Science fiction film

Last updated

Science-fiction film (or sci-fi film) is a genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science-fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held. [1]

Film genre Classification of films based on similarities in narrative elements

A film genre is a motion-picture category based on similarities either in the narrative elements or in the emotional response to the film. Most theories of film genre are borrowed from literary-genre criticism. Each film genre is associated with "conventions, iconography, settings, narratives, characters and actors". Standard genre characters vary according to the film genre; for film noir, standard characters are the femme fatale and the "hardboiled" detective; a Western film may portray the schoolmarm and the gunfighter. Some actors acquire a reputation linked to a single genre, such as John Wayne or Fred Astaire. A film's genre will influence the use of filmmaking styles and techniques, such as the use of flashbacks and low-key lighting in film noir, tight framing in horror films, fonts that look like rough-hewn logs for the titles of Western films, or the "scrawled" title-font and credits of Se7en (1995), a film about a serial killer. As well, genres have associated film-scoring conventions, such as lush string orchestras for romantic melodramas or electronic music for science-fiction films.

Speculative fiction Genre of fiction including sci-fi, horror and fantasy

Speculative fiction is an umbrella genre encompassing fiction with certain elements that do not exist in the real world, often in the context of supernatural, futuristic or other imaginative themes. This includes, but is not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, superhero fiction, horror, utopian and dystopian fiction, fairytale fantasy, supernatural fiction as well as combinations thereof.

Science systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge

Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.

Contents

The genre has existed since the early years of silent cinema, when Georges Melies' A Trip to the Moon (1902) employed trick photography effects. The next major example in the genre was the film Metropolis (1927). From the 1930s to the 1950s, the genre consisted mainly of low-budget B movies. After Stanley Kubrick's landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the science fiction film genre was taken more seriously. In the late 1970s, big-budget science fiction films filled with special effects became popular with audiences after the success of Star Wars and paved the way for the blockbuster hits of subsequent decades.

Genre is any form or type of communication in any mode with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. Genre is most popularly known as a category of literature, music, or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audio or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria, yet genres can be aesthetic, rhetorical, communicative, or functional. Genres form by conventions that change over time as cultures invent new genres and discontinue the use of old ones. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. Stand-alone texts, works, or pieces of communication may have individual styles, but genres are amalgams of these texts based on agreed-upon or socially inferred conventions. Some genres may have rigid, strictly adhered-to guidelines, while others may show great flexibility.

<i>A Trip to the Moon</i> 1902 French black-and-white silent science fiction film directed by Georges Méliès

A Trip to the Moon is a 1902 French adventure film directed by Georges Méliès. Inspired by a wide variety of sources, including Jules Verne's novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, the film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule, explore the Moon's surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites, and return to Earth with a captive Selenite. It features an ensemble cast of French theatrical performers, led by Méliès himself in the main role of Professor Barbenfouillis, and is filmed in the overtly theatrical style for which Méliès became famous.

Special effect illusions or tricks to change appearance

Special effects are illusions or visual tricks used in the film, television, theatre, video game and simulator industries to simulate the imagined events in a story or virtual world.

Characteristics of the genre

According to Vivian Sobchack, an American cinema and media theorist and cultural critic:

Vivian Carol Sobchack is an American cinema and media theorist and cultural critic.

Science fiction film is a film genre which emphasizes actual, extrapolative, or 2.0




speculative science and the empirical method, interacting in a social context with the lesser emphasized, but still present, transcendentalism of magic and religion, in an attempt to reconcile man with the unknown (Sobchack 63).

Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in the eastern United States. It arose as a reaction, to protest against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality at the time. The doctrine of the Unitarian church as taught at Harvard Divinity School was of particular interest.

Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.

This definition suggests a continuum between (real-world) empiricism and (supernatural) transcendentalism, with science fiction film on the side of empiricism, and horror film and fantasy film on the side of transcendentalism. However, there are numerous well-known examples of science fiction horror films, epitomized by such pictures as Frankenstein and Alien .

Empiricism theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience

In philosophy, empiricism is a theory that states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience. It is one of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism and skepticism. Empiricism emphasises the role of empirical evidence in the formation of ideas, rather than innate ideas or traditions. However, empiricists may argue that traditions arise due to relations of previous sense experiences.

Supernatural term meaning "that which is not subject to the laws of physics"

The concept of the supernatural encompasses anything that is inexplicable by scientific understanding of the laws of nature but nevertheless argued by believers to exist. Examples include immaterial beings such as angels, gods and spirits, and claimed human abilities like magic, telekinesis and extrasensory perception.

Horror film film genre

A horror film is a film that seeks to elicit fear. Initially inspired by literature from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and Mary Shelley, horror has existed as a film genre for more than a century. The macabre and the supernatural are frequent themes. Horror may also overlap with the fantasy, supernatural fiction, and thriller genres.

The visual style of science fiction film can be characterized by a clash between alien and familiar images. This clash is implemented when alien images become familiar, as in A Clockwork Orange , when the repetitions of the Korova Milkbar make the alien decor seem more familiar. [2] As well, familiar images become alien, as in the films Repo Man and Liquid Sky . [3] For example, in Dr. Strangelove , the, distortion of the humans make the familiar images seem more alien. [4] Finally, alien and familiar images are juxtaposed, as in The Deadly Mantis , when a giant praying mantis is shown climbing the Washington Monument.

<i>A Clockwork Orange</i> (film) 1971 dystopian crime film directed by Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 dystopian crime film adapted, produced, and directed by Stanley Kubrick, based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel of the same name. It employs disturbing, violent images to comment on psychiatry, juvenile delinquency, youth gangs, and other social, political, and economic subjects in a dystopian near-future Britain.

<i>Repo Man</i> (film) 1984 film by Alex Cox

Repo Man is a 1984 American science fiction comedy film written and directed by Alex Cox. It stars Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez, and was produced by Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy with executive producer Michael Nesmith.

<i>Liquid Sky</i> 1982 science fiction film by Slava Tsukerman

Liquid Sky is a 1982 independent American science fiction film directed by Slava Tsukerman and starring Anne Carlisle and Paula E. Sheppard. It debuted at the Montreal Film festival in August 1982 and was well received at several film festivals thereafter. It was produced with a budget of $500,000. It became the most successful independent film of 1983, grossing $1.7 million in the first several months of release.

Cultural theorist Scott Bukatman has proposed that science fiction film allows contemporary culture to witness an expression of the sublime, be it through exaggerated scale, apocalypse or transcendence.

History

Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang was one of the first feature length science fiction films in history. It was produced at Studio Babelsberg, Germany. (Photo shows the statue of the film figure Maria at Filmpark Babelsberg) Maria from metropolis.JPG
Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang was one of the first feature length science fiction films in history. It was produced at Studio Babelsberg, Germany. (Photo shows the statue of the film figure Maria at Filmpark Babelsberg)

1900–1920s

L'uomo meccanico (1921)

Science fiction films appeared early in the silent film era, typically as short films shot in black and white, sometimes with colour tinting. They usually had a technological theme and were often intended to be humorous. In 1902, Georges Méliès released Le Voyage dans la Lune , generally considered the first science fiction film, [5] and a film that used early trick photography to depict a spacecraft's journey to the moon. Several early films merged the science fiction and horror genres. Examples of this are Frankenstein (1910), a film adaptation of Mary Shelley's novel, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), based on the psychological tale by Robert Louis Stevenson. Taking a more adventurous tack, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916) is a film based on Jules Verne’s famous novel of a wondrous submarine and its vengeful captain. In the 1920s, European filmmakers tended to use science fiction for prediction and social commentary, as can be seen in German films such as Metropolis (1927) and Frau im Mond (1929). Other notable science fiction films of the silent era include The Impossible Voyage (1904), The Motorist (1906), The Conquest of the Pole (1912), Himmelskibet (1918; which with its runtime of 97 minutes generally is considered the first feature-length science fiction film in history), [6] The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), The Mechanical Man (1921), Paris Qui Dort (1923), Aelita (1924), Luch Smerti (1925), and The Lost World (1925).

1930s–1950s

In the 1930s, there were several big budget science fiction films, notably Just Imagine (1930), King Kong (1933), Things to Come (1936), and Lost Horizon (1937). Starting in 1936, a number of science fiction comic strips were adapted as serials, notably Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers , both starring Buster Crabbe. These serials, and the comic strips they were based on, were very popular with the general public. Other notable science fiction films of the 1930s include Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Doctor X (1932), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), F.P.1 (1932), Island of Lost Souls (1932), Deluge (1933), The Invisible Man (1933), Master of the World (1934), Mad Love (1935), Trans-Atlantic Tunnel (1935), The Devil-Doll (1936), The Invisible Ray (1936), The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936), The Walking Dead (1936), Non-Stop New York (1937), and The Return of Doctor X (1939). The 1940s brought us Before I Hang (1940), Black Friday (1940), Dr. Cyclops (1940), The Devil Commands (1941), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941), Man Made Monster (1941), It Happened Tomorrow (1944), It Happens Every Spring (1949), and The Perfect Woman (1949). The release of Destination Moon (1950) and Rocketship X-M (1950) brought us to what many people consider "the golden age of the science fiction film".

In the 1950s, public interest in space travel and new technologies was great. While many 1950s science fiction films were low-budget B movies, there were several successful films with larger budgets and impressive special effects. These include The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), When Worlds Collide (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), This Island Earth (1955), Forbidden Planet (1956), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) and On the Beach (1959). There is often a close connection between films in the science fiction genre and the so-called "monster movie". Examples of this are Them! (1954), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) and The Blob (1958). During the 1950s, Ray Harryhausen, protege of master King Kong animator Willis O'Brien, used stop-motion animation to create special effects for the following notable science fiction films: It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956) and 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957).

The most successful monster movies were kaiju films released by Japanese film studio Toho. [7] [8] The 1954 film Godzilla , with the title monster attacking Tokyo, gained immense popularity, spawned multiple sequels, led to other kaiju films like Rodan , and created one of the most recognizable monsters in cinema history. Japanese science fiction films, particularly the tokusatsu and kaiju genres, were known for their extensive use of special effects, and gained worldwide popularity in the 1950s. Kaiju and tokusatsu films, notably Warning from Space (1956), sparked Stanley Kubrick's interest in science fiction films and influenced 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). According to his biographer John Baxter, despite their "clumsy model sequences, the films were often well-photographed in colour ... and their dismal dialogue was delivered in well-designed and well-lit sets." [9]

1960s

With the Space Race between the USSR and the USA going on, documentaries and illustrations of actual events, pioneers and technology were plenty. Any movie featuring realistic space travel was at risk of being obsolete at its time of release, rather fossil than fiction. There were relatively few science fiction films in the 1960s, but some of the films transformed science fiction cinema. Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) brought new realism to the genre, with its groundbreaking visual effects and realistic portrayal of space travel and influenced the genre with its epic story and transcendent philosophical scope. Other 1960s films included Planet of the Vampires (1965) by Italian filmmaker Mario Bava, that is regarded as one of the best movies of the period, Planet of the Apes (1968) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966), which provided social commentary, and the campy Barbarella (1968), which explored the sillier side of earlier science fiction. Jean-Luc Godard's French "new wave" film Alphaville (1965) posited a futuristic Paris commanded by an artificial intelligence which has outlawed all emotion.

1970s–1980s

The era of manned trips to the moon in 1969 and the 1970s saw a resurgence of interest in the science fiction film. Andrei Tarkovsky's slow-paced Solaris (1972) and philosophical Stalker (1979) are two widely acclaimed examples of the renewed interest of film auteurs in science fiction. Science fiction films from the early 1970s explored the theme of paranoia, in which humanity is depicted as under threat from sociological, ecological or technological adversaries of its own creation, such as George Lucas's directional debut THX 1138 (1971), The Andromeda Strain (1971), Silent Running (1972), Soylent Green (1973), Westworld (1973) and its sequel Futureworld (1976), and Logan's Run (1976). The science fiction comedies of the 1970s included Woody Allen's Sleeper (1973), and John Carpenter's Dark Star (1974).

Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) were box-office hits that brought about a huge increase in science fiction films. In 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture brought the television series to the big screen for the first time. It was also in this period that the Walt Disney Company released many science fiction films for family audiences such as The Island at the Top of the World , Escape to Witch Mountain , The Black Hole , Flight of the Navigator , and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids . The sequels to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), also saw worldwide box office success. Ridley Scott's films, such as Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982), along with James Cameron's The Terminator (1984), presented the future as dark, dirty and chaotic, and depicted aliens and androids as hostile and dangerous. In contrast, Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), one of the most successful films of the 1980s, presented aliens as benign and friendly, a theme already present in Spielberg's own Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The big budget adaptations of Frank Herbert's Dune , Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon and Arthur C. Clarke's sequel to 2001, 2010 , were box office failures that dissuaded producers from investing in science fiction literary properties. Disney's Tron (1982) turned out to be a moderate success. The strongest contributors to the genre during the second half of the 1980s were James Cameron and Paul Verhoeven with The Terminator and RoboCop entries. Robert Zemeckis' film Back to the Future (1985) and its sequels were critically praised and became box office successes, not to mention international phenomena. James Cameron's sequel to Alien, Aliens (1986), was very different from the original film, falling more into the action/science fiction genre, it was both a critical and commercial success and Sigourney Weaver was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Academy Awards. The Japanese anime film Akira (1988) also had a big influence outside Japan when released.

1990s–2000s

In the 1990s, the emergence of the World Wide Web and the cyberpunk genre spawned several movies on the theme of the computer-human interface, such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Total Recall (1990), The Lawnmower Man (1992), and The Matrix (1999). Other themes included disaster films (e.g., Armageddon and Deep Impact (both 1998), alien invasion (e.g., Independence Day (1996)) and genetic experimentation (e.g., Jurassic Park (1993) and Gattaca (1997)). Also, the Star Wars prequel trilogy began with the release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace , which eventually grossed over one billion dollars.

As the decade progressed, computers played an increasingly important role in both the addition of special effects (thanks to Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park ) and the production of films. As software developed in sophistication it was used to produce more complicated effects. It also enabled filmmakers to enhance the visual quality of animation, resulting in films such as Ghost in the Shell (1995) from Japan, and The Iron Giant (1999) from the United States.

During the first decade of the 2000s, superhero films abounded, as did earthbound science fiction such as the Matrix trilogy. In 2005, the Star Wars saga was completed with the darkly themed Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith . Science-fiction also returned as a tool for political commentary in films such as A.I. Artificial Intelligence , Minority Report , Sunshine , District 9 , Children of Men , Serenity , Sleep Dealer , and Pandorum . The 2000s also saw the release of Transformers (2007) and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), both of which resulted in worldwide box office success. In 2009, James Cameron's Avatar garnered worldwide box office success, and would later become the highest-grossing movie of all time. This movie was also an example of political commentary. It depicted humans destroying the environment on another planet by mining for a special metal called unobtainium. That same year, Terminator Salvation was released and garnered only moderate success.

2010s

The 2010s has seen new entries in several classic science fiction franchises, including Predators (2010), Tron: Legacy (2010), a resurgence of the Star Wars series, and entries into the Planet of the Apes and Godzilla franchises. Several more cross-genre films have also been produced, including comedies such as Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012), Safety Not Guaranteed (2013), and Pixels (2015); romance films such as Her (2013), Monsters (2010), and Ex Machina (2015); heist films including Inception (2010) and; action films including Real Steel (2011), Total Recall (2012), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Pacific Rim (2013), Chappie (2015), Tomorrowland (2015), and Ghost in the Shell (2017). The superhero film boom has also continued, into films such as Iron Man 2 (2010) and 3 (2013), several entries into the X-Men film series, and The Avengers (2012), which became the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time. New franchises such as Deadpool , Wonder Woman , and Guardians of the Galaxy have also begun in this decade.

Further into the decade, more realistic science fiction epic films have also become prevalent, including Gravity (2013), Elysium (2013), Interstellar (2014), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), The Martian (2015), Arrival (2016), Passengers (2016), and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). Many of these films have gained widespread accolades, including several Academy Award wins and nominations. These films have addressed recent matters of scientific interest, including space travel, climate change, and artificial intelligence.

Alongside these original films, many adaptations have been produced, especially within the young adult dystopian fiction subgenre, popular in the early part of the decade. These include the Hunger Games film series, based on the trilogy of novels by Suzanne Collins, The Divergent Series based on Veronica Roth's Divergent trilogy, and the Maze Runner series, based on James Dashner's The Maze Runner novels. Several adult adaptations have also been produced, including The Martian (2015), based on Andy Weir's 2011 novel, Cloud Atlas (2012), based on David Mitchell's 2004 novel, World War Z , based on Max Brooks' 2006 novel, and Ready Player One (2018), based on Ernest Cline's 2011 novel.

Independent productions have also increased in the 2010s, with the rise of digital filmmaking making it easier for amateur filmmakers to produce movies. These films include Attack the Block (2011), Source Code (2011), Looper (2012), Upstream Color (2013), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017), and Ex Machina (2015), which won the Academy Award for Visual Effects, in a surprising upset over the much higher-budget Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).

Themes, imagery, and visual elements

Science fiction films are often speculative in nature, and often include key supporting elements of science and technology. However, as often as not the "science" in a Hollywood science fiction movie can be considered pseudo-science, relying primarily on atmosphere and quasi-scientific artistic fancy than facts and conventional scientific theory. The definition can also vary depending on the viewpoint of the observer.[ citation needed ]

Many science fiction films include elements of mysticism, occult, magic, or the supernatural, considered by some to be more properly elements of fantasy or the occult (or religious) film.[ citation needed ] This transforms the movie genre into a science fantasy with a religious or quasi-religious philosophy serving as the driving motivation. The movie Forbidden Planet employs many common science fiction elements, but the film carries a profound message - that the evolution of a species toward technological perfection (in this case exemplified by the disappeared alien civilization called the "Krell") does not ensure the loss of primitive and dangerous urges.[ citation needed ] In the film, this part of the primitive mind manifests itself as monstrous destructive force emanating from the Freudian subconscious, or "Id".

Some films blur the line between the genres, such as films where the protagonist gains the extraordinary powers of the superhero. These films usually employ quasi-plausible reason for the hero gaining these powers.[ citation needed ]

Not all science fiction themes are equally suitable for movies. Science fiction horror is most common. Often enough, these films could just as well pass as Westerns or World War II films if the science fiction props were removed.[ citation needed ] Common motifs also include voyages and expeditions to other planets, and dystopias, while utopias are rare.{“Things to Come” (1936){Citation needed|date=April 2009}}

Imagery

Film theorist Vivian Sobchack argues that science fiction films differ from fantasy films in that while science fiction film seeks to achieve our belief in the images we are viewing, fantasy film instead attempts to suspend our disbelief. The science fiction film displays the unfamiliar and alien in the context of the familiar. Despite the alien nature of the scenes and science fictional elements of the setting, the imagery of the film is related back to mankind and how we relate to our surroundings. While the science fiction film strives to push the boundaries of the human experience, they remain bound to the conditions and understanding of the audience and thereby contain prosaic aspects, rather than being completely alien or abstract.[ citation needed ]

Genre films such as westerns or war movies are bound to a particular area or time period. This is not true of the science fiction film. However, there are several common visual elements that are evocative of the genre. These include the spacecraft or space station, alien worlds or creatures, robots, and futuristic gadgets. Examples include movies like Lost in Space , Serenity , Avatar , Prometheus , Tomorrowland , Passengers , and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets . More subtle visual clues can appear with changes of the human form through modifications in appearance, size, or behavior, or by means a known environment turned eerily alien, such as an empty city [“The Omega Man”(1971)].

Scientific elements

Peter Sellers as the titular character from Dr. Strangelove (1964) Strangelove123.jpg
Peter Sellers as the titular character from Dr. Strangelove (1964)

While science is a major element of this genre, many movie studios take significant liberties with scientific knowledge. Such liberties can be most readily observed in films that show spacecraft maneuvering in outer space. The vacuum should preclude the transmission of sound or maneuvers employing wings, yet the soundtrack is filled with inappropriate flying noises and changes in flight path resembling an aircraft banking. The filmmakers, unfamiliar with the specifics of space travel, focus instead on providing acoustical atmosphere and the more familiar maneuvers of the aircraft.

Similar instances of ignoring science in favor of art can be seen when movies present environmental effects as portrayed in Star Wars and Star Trek . Entire planets are destroyed in titanic explosions requiring mere seconds, whereas an actual event of this nature takes many hours.

The role of the scientist has varied considerably in the science fiction film genre, depending on the public perception of science and advanced technology.[ citation needed ] Starting with Dr. Frankenstein, the mad scientist became a stock character who posed a dire threat to society and perhaps even civilization. Certain portrayals of the "mad scientist", such as Peter Sellers's performance in Dr. Strangelove, have become iconic to the genre.[ citation needed ] In the monster films of the 1950s, the scientist often played a heroic role as the only person who could provide a technological fix for some impending doom. Reflecting the distrust of government that began in the 1960s in the United States, the brilliant but rebellious scientist became a common theme, often serving a Cassandra-like role during an impending disaster.

Biotechnology (e.g., cloning) is a popular scientific element in films as depicted in Jurassic Park (cloning of extinct species), The Island (cloning of humans), and (genetic modification) in some superhero movies and in the Alien series. Cybernetics and holographic projections as depicted in RoboCop and I, Robot are also popularized. Interstellar travel and teleportation is a popular theme in the Star Trek series that is achieved through warp drives and transporters while intergalactic travel is popular in films such as Stargate and Star Wars that is achieved through hyperspace or wormholes. Nanotechnology is also featured in the Star Trek series in the form of replicators (utopia), in The Day the Earth Stood Still in the form of grey goo (dystopia), and in Iron Man 3 in the form of extremis (nanotubes). Force fields is a popular theme in Independence Day while invisibility is also popular in Star Trek. Arc reactor technology, featured in Iron Man , is similar to a cold fusion device. [10] Miniaturization technology where people are shrunk to microscopic sizes is featured in films like Fantastic Voyage (1966), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), and Marvel's Ant-Man (2015).

The late Arthur C. Clarke's third law states that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Past science fiction films have depicted "fictional" ("magical") technologies that became present reality. For example, the Personal Access Display Device from Star Trek was a precursor of smartphones and tablet computers. Gesture recognition in the movie Minority Report is part of current game consoles. Human-level artificial intelligence is also fast approaching with the advent of smartphone A.I. while a working cloaking device / material is the main goal of stealth technology. Autonomous cars (e.g. KITT from the Knight Rider series) and quantum computers, like in the movie Stealth and Transcendence , also will be available eventually. Furthermore, although Clarke's laws does not classify "sufficiently advanced" technologies, the Kardashev scale measures a civilization's level of technological advancement into types. Due to its exponential nature, sci-fi civilizations usually only attain Type I (harnessing all the energy attainable from a single planet), and strictly speaking often not even that.

Alien lifeforms

The concept of life, particularly intelligent life, having an extraterrestrial origin is a popular staple of science fiction films. Early films often used alien life forms as a threat or peril to the human race, where the invaders were frequently fictional representations of actual military or political threats on Earth as observed in films such as Mars Attacks! , Starship Troopers , the Alien series, the Predator series, and The Chronicles of Riddick series. Some aliens were represented as benign and even beneficial in nature in such films as Escape to Witch Mountain , E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial , Close Encounters of the Third Kind , The Fifth Element , The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , Avatar , Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets , and the Men in Black series.

In order to provide subject matter to which audiences can relate, the large majority of intelligent alien races presented in films have an anthropomorphic nature, possessing human emotions and motivations. In films like Cocoon , My Stepmother Is an Alien , Species , Contact , The Box , Knowing , The Day the Earth Stood Still , and The Watch , the aliens were nearly human in physical appearance, and communicated in a common earth language. However, the aliens in Stargate and Prometheus were human in physical appearance but communicated in an alien language. A few films have tried to represent intelligent aliens as something utterly different from the usual humanoid shape (e.g. An intelligent life form surrounding an entire planet in Solaris , the ball shaped creature in Dark Star , microbial-like creatures in The Invasion , shape-shifting creatures in Evolution ). Recent trends in films involve building-size alien creatures like in the movie Pacific Rim where the CGI has tremendously improved over the previous decades as compared in previous films such as Godzilla .

Disaster films

A frequent theme among science fiction films is that of impending or actual disaster on an epic scale. These often address a particular concern of the writer by serving as a vehicle of warning against a type of activity, including technological research. In the case of alien invasion films, the creatures can provide as a stand-in for a feared foreign power.

Disaster films typically fall into the following general categories:[ citation needed ]

Monster films

While monster films do not usually depict danger on a global or epic scale, science fiction film also has a long tradition of movies featuring monster attacks. These differ from similar films in the horror or fantasy genres because science fiction films typically rely on a scientific (or at least pseudo-scientific) rationale for the monster's existence, rather than a supernatural or magical reason. Often, the science fiction film monster is created, awakened, or "evolves" because of the machinations of a mad scientist, a nuclear accident, or a scientific experiment gone awry. Typical examples include The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Jurassic Park films, Cloverfield , Pacific Rim , the Kong films, and the Godzilla series of films.

Mind and identity

The core mental aspects of what makes us human has been a staple of science fiction films, particularly since the 1980s. Blade Runner examined what made an organic-creation a human, while the RoboCop series saw an android mechanism fitted with the brain and reprogrammed mind of a human to create a cyborg. The idea of brain transfer was not entirely new to science fiction film, as the concept of the "mad scientist" transferring the human mind to another body is as old as Frankenstein while the idea of corporations behind mind transfer technologies is observed in later films such as Gamer , Avatar , and Surrogates .

Films such as Total Recall have popularized a thread of films that explore the concept of reprogramming the human mind. The theme of brainwashing in several films of the sixties and seventies including A Clockwork Orange and The Manchurian Candidate coincided with secret real-life government experimentation during Project MKULTRA. Voluntary erasure of memory is further explored as themes of the films Paycheck and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind . Some films like Limitless explore the concept of mind enhancement. The anime series Serial Experiments Lain also explores the idea of reprogrammable reality and memory.

The idea that a human could be entirely represented as a program in a computer was a core element of the film Tron . This would be further explored in the film version of The Lawnmower Man , Transcendence , and Ready Player One and the idea reversed in Virtuosity as computer programs sought to become real persons. In the Matrix series, the virtual reality world became a real-world prison for humanity, managed by intelligent machines. In movies such as eXistenZ , The Thirteenth Floor , and Inception , the nature of reality and virtual reality become intermixed with no clear distinguishing boundary.

Telekinesis and telepathy are featured in movies like Star Wars , The Last Mimzy , Race to Witch Mountain , Chronicle , and Lucy while precognition is featured in Minority Report .

Robots

Transformers characters at Universal Studios Hollywood Transformers costume characters at Universal Studios Hollywood.jpg
Transformers characters at Universal Studios Hollywood

Robots have been a part of science fiction since the Czech playwright Karel Čapek coined the word in 1921. In early films, robots were usually played by a human actor in a boxy metal suit, as in The Phantom Empire , although the female robot in Metropolis is an exception. The first depiction of a sophisticated robot in a United States film was Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still .

Robots in films are often sentient and sometimes sentimental, and they have filled a range of roles in science fiction films. Robots have been supporting characters, such as Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet , Data in Star Trek , sidekicks (e.g., C-3PO and R2-D2 from Star Wars , JARVIS from Iron Man ), and extras, visible in the background to create a futuristic setting (e.g., Back to the Future Part II , Total Recall (2012), RoboCop (2014)). As well, robots have been formidable movie villains or monsters (e.g., the robot Box in the film Logan's Run (1976), HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey , ARIIA in Eagle Eye , robot Sentinels in X-Men: Days of Future Past , the battle droids in Star Wars ). In some cases, robots have even been the leading characters in science fiction films; in the film Blade Runner (1982), many of the characters are bioengineered android "replicants", in the animated films WALL-E (2008), Astro Boy (2009), Big Hero 6 (2014), and in Ghost in the Shell (2017).

Films like Bicentennial Man , A.I. Artificial Intelligence , Chappie , and Ex Machina depicted the emotional fallouts of robots that are self-aware. Other films like The Animatrix (The Second Renaissance) present the consequences of mass-producing self-aware androids as humanity succumbs to their robot overlords.

One popular theme in science fiction film is whether robots will someday replace humans, a question raised in the film adaptation of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot (in jobs) and in the film Real Steel (in sports), or whether intelligent robots could develop a conscience and a motivation to protect, take over, or destroy the human race (as depicted in The Terminator , Transformers , and in Avengers: Age of Ultron ). Another theme is remote telepresence via androids as depicted in Surrogates and Iron Man 3 . As artificial intelligence becomes smarter due to increasing computer power, some sci-fi dreams have already been realized. For example, the computer Deep Blue beat the world chess champion in 1997 and a documentary film, Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine , was released in 2003. Another famous computer called Watson defeated the two best human Jeopardy (game show) players in 2011 and a NOVA documentary film, Smartest Machine on Earth , was released in the same year.

Building-size robots are also becoming a popular theme in movies as featured in Pacific Rim . Future live action films may include an adaptation of popular television series like Voltron and Robotech . The CGI robots of Pacific Rim and the Power Rangers (2017) reboot was greatly improved as compared to the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995). While "size does matter", a famous tagline of the movie Godzilla, incredibly small robots, called nanobots, do matter as well (e.g. Borg nanoprobes in Star Trek and nanites in I, Robot).

Time travel

The concept of time travel—travelling backwards and forwards through time—has always been a popular staple of science fiction film and science fiction television series. Time travel usually involves the use of some type of advanced technology, such as H. G. Wells' classic The Time Machine , the commercially successful 1980s-era Back to the Future trilogy, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure , the Terminator series, Déjà Vu (2006), Source Code (2011), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), and Tomorrowland (2015). Other movies, such as the Planet of the Apes series, Timeline (2003) and The Last Mimzy (2007), explained their depictions of time travel by drawing on physics concepts such as the special relativity phenomenon of time dilation (which could occur if a spaceship was travelling near the speed of light) and wormholes. Some films show time travel not being attained from advanced technology, but rather from an inner source or personal power, such as the 2000s-era films Donnie Darko , Mr. Nobody , The Butterfly Effect , and X-Men: Days of Future Past .

More conventional time travel movies use technology to bring the past to life in the present, or in a present that lies in our future. The film Iceman (1984) told the story of the reanimation of a frozen Neanderthal. The film Freejack (1992) shows time travel used to pull victims of horrible deaths forward in time a split-second before their demise, and then use their bodies for spare parts.

A common theme in time travel film is the paradoxical nature of travelling through time. In the French New Wave film La jetée (1962), director Chris Marker depicts the self-fulfilling aspect of a person being able to see their future by showing a child who witnesses the death of his future self. La Jetée was the inspiration for 12 Monkeys , (1995) director Terry Gilliam's film about time travel, memory and madness. The Back to the Future series and The Time Machine goes one step further and explores the result of altering the past, while in Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and Star Trek (2009) the crew must rescue the Earth from having its past altered by time-travelling cyborgs and alien races.

Genre as commentary on social issues

The science fiction film genre has long served as useful means of discussing sensitive topical issues without arousing controversy, and it often provides thoughtful social commentary on potential unforeseen future issues. The fictional setting allows for a deeper examination and reflection of the ideas presented, with the perspective of a viewer watching remote events. Most controversial issues in science fiction films tend to fall into two general storylines, Utopian or dystopian. Either a society will become better or worse in the future. Because of controversy, most science fiction films will fall into the dystopian film category rather than the Utopian category.

The types of commentary and controversy presented in science fiction films often illustrate the particular concerns of the periods in which they were produced. Early science fiction films expressed fears about automation replacing workers and the dehumanization of society through science and technology. For example, The Man in the White Suit (1951) used a science fiction concept as a means to satirize postwar British "establishment" conservatism, industrial capitalists, and trade unions. Another example is HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). He controls the shuttle, and later harms its crew. "Kubrick's vision reveals technology as a competitive force that must be defeated in order for humans to evolve." [11] Later films explored the fears of environmental catastrophe, technology-created disasters, or overpopulation, and how they would impact society and individuals (e.g. Soylent Green , Elysium ).

The monster movies of the 1950s—like Godzilla (1954)—served as stand-ins for fears of nuclear war, communism and views on the cold war.[ citation needed ] In the 1970s, science fiction films also became an effective way of satirizing contemporary social mores with Silent Running and Dark Star presenting hippies in space as a riposte to the militaristic types that had dominated earlier films.[ citation needed ] Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange presented a horrific vision of youth culture, portraying a youth gang engaged in rape and murder, along with disturbing scenes of forced psychological conditioning serving to comment on societal responses to crime.

Logan's Run depicted a futuristic swingers' utopia that practiced euthanasia as a form of population control and The Stepford Wives anticipated a reaction to the women's liberation movement. Enemy Mine demonstrated that the foes we have come to hate are often just like us, even if they appear alien.

Contemporary science fiction films continue to explore social and political issues. One recent example is Minority Report (2002), debuting in the months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and focused on the issues of police powers, privacy and civil liberties in a near-future United States. Some movies like The Island (2005) and Never Let Me Go (2010) explore the issues surrounding cloning.

More recently, the headlines surrounding events such as the Iraq War, international terrorism, the avian influenza scare, and United States anti-immigration laws have found their way into the consciousness of contemporary filmmakers. The film V for Vendetta (2006) drew inspiration from controversial issues such as the Patriot Act and the War on Terror,[ citation needed ] while science fiction thrillers such as Children of Men (also 2006), District 9 (2009), and Elysium (2013) commented on diverse social issues such as xenophobia, propaganda, and cognitive dissonance. Avatar (2009) had remarkable resemblance to colonialism of native land, mining by multinational-corporations and the Iraq War.

Future noir

Lancaster University professor Jamaluddin Bin Aziz argues that as science fiction has evolved and expanded, it has fused with other film genres such as gothic thrillers and film noir. When science fiction integrates film noir elements, Bin Aziz calls the resulting hybrid form "future noir", a form which "... encapsulates a postmodern encounter with generic persistence, creating a mixture of irony, pessimism, prediction, extrapolation, bleakness and nostalgia." Future noir films such as Brazil , Blade Runner , 12 Monkeys , Dark City , and Children of Men use a protagonist who is "...increasingly dubious, alienated and fragmented", at once "dark and playful like the characters in Gibson's Neuromancer , yet still with the "... shadow of Philip Marlowe..."

Future noir films that are set in a post-apocalyptic world "...restructure and re-represent society in a parody of the atmospheric world usually found in noir’s construction of a city—dark, bleak and beguiled." Future noir films often intermingle elements of the gothic thriller genre, such as Minority Report , which makes references to occult practices, and Alien , with its tagline "In space, no one can hear you scream", and a space vessel, Nostromo, "that hark[s] back to images of the haunted house in the gothic horror tradition". Bin Aziz states that films such as James Cameron’s The Terminator are a subgenre of "techno noir" that create "...an atmospheric feast of noir darkness and a double-edged world that is not what it seems." [12]

Film versus literature

When compared to science fiction literature, science fiction films often rely less on the human imagination and more upon action scenes and special effect-created alien creatures and exotic backgrounds. Since the 1970s, film audiences have come to expect a high standard for special effects in science fiction films. In some cases, science fiction-themed films superimpose an exotic, futuristic setting onto what would not otherwise be a science-fiction tale. Nevertheless, some critically acclaimed science fiction movies have followed in the path of science fiction literature, using story development to explore abstract concepts.

Influence of science fiction authors

Jules Verne was the first major science fiction author to be adapted for the screen with Melies Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902) and 20,000 lieues sous les mers (1907), which used Verne's scenarios as a framework for fantastic visuals. By the time Verne's work fell out of copyright in 1950, the adaptations were treated as period pieces. His works have been adapted a number of times since then, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), From the Earth to the Moon (1958), and two film versions of Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1959 and 2008.

2001: A Space Odyssey, the landmark 1968 collaboration between filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and classic science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke featured groundbreaking special effects, such as the realization of the space ship Discovery One (pictured here) Discovery1b.JPG
2001: A Space Odyssey, the landmark 1968 collaboration between filmmaker Stanley Kubrick and classic science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke featured groundbreaking special effects, such as the realization of the space ship Discovery One (pictured here)

H. G. Wells novels The Invisible Man , Things to Come and The Island of Doctor Moreau were all adapted into films during his lifetime while The War of the Worlds was updated in 1953 and again in 2005, adapted to film at least four times altogether. The Time Machine has had two film versions (1961 and 2002) while Sleeper in part is a pastiche of Wells' 1910 novel The Sleeper Awakes .

With the drop-off in interest in science fiction films during the 1940s, few of the 'golden age' science fiction authors made it to the screen. A novella by John W. Campbell provided the basis for The Thing from Another World (1951). Robert A. Heinlein contributed to the screenplay for Destination Moon (1950), but none of his major works were adapted for the screen until the 1990s: The Puppet Masters (1994) and Starship Troopers (1997). Isaac Asimov's fiction influenced the Star Wars and Star Trek films, but it was not until 1988 that a film version of one of his short stories ( Nightfall ) was produced. The first major motion picture adaptation of a full-length Asimov work was Bicentennial Man (1999) (based on the short stories Bicentennial Man and The Positronic Man, the latter co-written with Robert Silverberg), although I, Robot (2004), a film loosely based on Asimov's book of short stories by the same name, drew more attention.

The adaptation of science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke's novel as 2001: A Space Odyssey won the Academy Award for Visual Effects and offered thematic complexity not typically associated with the science fiction genre at the time. Its sequel, 2010 , was commercially successful but less highly regarded by critics. Reflecting the times, two earlier science fiction works by Ray Bradbury were adapted for cinema in the 1960s with Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man . Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five was filmed in 1971 and Breakfast of Champions in 1998.

Philip K. Dick's fiction has been used in a number of science fiction films, in part because it evokes the paranoia that has been a central feature of the genre. Films based on Dick's works include Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), Impostor (2001), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), A Scanner Darkly (2006), and The Adjustment Bureau (2011). These films are loose adaptations of the original story, with the exception of A Scanner Darkly, which is close to Dick's book.

See also

Further reading

Notes

  1. "Science Fiction Films". Filmsite.org. Retrieved 2014-02-14.
  2. Sobchack, Vivian Carol (1997). Screening space: the American science fiction film. Rutgers University Press. p. 106. ISBN   0-8135-2492-X.
  3. Perrine, Toni A. (1998). Film and the nuclear age: representing cultural anxiety. Taylor & Francis. pp. 31–32. ISBN   0-8153-2932-6.
  4. Sobchack (1997:170–174).
  5. Creed, Barbara (2009). Darwin's Screens: Evolutionary Aesthetics, Time and Sexual Display in the Cinema. Carlton, Victoria: Melbourne University Publishing. p. 58. ISBN   978-0-522-85258-5.
  6. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0008100/
  7. Robert Hood. "A Potted History of Godzilla" . Retrieved 2008-02-09.
  8. "Gojira / Godzilla (1954) Synopsis". Archived from the original on 2007-12-24. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
  9. Baxter, John (1997). Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. New York: Basic Books. p. 200. ISBN   0786704853.
  10. Biever, Celeste. "Iron Man 2: How science cures Tony Stark's heartache". New Scientist.
  11. Dinello, Daniel. Technophobia!: Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology.
  12. Bin Aziz, Jamaluddin (Summer 2005). "Future Noir". Summer Special: Postmodern and Future Noir. Crimeculture.com. Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 17 November 2008.

Related Research Articles

Science fiction Genre of speculative fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the "literature of ideas". It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations.

Earthlings are inhabitants of the planet Earth. They are also known as Terrans or Gaians. As no extraterrestrial life has been discovered, all known forms of life in the Universe are earthlings.

Kaiju genre of tokusatsu (live-action film) entertainment

Kaijū is a Japanese film genre that features giant monsters, usually attacking major cities and engaging the military and other monsters in battle. It is a subgenre of tokusatsu entertainment. This word originated from the Chinese Classic of Mountains and Seas. In Legendary Pictures' modern MonsterVerse, the in-universe organization Monarch refers to Kaiju as "Titans".

Alien invasion common theme in science fiction stories and film

The alien invasion or space invasion is a common feature in science fiction stories and film, in which extraterrestrials invade the Earth either to exterminate and supplant human life, enslave it under an intense state, harvest people for food, steal the planet's resources, or destroy the planet altogether.

Earth in science fiction status of the Earth in fictional stories

An overwhelming majority of fiction is set on or features the Earth. However, authors of speculative fiction novels and writers and directors of science fiction film deal with Earth quite differently from authors of conventional fiction. Unbound from the same ties that bind authors of traditional fiction to the Earth, they can either completely ignore the Earth or use it as but one of many settings in a more complicated universe, exploring a number of common themes through examining outsiders' perceptions of and interactions with Earth.

Space (Canadian TV channel) Canadian television channel

Space is a Canadian English Category A specialty channel owned and operated by Bell Media. It features speculative fiction and paranormal programming including scripted television series, films, documentaries and more. The network's original slogan was The Imagination Station, still sometimes used informally by fans.

U.S. television science fiction is a popular genre of television in the United States that has produced many of the best-known and most popular science fiction shows in the world. Most famous of all, and one of the most influential science-fiction series in history, is the iconic Star Trek and its various spin-off shows, which comprise the Star Trek franchise. Other hugely influential programs have included the 1960s anthology series The Twilight Zone, the internationally successful The X-Files, and a wide variety of television movies and continuing series for more than half a century.

Planetary romance Subgenre of science fiction

Planetary romance is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy in which the bulk of the action consists of adventures on one or more exotic alien planets, characterized by distinctive physical and cultural backgrounds. Some planetary romances take place against the background of a future culture where travel between worlds by spaceship is commonplace; others, particularly the earliest examples of the genre, do not, and invoke flying carpets, astral projection, or other methods of getting between planets. In either case, it is the planetside adventures which are the focus of the story, not the mode of travel.

"Requiem for Methuselah" is the nineteenth episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek. Written by Jerome Bixby and directed by Murray Golden, it was first broadcast on February 14, 1969.

History of science fiction films aspect of history

The history of science fiction films parallels that of the motion picture industry as a whole, although it took several decades before the genre was taken seriously. Since the 1960s, major science fiction films have succeeded in pulling in large audience shares, and films of this genre have become a regular staple of the film industry. Science fiction films have led the way in special effects technology, and have also been used as a vehicle for social commentary.

<i>Cinefantastique</i>

Cinefantastique was a horror, fantasy, and science fiction film magazine.

UFOs in fiction Wikimedia list article

Many works of fiction have featured UFOs. In most cases, as the fictional story progresses, the Earth is being invaded by hostile alien forces from outer space, usually from Mars, as depicted in early science fiction, or the people are being destroyed by alien forces, as depicted in the film Independence Day. Some fictional UFO encounters may be based on real UFO reports, such as Night Skies. Night Skies is based on the 1997 Phoenix UFO Incident.

Transhumanism in fiction

Many of the tropes of science fiction can be viewed as similar to the goals of transhumanism. Science fiction literature contains many positive depictions of technologically enhanced human life, occasionally set in utopian societies. However, science fiction's depictions of technologically enhanced humans or other posthuman beings frequently come with a cautionary twist. The more pessimistic scenarios include many dystopian tales of human bioengineering gone wrong.

<i>Warning from Space</i> 1956 film by Koji Shima

Warning from Space is a Japanese science fiction tokusatsu film released in January 1956 by Daiei, and was the first Japanese science fiction film to be produced in color. In the film's plot, starfish-like aliens disguised as humans travel to Earth to warn of the imminent collision of a rogue planet and Earth. As the planet rapidly accelerates toward Earth, a nuclear device is created at the last minute and destroys the approaching world.

The fictional portrayal of our Solar System has often included planets, moons, and other celestial objects which do not actually exist in reality. Some of these objects were, at one time, seriously considered as hypothetical planets which were either thought to have been observed, or were hypothesized in order to explain certain celestial phenomena. Often such objects continued to be used in literature long after the hypotheses upon which they were based had been abandoned.

Space warfare has served as a central theme within the science-fiction genre. One can trace its roots back to classical times, and to the "future war" novels of the nineteenth century. An interplanetary, or more often an interstellar or intergalactic war, has become a staple plot device in space operas. Space warfare has a predominant role in military science fiction but is not believed to be a realistic possibility because of the distances involved and the logistical impracticalities.

Ancient astronauts have been addressed frequently in science fiction and horror fiction. Occurrences in the genres include:

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to science fiction:

References