The State of Sci Fi...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Todd McF, Dec 5, 2001.

  1. Todd McF

    Todd McF Second Unit

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    Now this is *just* an opinion, so take it for what its worth.

    I watched Final Fantasy again and found it a bit more enjoyable the second time around. I heard of people falling asleep in the theater and I couldnt really imagine that until my wife fell asleep during the big New York attack. She claimed the movie was interesting but that it was too surreal (too Anime?). I guess I am one of the few that liked this film.

    From the studios perspective, it it worth it? SciFi in general has taken a pretty well deserved flogging over the last few years:

    - Alien 3 & 4: witness the franchise destruction.

    - Mission to Mars and Red Planet: Nasa won't get any renewed interest

    - Soldier: Kurt Russel got hurt making that?

    - Event Horizon: I'm one of the *very* few who liked it.

    - Wing Commander: Great FX & premise, I'm one of the *very very very* few who liked it.

    - Titan AE: Will the real director please stand up?

    - Lost in Space: Great DVD, The commentary is one long apology.

    - Final Fantasy: A huge effort and an even bigger financial disaster.

    - Star Wars: I won't even mention Lucas and the ongoing Disneyfication of the universe. I'm ready to exclude this crap from the genre.

    - Star Trek: Very forgiving fans. I know it has a following but for me its been pure crap since Wrath of Khan. An Enterprise captain surrendering the ship in the pilot episode? Didnt he blow it up again in one of the movies?

    There have been some decent films - namely Pitch Black, Fifth Element (right genre? Is it a comedy?), Starship Troopers, but they are the minority (I'm not considering AI & Gattica, good movies but not really the same genre).

    I think the studios are taking the hint. UpcomingMovies.com shows a Solaris remake (really a drama), another crappy Star Trek movie (repleat with the annoying singing shiny faced robot a bit too attached to his cat) and *maybe* Rendezvous with Rama in 2003 (we will see after Final Fantasy). Oh, I fogot Star Wars II Attack of the floopy eared... I heard Lucas recently signed the Muppets for the rest of the series.

    To me, things are looking pretty bleak.
     
  2. Richard Kim

    Richard Kim Producer

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  3. Julie K

    Julie K Screenwriter

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    I liked Event Horizon quite a bit, but I consider more a horror film than a science fiction film. I a big reader of science fiction, but there are few 'science fiction' films that I care for. Most science fiction films are just westerns, action, fantasy, or horror films given science fiction trappings. I don't mind the horror themed ones, but the rest are generally pretty poor.
     
  4. TimDoss

    TimDoss Second Unit

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    An opinion I've heard, and agree with, is that science fiction is the

    easiest subject for an unexperienced person to tackle...

    and like the saturation years ago in science fiction books from everyone and his brother

    that grew up playing dungeons and dragons and thought they could write, we have to put up with a lot of crappy sci-fi movies. But when they're done right they can be the most

    enjoyable thing you can put on the screen. We have Gattaca,

    Dark City, 12 monkeys, Close Encounters.... even the Matrix... now if

    we could just clean out all the hacks we'd be ok.
     
  5. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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  6. PhilipG

    PhilipG Cinematographer

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  7. Todd McF

    Todd McF Second Unit

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    "Guns and Gore etc...." Let me clarify on the genre thing. I'm making it up, but you can roughly bucket it. You can call it a "Western in Sci Fi setting" or whatever but its still the SciFi genre to me:



    StarShip Troopers

    Final Fantasy

    Wing Commander

    Star Wars

    Star Trek(II)

    Aliens

    5th Element

    Lost in Space



    Alien

    Event Horizon

    Alien 3

    Alien 4

    Pitch Black
     
  8. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    "IMO"! [​IMG]
    (I guess I can't believably cop to the "humble" part after having left the whole thing out before...)
     
  9. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    To me, this is a different flavor of the "new movies suck! why don't they make good movies anymore?" argument. To which I say, you've forgotten about all the movies that sucked in past years. [​IMG] I don't think movies are particularly worse nor better than any time over the past 30 years. As always, studios are hell-bent on ruining good franchises, even though they don't always succeed(Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? SW:TPM? Star Trek 1,3,5,7,9?). And there are also the few standouts, that we will still love in 20 years, when we rant about how the 2021 summer movies sucked, and why don't they make good movies like they did back in 2001? [​IMG]
    That said, I'll take a cue from all the lousy movies and be derivative in my other comments.
    Well, my good comments have already been said by other people, but I don't mind being redundant [​IMG]
    (Hard) Science Fiction, strictly speaking, is a story told within in an imagined, but plausible, self-consistent, universe. The Science is Fiction, but plausible. Often, the story is the means by which to explore the ramifications of the assumed universe.
    In contrast, Science Fantasy, is a fantasy story, but with sci-fi, or futuristic, trappings, instead of ye-olde-times, or dragons/wizards background.
    All the movies you initially listed (including Star Trek, which I love) are more SciFan than SciFi. And I'm not sure how Fifth Element and Starship Troopers can be considered "decent"... [​IMG]
    A.I. and Gattaca are the closest to SciFi of them all.
    But considering a sci-fi movie one with a futuristic or high-tech setting, and with any secondary genre (drama, action, thriller, etc.) I think these were at least average (and enjoyable):
    - The Matrix
    - Star Trek: First Contact
    - Dark City
    - A.I.
    - Gattaca
    - 12 Monkeys
    - Final Fantasy
    - Titan AE
    - Iron Giant
    - Planet of the Apes (reimagined)
    - Jurassic Park III
    - ID4
     
  10. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    I'm going to post elsewhere about this pretty soon. I've been "saving up" for it; I want it to become one my all-time-best threads.

    But for now, I'll posit this notion with you: Nearly all films alleged to be "science fiction" are nothing more than loud fantasies set in space. Fantasy.

    By using the criteria to which literary SF authors are held (the usual standards of literature PLUS the need for scientific accuracy, internal consistency, and plausibility), one is hard pressed to come up with, say, twenty films that genuinely qualify as "science fiction."

    And none of those twenty would include Star Wars. Or even Starship Troopers, though it is very loosely based on a novel by Robert A. Heinlein.

    There was a thread here a year or so ago in which the participants were asked to name their "ten favorite SF films." I was hard pressed to come up with ten titles that I felt would qualify as science fiction in the first place--so hard pressed, in fact, that one of the titles I listed was an episode of a long-defunct television show ("Demon With a Glass Hand," a Harlan Ellison-scripted installment of ABC-TV's The Outer Limits).

    The essence of the original post, therefore, is correct: the outlook is grim.

    Only a handful of films qualify as SF, and only a handful of those are up to the standards routinely met by such authors as Frederick Pohl, Larry Niven, Ursula K. LeGuinn, Theodore Sturgeon, Poul Anderson, ad infinitum.
     
  11. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    I disagree; truth be told, I can't think of any time when science-fiction on film has been stronger.
    Certainly, there is a fair amount of big budgeted crap out there; the hatred received by the likes of Armageddon or Planet Of The Apes or Red Planet is pretty well deserved. But the same year that gave us POTA also gave us A.I., one of the most intelligent and ambitious science fiction films in years. Next year, its director will give us Minority Report, a big-budget star vehicle based upon a story by Phillip K. Dick. Sure, that would also describe Total Recall, but that one has its fans, too. And, hey, we got a certain movie by Brad Anderson that I won't name because it works better if you don't come at it as science fiction.
    We've also got Andrew Niccol's follow-up to Gattaca, S1m0ne, on the schedule for next year, which I've been looking forward too. If the new Star Wars is good for nothing else, it should at least feature an amazingly well-realized world; Star Trek is reportedly getting a shot in the arm with new blood (to mix metaphors) behind the scenes. Not to mention a much-anticipated The Time Machine.
    What encourages me most, though, is that there are a number of writer/directors out there that get science fiction, as opposed to seeing it as a way to make flashier action movies or a free pass on the story actually making sense. For Spielberg, it's enough to make me wish he'd been doing SF all along. But there are also people like David Twohy (Pitch Black and especially The Arrival), Alex Proyas (Dark City; hopefully his Berserkers movie gets off the ground), and Andrew Niccol who are combining a real understanding of the genre with skill at making good movies. And, hey, James Cameron could come out of hiding any day now. [​IMG]
    Certainly, there's bad stuff out there - the falling price of effects combined with studios looking for flashy event movies means a lot more will be produced, too - but it's also the best of times, with more good stuff being produced, as well.
     
  12. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    "You say tomayto, I say tomotto..."
    Jason, if it were a sunny day in Cambridge and I called you up to tell you that, would you say, "No, it's raining"? [​IMG]
     
  13. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Actually, your post wasn't up when I started entering mine. I was responding to the original post and general agreement with it. I do think it's remarkable, though, that we're finally starting to see "science fiction filmmakers" like Twohy and Proyas start to emerge, along with mainstream filmmakers who at least understand the territory like Spielberg and Cameron.
     
  14. Leo Hinze

    Leo Hinze Stunt Coordinator

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    No Abyss fans here? That was a good science fiction movie that had the chance to be great. Too bad they messed up the ending in true Hollywood fashion. "Hey, we didn't decompress. We should be dead." "They must have done something to us." I thought the rest of the movie up until then was excellent.

    I think the big problem is deciding what constitutes science fiction. Many of the movies mentioned have plenty of fiction, but very little science. Sci-fi is the Christian music of the movie world.

    Here's a nit to pick, though. How come 2001 is the only movie (I think) that gets it right - no sound in space. I cringe every time the Enterprise zooms across the screen accompanied by a whoosing sound. Even one of my favorites, Alien, doesn't get this part right.

    Leo
     
  15. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Jack - I agree!
    Jason - I agree!
    [​IMG]
    The problem with "hard" sci-fi, is that the story is sometimes forgotten in the thick of all the cool science (don't have a conniption, but some people feel that way about 2001).
    The problem with "soft" sci-fi, is that suspended disbelief required can be extremely taxing. ("Armageddon")
    In the middle, though are many great movies, spanning the sci-fi spectrum: from action-adventure "Star Wars" to serious drama, actual science "Gattaca".
    Jack, I look forward to your upcoming-all-time-best-of-real-sci-fi-movie-rant thread [​IMG]
     
  16. Kimmo Jaskari

    Kimmo Jaskari Screenwriter

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    Jack, I couldn't agree more with you on this.
    Oh, and every time I see someone write "sci-fi" when they mean Science Fiction I kind of cringe, the term "sci-fi" was if I recall correctly coined as a joke on "hi-fi", which comes from "high fidelity" of course. [​IMG]
    One of the prerequisites for something being SF is inherent in the name - science fiction. Ie, fiction where much of the plot actually has to do with science in some way or other.
    Gattaca is actually one of the better pure SF movies of latter years, very thought-provoking and a classic example of commenting on todays society by showing a future world, something that SF authors are known for.
    However, I disagree with Tim; actual SF can be anything but easy to tackle.
    Unfortunately, rarely do we see real SF in movies these days. What we do get are tons of Fantasy, some of which is placed in a space setting. Star Wars is a prime example of that. Fantasy is so much easier for both the author and the audience because it doesn't have to follow any rules. It's Fantasy, so the author can make it all up as he goes along. That is actually one of my bigger gripes with Episode I; Lucas tried to anchor "The Force" in some flaky pseudo-science instead of just letting it remain magic - biig mistake.
    One of the hallmarks of SF is that the science has to be as solid as possible, and where leaps are taken they are at least to be as plausible as possible.
    For instance, where a plot requires a "hyperspace engine", the author at least tries to come up with some way to work that in that isn't totally ludicrous, and the science that we already know about is written as painstakingly correctly as possible.
    I enjoy both Fantasy and SF; it's just a crying shame that we get so little actual SF. SF however does tend to require a certain level of intelligence to both create and enjoy, whereas Fantasy is more often on the "popcorn" level. Fun and tasty but mostly fluff. [​IMG]
     
  17. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

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    What about The Matrix? I agree though that the genre is in dire need of some decent blockbusters that have a great story, script and acting but that is true for movies in general these days.
     
  18. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Jack and Kimmo: [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] , I agree 100%.
    Also, thanks for avoiding the dreaded "sci-fi" description. I always loved Harlan Ellison's description of the term as being pronounced "skiffy" and sounding like a peanut butter. To me, "sci-fi" is a derogatory term, though, in most cases, it's probably not intentional. I much prefer "SF".
     
  19. Allan Petersen

    Allan Petersen Stunt Coordinator

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  20. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    i agree with the idea that the difference between science fiction and fantasy is that science fiction has rivets.

    But seriously, I don't really care, I read both science fiction and fantasy, and all of this falls under the canvas of speculative fiction, so scifi or fantasy, I don't really make a distinction, the lines between the genres (or subgenres)blur too much to ever be clearly defined.
     

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