiiiight.

  • Comment number 63.

    @Sala re: 62

    "Thanks humans, you're alllllllriiiiiight."

    Yep, nothing restores my faith in humanity more than a triple murder... (particularly in "U" rated films)

  • Comment number 64.

    I can't watch Silent Running. That is in the same way that I can't watch a certain scenes from Elephant man or even certain parts of Peter Jacksons KING KONG. But in the case of the said Silent Running and knowing how the film is going to end, I become an emotional wreck from almost the outset.
    By the time we get to the last images of the robot with the watering can tending the flowers to the warberlings of Joan Baez I literally can't see the screen through my tears and I don't even like Joan Beaz. OH sod it ,I might as well get the bloody BluRay. At the very least I can have a good cry when the wifes out of the house.

  • Comment number 65.

    Its a lovely film but better than 2001? errr NO, just No. Im afraid Darkstar beats it as well, hands down, if were going to argue about which greatness is better than the other.

  • Comment number 66.

    Just one thing to say about this, completely understand your heartfelt and endearing love of this film, a wonderful blog entry.

  • Comment number 67.

    God makes a garden, God sticks a man in the garden, betrayal, murder and destruction follow.

    Humanity makes a garden, Man sticks three robots in the garden. After more betrayal, murder and destruction, one robot wanders the stars tending the garden forever.

    Robots do this sort of thing better folks.

    I can't watch this film without crying like a watering can.

  • Comment number 68.

    From the past, in the future, ahead of its time and very current.

  • Comment number 69.

    Any choice about ANYTHING is always subjective.
    Environmentalism is the new religion, and the `anti Christ' is Consumerism.
    I hate what each has become, and their `followers' as I am my own man.
    Can stand the self righteous especially the P.Correct.
    Than said I like both films ( 2001 & Silent running ) but I agree with Mark on this one, yes its perhaps over sentimental, lacking in the humour of the film dark star. but it is very human, and in 1972 the films statement needed to be made.
    Its a bit like the recent Citizen Kane vs Vertigo argument, each are brilliant films in their own right, but I prefer Vertigo for the way its shot, delivered, and its obsessive passion, visuals and music.

    post 29 Its the BBC they have a real problem with people not towing their line.

 

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