The essay analyzes two science fiction works that have gained international popularity ‒ the film Donnie Darko and the book The machine stops. The comparison was made taking into consideration such categories as the world described, the main characters and the plot.
World of The Stories
World of the film Donnie Darko is strongly entangled and intertwined with a multiverse theory. The main storyline of the film is focused on the search for ways how to rescue the main universe (Kelly R. 2003). However, the vast majority of the film events take place in the Middlesex in the parallel dimension, created spontaneously and existing only for 28 days. From the moment the clock has stopped at midnight, until that moment when Donnie wakes up in bed with hysterical laughter. In order to understand the world of the Donnie Darko the book Philosophy of Time Travel (Sparrow R. A. 1944) should be read. Only this syntactic book can provide viewers with the information on what is really happening in the film. Philosophy of Time Travel explains that time as mainly stable structure, which, however, can be damaged because of some unknown to anyone reasons. When this happens, the tangential universe, which copies the main universe, appears. This tangential universe is highly unstable, and it can exist only for a few weeks. Eventually, it can collapse forming a black hole in the main universe. This hole is able to destroy everything. This tangential universe threatens the existence of life. The burden of saving the world is placed on the shoulders of one man, who has 28 days to stop the tangential universe from destroying the main universe. Thus, the film’s world is the unreasonable compound of pseudoscientific theories, the concept of selectivity, and such surreal characters as a huge rabbit with toothy smile. Most of all, the structure of the world and events in it resemble some hallucinogenic nightmare. Considering the age and the specific behavior of the protagonist, it is possible to make the assumption that all the events of the film are some kind of figment of his sick imagination.
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The book The machine stops (Forster E.M. 1909) represents the world where the humankind is completely dependent on the Machine. It feeds and clothes people, it gives them a shelter; people talk with each other by means of the Machine, they can see each other only with the help of the Machine, they owe the Machine their entire lives. It is the world, where humanity has reached unprecedented heights in technologies and has technically transformed the environment to their advantage. People accept the overwhelming care of the machines, and in a few generations they cannot even think about independent life. Very quickly they adjust themselves to almost vegetative existence, and cease to go out of their homes, where they are provided with all human needs. It seems that this world is on-the-spot theater representation of the events that are happening on the pages of the novel. Probably, the main reason for this is the author’s desire to create a sense of alien atmosphere, which is far from familiar society and culture. Human culture, mixed with some extrinsic customs and controlled by a completely different set of values, creates the special feeling as if you read the real story about some far land. However, the very idea of the notorious "riot vehicles" is transformed and served for readers in the form of the idea of the complete subordination of humankind to machines and its dependence on it (Asimov, 1954). The world of the book appears to be more thoughtful, precise and full of amazing vitality.
While comparing these two worlds, it should be mentioned that both of them are beautiful in their own way. However, the world of the book is much more innovatory since it is established completely by the author. It comes to life and gives a sense of presence in it. Perhaps, the reason for this advantage is the fact that in comparison to the film the book provides a vast field for the readers’ imagination.
The Main Characters and Plots
The main character of the film is a superhero who has become Donnie Darko: 16-year-old teenager with emotional problems, with stories about arson and tired eyes. At midnight on October 2, 1988, the tangential universe has been formed spontaneously on the territory of the city of Middlesex in the real universe. Together with the tangential universe, some mysterious artifacts have appeared. Donnie’s role is a living conductor. He has been chosen to return the artifact to the tangential universe. The role of the living conductor has its own advantages and disadvantages. He gets superpowers, such as telekinesis and the ability to see the future; but also he starts to see the horrific hallucinations about people around him, who are usually afraid and attack him. As a result, the film leaves a lot of open questions. This is the storyline of the film Donnie Darko. It is difficult to find the scope for thought in this story. The plot is confusing and incomprehensible. The main character can easily be the object of psychiatric researches. Unification of these two parameters generates the trash film, created for a specific audience. It leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Constant reference to a variety of sources is the only thing that brightens up the dull storyline and mediocre actors play.
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The main character of the book can be regarded as the symbol of all humankind, represented in the form of the family in the anti-utopian world. The humankind have completely lost the status of the host of the world and has became merely an optional addition to the all-powerful Mechanism, which has been originally created in order to take care of all people, but has become a fully autonomous system that performs its functions by inertia. The plot can be regarded as the kind of allegory, the main idea of which is that the gradual distancing of people from the land and village life as well as the choice of the city life, will inevitably lead to the destruction of all humankind. The idea is represented by the fact that people have been forced to go into the depths of the Earth, because of the ecological catastrophe on the surface: there are no plants, no animals, and even human breathing is impossible without special equipment. In this way the book raises the questions about current events. Nature turns against her children when they turn away from the nature; it imprisons them, but people do not realize foolishly what they have lost. Thus, the plot of the novel is saturated with philosophical reflections and remains relevant even after a century from the time of its creation.
While comparing the plots and characters of the book and the movie it should be noted that the novel is much better than the film. The detailed world of the book does not leave anyone indifferent. It makes readers worry about background events, feel the sadness because of the human’s future. Through this story, a reader gets a desire to prevent similar future and save all humanity. In contrast to the book the plot of the movie is one huge puzzle, which requires that viewers search for more answers in the additional sources.
In conclusion it must be said that the classic sci-fi story surpasses its competitor by all counts. The film is too difficult for understanding and has very poor performance. It does not make readers feel the depth of emotions. However, probably, it is flirting with the audience, trying to make them to investigate the unnamed secrets of the film’s world. The novel makes readers live through the whole history of the universe in a foreign but fearfully familiar world throughout 25 pages. The author managed to create such a vivid plot that allows its readers to see the world of the novel alive from the very first line. It is why The machine stops should be named a masterpiece.