Of Stars and Men

Of Stars and Men ★★★★

The goofy grace of the Hubleys lends itself to pop-science speculations on the place of humanity in the universe. Their version of the zoom from the atomic to the cosmic (four years before the Eames’s Powers of Ten) is smooth and psychotropic, with hints of Harry Smith; their account of evolutionary history is even better.

There does seem to be some playful tension between the anti-“mythology” stance in the source book and the Hubley universe, which feels so drawn to “the old superstitions.” And in practice that produces a more honest account, one in which science speaks through myth, for all its attempts to shake free of it.

Despite any progress narratives, being “scientific” always feels perilous—the Hubleys show this as a vertigo of standing over a grid matrix, or looking out from a heaving Galilean tower. The extrahuman world haunts us: evolutionary pasts, other galaxies, our molecular makeup.

“No fearsome changes in climate are ahead,” promises the voiceover—just one of many ways that this atomic-era vision of cosmology feels quaint.