Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Sci-Fi Is Your Friend

I can't remember which terrible sci-fi movie I watched recently that made me almost give up on the genre. It might have been Kurt Wimmer's heavily compromised and noisy Ultraviolet, a film I want to moan about in greater detail some other time (and the internet goes crazy with anticipation, yes yes). For all the things I liked about it, there were a million other things that left me feeling very unsatisfied. As it finished, my TV automatically switched back to the Sky+ box, as it does, and Sky Sci-Fi/Horror was showing Saul Bass' Phase IV, one of my all-time favourites. It's a 70s sci-fi drama about intelligent ants and the scientists who study them. If you've not seen it, I thoroughly recommend it. In time, I will go on about that more as well.

Still, this "bugged" me, ha ha, if you will. The 70s may not have been the perfect era of cinema that many think it was, but I will freely and sadly admit it did have virtues almost totally lost to us today. Is the age of truly thought-provoking sci-fi cinema lost to us now? Over the past few years, as my favourite movie The Matrix, or Ghost in the Shell, or Star Wars, get cloned again and again to lesser and lesser effect, I do wonder. I'm writing this in a hurry, so I'm not thinking too straight, and please don't think I'm dissing any of those movies, the first two of which are absolutely wonderful and the latter was once upon a time, but the only recent film I can think of that delivered a similar rush of ideas as Phase IV or 2001 or The Man Who Fell To Earth is Shane Carruth's Primer, and to be honest I only say that because I don't even understand the damnable thing. Maybe we can include A Scanner Darkly in there. I'd also like to include Starship Troopers, though the ideas crammed into that slice of action heaven are mostly political and not speculative. Oh, and any haters out there who still think Starship Troopers is a bad movie liked only by deluded nitwits, look at this screen capture from the most recent 30 Rock.


That's a warrior bug on Liz's windowsill there, and it's been there since the first episode! If Tina Fey likes Starship Troopers, it is automatically a masterpiece. Though she does seem to like Star Wars more than is healthy. ::momentarily doubts own logic::

Gah! Whatever. The thought occured to me, though, that while mainstream US cinema is wary of creating challenging and thought-provoking cinema of the kind mentioned above, perhaps I can find it elsewhere, either in contemporary non-US cinema or back in the past. Which is why, for a couple of months now, I've been thinking of starting a mini-feature: Sci-Fi Through Space/Time! I have a few ideas for what to talk about, including a strangely large amount of French stuff, all of which proves there is more to that subset of sci-fi than Jane Fonda writhing around in various states of futuristic undress. I'll get onto that soon, hopefully, but until then, here is some sci-fi from South Africa; Alive in Joburg, by the man who almost helmed the Halo movie, Neill Blomkamp.

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