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Milton’s Sci-Fi Epic

By Harriet Staff

12-26-12_Satan

Remember this item from a while back, and how we got all psyched to see Bradley Cooper as the Dark Prince, yes Satan himself. Unfortunately it looks like it’s not going to happen, according to Katy Waldman at Slate:

Before an ominous two-handed engine called “budget constraints” smote it into oblivion, a movie adaption of Milton’s Paradise Lost was slated to arrive in 2013. Directed by Alex Proyas and starring Bradley Cooper as Satan, the film was billed as a science fiction actioner featuring 3-D “aerial warfare” between heavenly hosts and (probably) a lot of dark muttering about forbidden knowledge. Now Legendary Pictures has scrapped the epic, leaving us to contemplate our theology this Christmas without the promise of Cooper lolling around in a lake of fire, looking roguish.

That’s too bad. But Waldman doesn’t dwell in the impossible. Instead, she draws out the sci-fi strands in Milton’s epic work, reminding us that “the text of Paradise Lost is saturated in science.” Here’s more:

Milton met Galileo, for the first and only time, in a 1638 visit that Jonathan Rosen compared to “those comic book specials in which Superman meets Batman.” The “Tuscan artist” appears in Paradise Lost more than once. Book I compares Satan’s shield to the moon seen through a telescope. And the poem is studded with scientific details—“luminous inferior orbs” churning through outer space, descriptions of sunspots and seasons, creatures that evolve (according to divine plan, but still). Through it all, Milton, a storyteller, comes off as entranced by the laws governing the universe. (His mouthpiece in this regard is Adam, who cannot get enough of the angel Raphael’s disquisition on celestial motions in Book VIII.) There’s something very sci-fi about anyone who, while taking care to present his era’s astronomical theories as speculative, still likes to spin that speculation out into long descriptions of cosmic phenomena. Arthur C. Clarke would surely be proud.

Also, Milton kinda sorta thought that extraterrestrial life might be possible. In Book III of Paradise Lost, Satan flies down from Heaven to Earth, passing distant stars that, on closer inspection, turn out to be “other Worlds.” Other worlds with aliens on them? Could be! “Who dwelt happy there,” Milton explains, the archangel “stayd not to enquire.”

Don’t just fly by! Make the jump to enquire.

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Posted in Poetry News on Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 by Harriet Staff.