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Friday, September 7th 2007

1:25 PM

The Future of Sci-Fi - and the Genre's Best & Worst

  • Posted by: Steve Biodrowski
CHILDREN OF MEN: an example of background detail making a satirical pointAt the Venice Film Festival, where he was premiering the latest (and presumably last) version of BLADE RUNNER, Ridley Scott proclaimed that science fiction cinema is dead, offering "nothing original...we've seen it all before." When you consider that Hollywood's idea of a sci-fi blockbuster these days is TRANSFORMERS, you can hardly blame Scott for copping an attitude. Nevertheless, Paul Howlett in The Guardian thinks Scott went too far when he said this was true for all sci-fi films ("yes, all of them"), so he offers this response: "Why Sci-Fi Still Has a Future." The titles Howlett cites to prove that the genre is not totally brain-dead are MINORITY REPORT, SOLARIS (the remake starring George Clooney, not the 1972 original), CHILDREN OF MEN, and the current SUNSHINE. Personally, I don't think that MINORITY REPORT is a particularly good piece of evidence for the genre's intelligence (am I the only one bothered when this catatonic psychic - whose muscles should be totally atrophied - is able to get up and walk?), and remaking a classic science-fiction film is no great achievement either. But CHILDREN OF MEN really is a masterpiece that points the way toward not only the future of science-fiction but the future of cinema in general. Director Alfonso Cuaron's use of the camera (filling in exposition with background visuals, in a sense making the background the subtle star of the film) has established a style that I think will be increasingly adopted by other filmmakers, in the same way that BLADE RUNNER inspired a generation that followed (even though neither film was a box office success). I truly believe that, ten years from now, every director will shoot his films the way Cuaron shot CHILDREN, and we'll just take it for granted that that's how movies are made. While we're on the subject of the future of sci-fi, it is worth doing a 180-degree turn-around to look at the past: NBC offers two lists, for the Best and the Worst Science-Fiction films ever made. (The links say "Top Ten," but each list includes twenty titles. Whatever.) What you will find most surprising about the lists is that, if you don't bother to read the link title before clicking through, you will not be able to tell which is the Best and which is the Worst. For example, guess which includes:
  • Transformers
  • Return of the Jedi
  • Spaceballs
And which one contains:
  • 12 Monkeys
  • Robocop
And then ask yourself why 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY showed up on neither list. If there are ever any doubts about whether there is still a place in the world for Cinefantastique, idiotic lists like this prove that mainstream media still don't understand the genre, and we still need someone who knows what the hell they're talking about when it comes to science-fiction cinema.
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