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Lack of good SciFi movies

  1. Mar 18, 2009 #1
    Ever since 2001 Space Odyssey was considered one of the ultimate Scifi movies of all time, it's been 40 years and nobody shot anything close it.

    The movie is very complex, it projects the significance of humanity, space exploration, and mysteries of advanced technologies while posing much deeper questions. Movies like Starwars, Startrek, Aliens are a great entertainment, and are in abundance. But what's lacking is another Odyssey movie.

    So do the writers lack imagination to push the envelope, or is such a venture simply not lucrative anymore?
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2009 #2
    Are you looking for hard science in the movies? Or perhaps just something more philosophical and thought provoking? Does it matter whether its hard-scifi or not?

    A very good scifi movie, if you haven't seen it, is Gattaca. Its been a while since I've seen it so I don't remember much of the details but I think the science was fairly believable.
  4. Mar 18, 2009 #3
    I just watched "The Arrival" starring Charlie Sheen. It wasn't that bad. Just the kind of movie one can watch while zeroing his/her brains. And it was a really, really cheap rental.
  5. Mar 18, 2009 #4


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    2001 was only ever considered the best of all time immediately after it came out. Kubric wouldn't be that arrogant: his goal was to produce the first good sci fi movie, not the all time best (though it remains considered one of the all time best).

    I can name a dozen off the top of my head that were better, though, including 2010.
    Being deep and complex does not necessarily equal good sci fi. That's not really the point of the genre. 2001 was the first good sci fi movie not because it was deep but because it was serious. Most sci fi movies at the time were just a joke. They were so bad they were half-intentionally funny. 2001 was different in that it was believable - it looked real. That is what made it the first good sci fi movie.

    My biggest problem with the movie though (it was good, but not great), is that it isn't as deep as it thinks it is. It tries too hard to be deep and comes off just being weird.
    One important measure of how good a good sci fi movie is is how much it pushes the envelope - how groundbreaking it is. That's one reason 2001 is "good". Star Wars, on the other hand, remains the undisputable king by that measure.
    No, the problem with considering a sci fi movie from the last 5 years to be really good is that there is no new ground to be broken anymore. With Star Wars Episode I, Lucas said something to the effect of 'I knew it was time to make the prequels when we got to the point where literally anything was possible'.
  6. Mar 18, 2009 #5
    If you're not concerned with scientific accuracy Bladerunner is one of the best scifi films. It delves into what it means to be human and what makes us human. I'm not sure if the message comes accross so clear in the movie though, I remember the book far better.

    And if you aren't worried so much about the science or the seriousness Brazil is a great surrealist scifi dark satire. This one is a matter of taste though, its certainly not for everyone.
  7. Mar 18, 2009 #6
    All of it. A movie that has hard science, deeper philosophical meaning, and of course must be thought provoking.

    Haven't seen Gattaca yet. The reviews are pretty interesting.

    Saw that many times. It's a good entertainment, about aliens quietly taking over the world.

    It depends on the audience. I would guess the audience in general is entertained by a roller coaster type of movie like Starwars for instance. There is action, and alot of human interaction that projects basically the same emotions as if the setting was taking place in a western or modern times. In contrast the Odyssey appeals to an audience that is entertained by having to think, rather than sitting back and enjoying the ride.

    The ending perhaps went overboard.

    Yes definitely. There is many sequels to Star Wars. But it's all just quick entertainment.

    None of the movies since the Odyssey touch upon the really deep and profound ideas. Except maybe "Solaris" with Clooney.
  8. Mar 19, 2009 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    For me, movies like Star Wars are more fantasy than Sci-Fi.

    I think Solaris is excellent! TCM aired the Russian version just the other night. Here are a few movies that I consider to be some of the best:

    For anyone interested in hard sci-fi, Primer is a must!!!

    As for 2001, it was intended that the opening scene would be a panel discussion, including the likes of Sagan, that would essentially explain the plot in scientific terms. But at the last minute the scene was cut, which gave the movie a somewhat mystical quality.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2009
  9. Mar 19, 2009 #8
    +1 for Gattaca
  10. Mar 19, 2009 #9
    The Matrix comes to mind as fulfilling your sci fi criteria, besides, perhaps, the hard science. When I first watched it, it blew my mind. I didn't care that much about the special effects, I thought the story and thought provoking ideas were great enough on their own.

    I would also recommend Gattaca, very subtle sci-fi, I liked it.

    I think The Island was prettty good too. It doesn't throw you into a fantasy world, but rather a world that could be in 20 years time.

    Equilibrium is a good kind of 1984 type story with a lot of fighting action, but still begs fundamental questions about human nature.
  11. Mar 19, 2009 #10


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    I never liked 2001 that much, even when it first came out. Way over hyped and over reviewed in my opinion. The pace was very slow. The scenes took way too long, especially where some special effect for a scene, like the expanding light bars near the end (what was that, like 10+ minutes of just one special effect?) 2010 wasn't that much better. Neither 2001 or 2010 had much of a storyline. Some of the "special effects", like the carousel based scene were too obvious, remember the Fred Astaire ceiling dance scene from a 1951 movie?

    The only movie slower than 2001 was probably THX 1138, especially the first 2 "segments". The modified Lola T70 used in the tunnel scenes was cool though.

    I was most impressed by the first Star Wars (episode IV) movie. I saw it before it received any hype. I was expecting another "B" movie like Buck Rodgers in the 21st century, but realised it was going to be good just based on the opening scene. There were some cliche's, like the Falcon, the equivalent of a souped up hot rod that didn't look so hot, the seedy bar, ..., but the story line was descent, and it raised the level of special effects at the time. The opening crawl text supposedly was a tribute, as opposed to a rip off, of the old Flash Gordon series.
  12. Mar 19, 2009 #11
    While I prefer Solaris, Stalker (also by Tarkovsky) which can be described as sci-fi, has its moments.
  13. Mar 19, 2009 #12
    The science is junk but I just watched "The Watchmen" and it was pretty good, touching upon alot of philosophical and sociological issues. I think it helps if you are a comic book fan.

    Unfortunately I am having a hard time coming up with hard scifi movies. There aren't very many I don't think.
    I've heard of but not seen Capricorn One. Not sure just how good it is.
  14. Mar 19, 2009 #13
    Slient Running
    Short Circuit
    Donnie Darko
    Back to the Future
    The Thing
    The Truman Show
    Young Frankenstein
    Planet of the Apes
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers
    Day the Earth Stood Still
    A Man From Earth
    Twelve Monkeys
    Blade Runner
    Road Warrior
    Minority Report
    Dr Strangelove
    Forbidden Planet
    A Clockwork Orange
    The Fly
    The Abyss
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2009
  15. Mar 19, 2009 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    Recently I have been watching the second Twlight Zone series, from the late 1980s. When it first aired we couldn't get the signal around here. :rolleyes: Really it is surprisingly good - a few of the episodes are top-notch IMO.

    Last night there was an episode called Special Service, in which a man discovers that his life is a popular TV show. It was so similar to the plot of The Truman Show that I have to wonder if the idea was copied [Twlight Zone came first].
  16. Mar 19, 2009 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    Has anyone seen Brazil?

    Very clever! And I loved this: It is retro-futuristic. One wouldn't think that could make sense, but it does.
  17. Mar 19, 2009 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    I also liked Sphere.

    Also, Contact. Speaking of which, what was supposed to be happening when Foster was in-transit; where we see events before they happened? Was that a legitimate play on wormhole dynamics [if there is such a thing]?

    I'd bet that Selfadjoint could explain it all! I miss SA at times like this.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2009
  18. Mar 19, 2009 #17
    While not strictly science fiction, I would recommend Intacto (2001)
  19. Mar 19, 2009 #18


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    That was the intent. Kubrick was trying to make the movie a "visual experience", rather than the "filming of a story". He was trying to "think outside the box" of normal movie making.
  20. Mar 19, 2009 #19
    Yeah, unfortunately the mass media doesn't think there would be much interest in hard sci-fi movies and they are probably correct. It probably results from the fact that most sci-fi needs a large budget to pull it off correctly so the only sci-fi that gets made is the side of barn idiotic stuff for the masses. Good movies that actually require thinking are mostly low budget affairs.

    Maybe as technologies progress we will start to see more real sci-fi stories make it to the big screen but for now I guess we are stuck with books and audiobooks. I remember hearing somewhere that a Ringworld movie might be getting made though, don't know how that would come across on the big screen.

    It would be fascinating to see some of Clarke's other and arguably better works as movies, like "Rendezvous with Rama".
  21. Mar 19, 2009 #20


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    Thing is, "2001" was so successful that it spawned lots of followers. Most successful would be Tarkovsky's "Solyaris". But the others, which is most sci-fi circa 1970-1977, were crap. From "Soylent Green" to "Logans Run" to the hilariously bad and pretentious "Zardoz".

    So when "Star Wars" and "Alien" came along with pure sci-fi/adventure and sci-fi/horror, it was pretty liberating - "Philosophy be damned, just make a good movie!"

    Now, there are more 'philosophical' sci-fi movies being made. But I think it's simply just damn hard to do it well. I saw "The Fountain" just recently and would put it into that genre. But to me, it fell into the usual trap of coming across as pretentious and 'trying too hard'.
  22. Mar 19, 2009 #21


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    My favourite is still 'Charly'. It qualifies as 'hard' SF in that the fictional surgical basis of the story is quite sound (and is just now beginning to be experimented with in reality), and it explores the effects of that science upon an individual and/or society as a whole. It's also the only such movie to garner a Best Actor Oscar. I loved the short story 'Flowers for Algernon', and the subsequent full-length novel, but considered it unfilmable. Damned if they didn't pull it off grandly, though.
    For many of the same reasons, I think that 'The Terminal Man' qualifies as well.
  23. Mar 19, 2009 #22
    You guys have some good points but I am particularly dismayed with the lack of hard spaced based sci-fi, most of those are just soap operas or drama shows that just happen to be set in space. The other stuff, social sci-fi and what not I don't know too much about.
  24. Mar 19, 2009 #23


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    Hang on. You're talking apples & oranges (or at least, I think you should be).

    Good sci-fi pushes the envelope of human sensibilities, exploring human nature. That's what all good speculative fiction (which id the super-set of sci-fi) does.

    But Star Wars isn't sci-fi; it's Space Fantasy. It's not meant to speculate, it's meant to tell a traditional story.

    2001 is ground-breaking both in Fx but also in story, whereas Star Wars is really only ground-breaking in FX.

    Brazil was awesome! (Though ultimately depressing.)
  25. Mar 19, 2009 #24


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    Sorry, did you just call Logan's Run and Soylent Green "crap"? These are films that left an indelible impression on a generation. They are classics.

    What's a matter? Not enough spaceship battles for ya?
  26. Mar 19, 2009 #25


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    For spaced based hard science realism Ridley Scott is good, Alien is one of the most realistic space based movies.
    Along the same lines as the Matrix but under appreciated (it needs more thought and doesn't have as much tight black leather) is EXistenZ.

    Some movies of Iain M Banks would be nice.
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