This is it everyone, our final chapter in the discussion on The History of Science Fiction in Film. Science Fiction films by this point have started to blend with super hero films, so I’m still going to be cautious with what I cover here. Through the whole of the first year of 2010 there was only two films that stood out representing great science fiction in film. First, Book of Eli with Denzel Washington…Thirty years after war turned the world into a wasteland, a lone warrior named Eli (Denzel Washington) marches across the ruined landscape, carrying hope for humanity’s redemption. Only one other man (Gary Oldman) understands the power of what Eli carries, and he is determined to take it for himself. Though Eli prefers peace, he will risk death to protect his precious cargo, for he must fulfill his destiny to help restore mankind. This film is essential for science fiction, its post-apocalyptic and its dark, but very relevant for the furtherance of humanity, making life better than what it is.
Second, just in that year Tron: Legacy. This is the direct sequel to Tron back in 1982. It was brilliantly filmed, it pushed more boundaries of technology by even using computer tech to advance the story. It helped even solidify the digital compositing of faces again with Jeff Bridges looking as he did when he was young. There have been more films since then that really pushed that forward also. But Tron: Legacy is a great science fiction film and it really asked some great science fiction questions about humanity, about life, about death and where you go when things don’t change. Daft Punk did the score and they composed a wonderful orchestral electronic blend to bring that music into the 21st Century.
Attack the Block, The Darkest Hour, Battle Los Angeles and Cowboys vs Aliens fit the category of alien invasion on Earth. All were effective and I feel that The Darkest Hour handled it best, not giving us explanation or reason why the aliens were there, but it gave us some great new effects for the low budget film. I was greatly impressed by it. It even asked questions you never thought about in that film. Why would aliens want our world? What are they looking for? Is our life going to end like that? Will we fight back? See? Great questions.
In Time was another science fiction film that didn’t need great special effects to be a good science fiction movie. Yes, it was kind of like a heist movie, but still they were stealing time to have more time to give others so that the super rich didn’t have that time just to spare. Eternal life for the super rich would be a thing of the past through the ongoing efforts in that film. Another film that was effective and reminecent of Steven Speilberg is Super 8. This handled children well in the film and gave you a sense of nostalgia for the times of the 80’s. It was handled great and J.J. Abrams really has a handle of keeping the sense of the days long past, calling back to our childhood and appreciating what it was that made classic science fiction so good.
Along comes a prequel series that wrapped up just last year and that was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It dealt with how the apes gained intelligence. Not that we needed that exposition about it, but the three films were handled well and presented in a dark and gritty way but still making us root for the apes rather than humans in the film. Then we received another time travel story called The Source Code, which asked some very relevant time questions, and post tramatic stress questions for soldiers in war or going to war over what mattered and how they could fix events making them better. What could be better? Post apocalyptic films have been getting better also, we look over movies that give us some sense of hope while providing dark backgrounds to situations where corporations control everything…The Hunger Games series, The Maze Runner Series and The Divergent Series. Need I say more on these films? Nope.
One film that really stands out for the test of time is Cloud Atlas, it encompasses a broad range of times where different characters are sucked into a world where one piece of music is central to it all. There are romances, there is central madness, and science fiction elements that moved the story forward with new elements never thought possible. It asked very good questions for a science fiction film. What do all these connections mean? Are they connected? Is life just a simple race? Do we work hard to do the right thing? What takes our energies? Such questions help to understand the brilliance of the film.
There were several films that were advanced in the world of science fiction tech or advances in film use such as John Carter – Abismal adaption, Lockout – Die Hard in Space, Looper – Science Fiction assassination plot with one’s self?, Prometheus – I guess we needed this? The tech is good for the film and it furthers the relevance of science fiction in a lot of ways, but I really don’t want to go into this too far since it doesn’t help me explain the better points of science fiction.
Enders Game was a film that had been a novel and this examined the key elements of what would happen if children were trained to fight in an alien war without realizing that they were fighting a real war rather than simulations. It has a profound affect on the human psyche. It ask some of the deep seated tough questions of war, exploitation, manipulation and cold hard facts. It’s simply an excellent example of science fiction in film media.
It’s hard to just handle the deeper questions of science fiction. Sometimes you just want a good fun story for science fiction, along with action, mayhem, a little post apocalyptic action and more. Pacific Rim, Oblivion, Snowpiercer, and Edge of Tomorrow are some of those science fiction films that while pushing boundaries for technology and computer effects and graphics to make things look more real or more organic were amazingly fun films. The deeper films that get more buzz it seems are films such as Interstellar about finding a new homeworld that isn’t Earth. This subject is thick with politics, and darkness as well as depression or thinking about what would happen if one just stayed on Earth.
Then there are deeper films that get Academy Award nods such as Under The Skin, a film about alien infestation and the effects on the human brain or even how it affects actions and reprocusions. Or even with the film Lucy, that illustrated more points through that film on the deeper aspects of asking the really important questions in science fiction or even how to answer some of those questions.
Bringing out films like Chappie, Ex Machina and films that have been previously mentioned show the science fiction world really knows how to ask such questions as, when is A.I. like a real person? Or When is a robot more like a human? What is the moral implications if a A.I. can reproduce? What are their morals? Who sets the standards of right and wrong? See so many things that can and should be asked.
A footnote in Science Fiction filming is Jupiter Ascending, the scope, the allure, and the science fiction elements of the film were simply amazing. The story was very open paged, there were no multiple layers, there were no backstory points that made you love the characters more, but the score was amazing.
Then came films like Jurassic World, re-igniting our love of dinosaurs in the real world but with far deeper implications of still playing god and what happens when those realizations starting running amuck. Michael Giachinno did an amazing job with the score though, it was brilliant.
Arrival came along and created all sorts of buzz, especially since it won an academy award for the screen play, the score, and the cinematography I believe. It really tackled, how do you communicate with aliens who don’t know language? What do you use? What elements of language are best used? How is it presented? Another film presented is The Girl With All the Gifts that shows an adaption of the book by the same name. It’s a take on a zombie film but with different flaire…In the future, a strange fungus has changed nearly everyone into a thoughtless, flesh-eating monster. When a scientist and a teacher find a girl who seems to be immune to the fungus, they all begin a journey to save humanity. This is another human story that tackles the deeper questions of what is humanity capable of?
A leap forward for facial digital rendering was bringing back to life an actor that was in the original Star Wars. With Rogue One, the technology for science fiction leaped into the a grand scheme of brilliance with bringing about a digital character, almost making him look real. Grand Moff Tarkin or in other words Peter Cushing. It was amazing how they brought forth the digital version of him as well as bringing out his voice for the film. It was extremely impressive.
In further exploration of science fiction in film there were various movies that have come out within the past even two years showing the steps forward in technology, asking the right questions, and pushing the boundaries of what science fiction is. Films like Blade Runner 2049, Ghost in the Shell and Alita: Battle Angel show the importance even of Japanese culture into the Western culture. One film that stood out for myself is Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and it’s explanation of finding a world that lived in peace until that peace was ripped from them. And a simple policeman and his girlfriend who fight for the survival of the universe. It even answered questions that great science fiction novelist ask and request of their readers. I really love this movie and its great effects and wonderful story that more people should have taken note of.
There are so many more excellent science fiction over the past year and a half such as Annihilation, Anon, Extinction, Hotel Artemis and so many others have come out showing the amazing brilliance of having simplicity in film and proving that there are dark imaginations asking questions for everyone contemplating the great questions and proving that there is more to life than just technology. To close this final part I really appreciate Mortal Engines for its story telling and great world building that is another part of science fiction that doesn’t get touched on very often. There are great fantasy films built upon the world building premise. That of course is another tale for another time.
Will science fiction grow in strength again? Will the super hero genre take over? Only time will tell. I still think that science fiction needs to continue and grow in telling amazing wonderful stories that span time and space. I want to see more space faring adventures that leap from the page, leap from the skies and build our imaginations even further into the future. I leave you with two pieces of music from Solo: A Star Wars Story and Ready Player One. Enjoy…
So I end our story today with this final thought. Super Hero films will not be the future of science fiction and that is the end of this series. Goodbye for now and Happy Listening!