Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sci-Fi movies

Bruce on QandO posted about Sir Ridley Scott who said that science fiction movies are " going the way the Western."

QandO asked these question's...

So A) do you agree with Scott that the genre is "dead"? Or is this like the guy who wanted to close the patent office because he thought everything that could be invented had been invented?

B) do you agree 2001 is the standard for "best of the best" in Sci-Fi movies?

C) do you have any other Sci-Fi movies you'd add to Alien, 2001 and Forbidden Planet as among the best?

My answers...

A. No.
B. I haven’t been able to watch 2001 to the end.
C. The Fifth Element. That one with Vin Deisel doesn’t get near the credit it deserves. There are so many that are good and so many that are good but not remarkable.

And so many that are bad.

I’d suggest that one problem is that the science fiction movies that appeal to a non-science fiction audience simply aren’t very good and the really good movies that do science fiction very well aren’t considered particularly good because they self-limit the audience by being weird.

Ah, I just remembered the name... Chronicles of Riddick. Pitch Black was a really *good* science fiction movie that, underneath the "people die one by one" was squarely based on redemption with the twist that the wrong person survived. The sequel, Riddick was created for the big screen and the story, really, is very good... the forces of evil aren’t defeated and the hero isn’t a good guy and there’s enough strangeness to juxtapose unreality against stark human truth.

But it doesn’t seem intellectual on the surface of it. Someone who likes to go to the high-brow shows isn’t going to get past, "Well, there’s a death cult, see, except that what they are preaching is actually real, so it’s sort of like they’re turning everyone into zombies except that they don’t rot."

Blade Runner is a very good movie but it’s almost equally as Riddick, on the surface, about the strangeness. Of course it’s really about who has the right to even desire to live, which is a basic human question.


Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Instead of answering the questions, which doesn't seem to do much in my opinion, I'll list the critiera I view as most important for good sci-fi.

One, Good explanations of what the hell is going on. Summarizing it down from quantum physics level would be a start. Make sure you use graphics. Aeon Flux did this quite well, although they skimped too much on voice narration and replaced it with graphical narration. Still, it did the job, up until the end anyways.

Two, human nature or aspects of human nature must be true and must be exploited to tell a story. Essentially the physical weirdness should be a backdrop for the internal and personal contests and struggles of the human heart, mind, soul. Aeon Flux, again, did a nice synthesis job with such.

Three, stick to the genre/theme. Good sci fi is limited sci fi. Limited not in imagination, but rather limited to what you can adequately explain (check 1) and what you have time to show.

Don't try to tell Robert Jordan length stories. Stargate did things well by jumping to the past and producing a David Weber like historical transmogrification. Good if you can do it, but it is better to stick with what you already got. Which in essence is what the science fiction movie is supposed to be about, in essence.

Field scientists are curious and thus they can branch out from the most seemingly innoculous base data. Audiences, however, are not field scientists. They are curious, but the movie director and producer is the one telling the story, the audience is simply there for the ride. Do not make them too curious for that would only annoy them, given that they can't do anything to find things out faster. And if you make the audience curious about something and fail to deliver, they will constantly bug you about it and thus be dissatisfied. Aeon Flux did that to me at the end because of a technological inconsistency or lack of explanation.

Serenity avoided the whole political problems that caused the civil war. David Weber in a book could cover such political stuff but not a tv series and not a movie. Bablyon 5 limited political problems to individual people, rather than factions. Thus with the increased time limit, 5 seasons, they could produce a coherent and understandable narration concerning politics. However, most movies and tv shows cannot do this well, so thus they must limit themselves in scope.

Anything that happens, must happen in a way that is relevant to one of the main characters in the movie. By relevant I mean something that interfaces with human nature, or even meta human nature. Nature or will that overcomes human nature.

Pitch Black was nice in that the hero was really an anti-hero.

John Ringo's novels would make great movies, because everything that needs explaining is explained through description and dialogue. There is little "inner dialogue" one way or another.

Most science fiction movies can't do fiction book inner dialogue at all, or won't. Dune, the first one, did a good job with inner dialogue which made it seem very much like a novel on screen. The litances that the main character, Paul, speaks to himself on in order to calm himself for battle and challenges really sets the Dune mood.

Dune was a very epic movie, given that much of the plot and such were developed in novel format. A futuristc story about weird weirdness. The spice, analogous to oil, with Fedayeen insurgents up against Harkonnen occupation, is always good for a laugh post 9/11. However, that just goes to show you that it is true to human nature. It illustrates human events that are TRUE, regardless of where we humans currently sit.

I wouldn't go so far as to call science fiction makers "humanists" but that is what they very close to, Synova. A fake liberal could not produce something like Serenity. Actually, they could, but they would not have gotten the villains right. If you wish for science fiction created by a fake liberal, of the Left, watch Star Wars Episodes 1 to 3. You'll have to take my word for it that Lucas Arts specifically modeled Palpatine after Hitler's rise to power, thus creating the narration that Bush has seized power in the same manner.

Alien vs Predator was fun. Interspecies multi-culti communication, you know.

Lucas Arts

George Lucas never got the fascists right because to be a true classical liberal means that you must understand things for what they are, not simply for what you want them to be. Such errors lead to more errors in the end.

One thing I didn't like about Chronicles of Riddick was the un-military portrayal of Riddick's race. Also there lacked some important background on such. Things could have been shaped up with some military counter-insurgency vs insurgency details in my view. Also when you see that one character walking off outside, it would have been beneficial to know his reasons. Why didn't he stay and fight on Riddick's side? Also, the final fight between Riddick and [x] would have benefited from some Naruto/Bleach tactical discussions and placements.

The plot was nice though. The movie just was straining at its own limits, really. They didn't have the talent or skills to explain all that they tried to explain, nor the space to put it really. Compared to Pitch Black, Pitch Black was a severely limited movie about people disappearing in the dark ; )

There is a Fourth Criteria that I must have in good science fiction movies. That is Ethics and Honor. As a matter of personal motivation, I want the sci fi characters' personal ethics and honor, as a matter of motivation, to be clear and consistent. This is not possible if the producers themselves have no understanding of ethics, however, in philosophy. That's one big problem.

The author of Babylon 5 understood much of human nature and ethics. Villains or heroes, both had very well developed motivations, characters, and backgrounds.

Time to wrap this up.

But it doesn’t seem intellectual on the surface of it. Someone who likes to go to the high-brow shows isn’t going to get past, "Well, there’s a death cult, see, except that what they are preaching is actually real, so it’s sort of like they’re turning everyone into zombies except that they don’t rot."

This stuff is a result of people lacking training and education in military history, tactics, strategy, etc, Synova.

There are specific requirements for air dropping invasion forces onto planets and what not. While you can't do a David Weber novel in a movie, you can use some of what he mastered in the field of military science utilizing advanced (and weird) technology.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Ymarsakar said...

One of John Ringo's scenes is a squad of infantry protecting something in the center of the ring. So the ring, composed of soldiers facing outwards, is attempting to resist the encroachment of hundreds of thousands of bugs (or something) to protect the object in the center of the ring.

I mean that's essentially an Aliens or Pitch Black moment there. It loses most of its visual impact being in a book. Just as Ghost's cutting off the head of terrorists misses visual appeal by being in a book. That and using VX nerve gas on terrorists.

I mean, that is essentially a 24 moment. Using VX nerve gas produced by terrorists, on the terrorists.

8:02 PM  

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