Welcome to part 9 of the History of Science Fiction in film. Today I continue to look at films that came out in the 1990’s. Science Fiction still needed to gain its footing in so many areas in the 90’s. Super Hero films were becoming more popular and Science Fiction seemed to go by the way side in favor of the Super Hero Genre. Don’t get me wrong, Super Hero films have their place and sometime in the future I’ll tackle that subject. Onto the actual subject though, with Steven Speilberg he was at the height of his career, he brought us films like Jurassic Park: The Lost World, which is an amazing piece of film music history. The film suffered a bit, but it carried the story through and now we have so much Jurassic Park.
We also get some really great Science Fiction films in 1997. Specifically The Fifth Element. An original idea, with extensive computer effects mixed with practical effects and giving us a great action film that isn’t based on any book but greatly inspired by the works of Mobius with works like The Incal. The Fifth Element represented so much for the world of Sci-Fi and it was practically a breath of fresh air for the adventure of space opera and different elements of space exploration! It was great, having Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, and Chris Tucker all rolled up into an explosive, perfectly timed film with so much fun to be had.
This was an age of new technology for the world of science fiction. There hadn’t been something that envisioned a scope like this film before, and honestly there hasn’t been something that measured up since then.
Within the same year of 1997 we received more science fiction that had been based upon a graphic novel. Men In Black. This science fiction film was budgeted for a large audience and was extremely well recieved. It opened the world to intergalactic politics, aliens, monsters, bugs, and what would it be like to erase part of one’s memory and provide a new one? This was answered in the film and there was so much more to it that asked the what if questions for the science fiction world. Audiences could ask those questions too, bringing out more speculative fiction for short stories and novels.
In among these greater acts of science fiction, there was the novel to film Starship Troopers with music by Basil Poledouris once again. There is much more in the novel than on screen. It felt like a teenage soap opera rather than a giant bug hunt on an alien world. Graphics wise though for science fiction fans it had elements of space horror and gore never seen before and that is something that Paul Verhoeven does very well. Then there were a slew of films that were big productions but were simply that big productions with little story behind them and wanting to focus on individuals of film rather than the science fiction aspects on the film. Armegeddon, Deep Impact, Deep Rising, The Faculty (Although this film was an excellent example of a version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers only with teachers and one student who was the actual alien. Fun Movie), Disturbing Behavior. Then we recieved a remake of a Television series with Lost in Space which was decent story telling and gave us political intregue as well as time travel done correctly for once, and Godzilla.
A film I wanted to focus on is not any of these. Even with these films being an excellent example of science fiction in film. The one I wanted to actually mention more was a lone film called Dark City. In this world there is darkness and one man who wakes up and has the ability to move things with his mind, he has images of a past existence and horrible attrocities that are percieved. It asks some very specific and deep questions in the realm of science fiction. What does one do for the elements of science? How far do you go without compromising your humanity? Is true love honestly something that exist? Can one move objects with their mind? These are different questions that were asked in the film. I highly recommend the movie and hope you check it out sometime.
Trevor Jones did an amazing job with the score, and I can’t spoil the ending. You must see it for yourself.
1999 seemed to be a different year for Science Fiction. Everyone still thought of a Y2K bug or of system shutdowns, 1999 though was an excellent year for science fiction. It held films about androids wanting to be human. Bicentennial Man was that film, it asked the deeper science fiction questions that most audiences could understand and formulate the morality of the issues involved. It was brilliantly scored by James Horner. If you want an unusual Robin Williams film, this is it. I recommend it simply for those deeper science fiction questions that one could ask.
There were other films in 1999 that stood out for science fiction such as eXistenZ, Galaxy Quest which is one of the best parody Star Trek films in circulation and it also asks those science fiction questions in the best possible way without making things too corny. I really appreciate that film in all it’s elements, The Iron Giant, which if I may say is a very sad but wonderful animated feature that everyone should see in the world of science fiction, Muppets from Space, its a great comedy but also includes so many great science fiction elements and then we round out the year with one of the most asked question film The Matrix. The main tagline for the film was What is the Matrix? Or The Matrix has you. These really got the audiences attention for that year and changed elements of science fiction with reality shifting and bullet time as it were, it changed special effects, directors did things differently after The Matrix and it spawned to film sequels as well as the animated anthology series The Animatrix. It really has its roots firmly planted in science fiction. It is a must see film if you want some excellent history of science fiction.
Was this the last of Science Fiction for the 20th Century? No, we recieved the opening chapter of Star Wars into the world of science fiction! We gained The Phantom Menace with so many more questions asked for the world of Science Fiction and Star Wars lore. This film doesn’t get enough love, it is brilliant and well scripted, and John Williams gives us some excellent new pieces of film music that wasn’t brought out for 17 years. Many didn’t think they needed a prequel trilogy, however, it was always George Lucas’ dream to tell a complete story. It was his Why. So I thoroughly enjoy this film and all the new elements it brought into the franchise. I hope you can appreciate it for what it was.
Until part 10 of The History of Science Fiction in Film. Enjoy and Happy Listening!