Today on Soundtrack Alley Spotlight, I’m almost through our journey of Science Fiction in Film. Today I’ll be going over films like Paycheck, Aeon Flux, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Transformers, Avatar and Star Trek 2009. I’m so excited to share this with you!
So has science fiction wormed its way into every aspect of real life? Is there areas we haven’t covered yet? Are there still strides ahead for film? Creating better and bigger worlds? One of the films I always appreciate for film music as well as the science fiction element is Paycheck. The book was by Phillip K. Dick and can’t be ignored. He was one of the leaders in science fiction and created so many stories that recalled questions to our minds. Paycheck asked those very questions. What are the 20 items and why are they so important to the advancement of the story? What if? There are many more questions to ask, but why talk about it, if you could just watch the film. John Powell does the score to the film and in my opinion doesn’t do any wrong.
There have been films about mystery and murder as well as sequels to very excellent films such as Chronicles of Riddick, The Final Cut, and I, Robot. I, Robot based upon the excellent work of Isaac Asimov made it’s way to film with high expectations and bringing further computer effects that made things seem very realistic even for machines showing up on screen. There were other elements of that film that showed potential for vehicles, and other tech, even showing a rogue A.I. program. Again Skynet shouldn’t exist.
What made science fiction great is the pure worlds it created such as Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, with its multiple props used in the film when almost the entire movie is filmed on Green Screen creating a world that looks real but almost all of it isn’t there. Then we have the philosophical action adventure with Aeon Flux which began its life as a cartoon on MTV. In each episode our main character dies from something. In the film it eludes to cloning and that process, however the main focus is the conditioning and how many people feel like that world is just fine even when there are elements of underlying cloned people making the decisions and thinking no one can have a child of their own. It’s very deep and asks several morality questions.
Then there were smartly written films that existed as a comedy and yet asked some very real science fiction questions. Is this all there is? What is life? What makes the world go round? Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is one of the books by Douglas Adams and the film is by the same name. There should have been more films in this series, but it never came about. It left things wide open to worlds of space aliens and massive galaxies where adventures could take place. Questions of Why? What is the ultimate question? Is it 42? Leaves much to the imagination doesn’t it?
What would science fiction be without the questions brought up to contemplate? Another Phillip K. Dick Adaption was A Scanner Darkly, apparently this film called into question reality and other dimensions. The film was ahead of its time even by the now standards, facial recognition for animation was astounding for this film. It made you feel like it was live action even when it wasn’t. I never saw the film, but from what I gathered it created quite a bit of buzz. Another film not seen but very relevant for the world of science fiction is Children of Men. Here is the basic plot, because I still haven’t seen the film and I really need to…When infertility threatens mankind with extinction and the last child born has perished, a disillusioned bureaucrat (Clive Owen) becomes the unlikely champion in the fight for the survival of Earth’s population; He must face down his own demons and protect the planet’s last remaining hope from danger. From what I’ve read and learned about the film, it was awarded the best technical direction for a feature film and for the world of science fiction, this is what the core is about. Building stories about people in environments that are harsh or brutal and their struggle for survival. Speculative fiction is at its best with these scenerios.
Another excellent film that broadens the world and changes perspective is the film The Invasion. This is a take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It didn’t need special effects, there were several practical effects used and it became a hidden gem for science fiction. What if aliens came down in forms of viruses or liquid goo that invaded our senses and took over our minds? That is essentially what The Invasion was. Now I know I’m leaving out films like V for Vendetta and The Island. These are films that were excellent, but to continue and complete my series on the History of Science Fiction in Film I must move along. And quickly.
To many Transformers was only an 80’s cartoon show. When Michael Bay created the movie, he brought a realness to the mechanical workings of the robots, making the computer effects of metal and tires and real changes in vehicle status to grow and become greater than the whole. This film has spawned six sequels so far, and it’s still going. You could feel the viseral changes in the score. The industrial feel to the score that Steve Jablonsky initially composed is brilliant.
Films moved along in the late 00’s and there were a few films that stood out still for the rest of that decade…Jumper which challenged everyone’s idea of people having powers to jump or teleport anywhere they had been and suddenly appear. You can see the brilliance of the idea and honestly the film did a much better application of it rather than the book. Then there were films that started strong with the Super Hero Genre with Iron Man. As I’ve said before that will be another series I cover. There was Cloverfield, you didn’t see the monster through most of the film and it was actually handled very well throughout the film. I recommend looking into it for the pure science fiction elements. Also there was the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Then in 2009 there were leaps forward with 3D technology as James Cameron brought Avatar to the big screens with the IMAX Version of the film and there were individuals who wanted to be in that world, so much so that they were willing to die for being there. The film showed what 3D tech could actually do, you could actually feel like you were in that world, and the effect of the 3D was so well done that you could see ash in the air, or see the giant monster creatures soar through the sky, you wanted to reach out and touch everything in the world. It was wonderful for the world of Science Fiction. And James Horner composed the beautiful and haunting score to the film which brought it closer to life.
Lastly for this part I’d like to cover a few honorable mentions. Despite everyone’s disapproval of rebooting Star Trek, J.J. Abrams didn’t do wrong when he brought it to the silver screen for new audiences with the 2009 version of Star Trek. There was the 1970’s feel science fiction horror thriller with The Box, I honestly recommend this film, purely for its jump scare factor and its complete weirdness. It is amazing for the world of science fiction. Another honorable mention is the underappreciated film Moon with Sam Rockwell. This is part of what makes science fiction so good. Having films about the human condition and their reactions to the world around them and their struggle to survive in harsh climates. I love it. There is The Time Travler’s Wife, Terminator Salvation, and Surrogates. I could name more but I want this post to be done. The final chapter in our series is coming soon. In fact it will be tomorrow. Are you ready? Will you appreciate it? I hope so. It brings us up to our current year and what has been accomplished through science fiction up to now.
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I hope you enjoy the episode and until next week Happy Listening!