I’ve always loved Sci-Fi but I never feel like I have seen enough! I wanted to explore as much as possible, from the first Sci-Fi Movie “Le Voyage Dans Le Lune” (1902), right through to the latest releases and sub-genres that have expanded throughout the years. Because, Sci-Fi always makes us question;
Where will science take us? What’s going to happen to us? What’s NEXT?
I’ve already considered what makes a good Sci-Fi story, and so I started doing a little research into the release dates of movies (and some extra reading). I realised that there is a pattern in what’s happening in society and science, and the types of movies that became popular at the time.
Nuclear power (and the subsequent waste) is a popular topic leading to a trend of mutant monster movies such as Tarantula (1955), Them! (1954) and Godzilla (1954) among other “kaiju” movies in Japan. There is also generally a fear of those who are “alien”, stemming from warfare and racial segregation. There is a subsequent surge of alien movies, like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and War of the Worlds (1953), which play on people’s fears of the unknown.
Optimistic 60’s and Star Wars 70’s
As the space race begins, space travel movies become more popular, focusing on the optimism and exploration of new worlds – a key example would be 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and the Star Trek TV Series (1966). The 1970’s then sees the birth of the franchise that no one could have ever imagined would have reached such gigantic proportions – Star Wars (1977). I mean, just take a look at this original trailer for the first movie; it was clear they never thought it was going to take the world by storm.
Star Wars maintained popularity and I think that’s partially due to the underlying themes; the uprising against oppressive governments, the threat to harmonious civilisation and the ongoing battle against lawful evil. Things that are ALWAYS relevant! Other movies that express similar sentiments at the time include, Logan’s Run (1976), Planet of the Apes (1968) and Soylent Green (1973).
80’s Optimism Revival
The old 60’s optimism returns with the new wave of Sci-Fi movies released in the 80’s. Escapism, experimentation and exploring of new worlds are popular once more. Movies like Tron (1982) appear as it becomes mainstream to own computers and consoles. Meanwhile, (Japanese) anime is gaining a cult following in western culture with cult Sci-Fi movies like Akira (1988), which is SUPER freaky by the way.
Trapped in the 90’s
I look back on my 90’s childhood with nostalgic delight but the theme of many 90’s movies seems to be powerlessness; either to a more dominant species or governing power. Japan’s release of Ghost in the Shell (1995) focuses on the human condition and just look at Independence Day (1996), The Matrix (1999), Armageddon (1998) or even Jurassic Park (1993). All of these centre around man’s inability to adapt or accept change fast enough to thrive in their new environments.
Millennium Bugs in the System
Although robots have always been around in Sci-Fi, the 2000’s sees a huge takeover of movies featuring… well… robot takeovers. Robots and AI – specifically the level of human feeling they are capable of- is a predominant theme in films such as i,Robot (2004), and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) But I am going to write a whole separate post about Artificial Intelligence because I couldn’t possibly fit it all here!
The Evolution of Sci-Fi Movies: Today
I know that when I watch modern Sci-Fi movies, I like them to have all the tropes with none of the predictability and lashings of pushing boundaries. Just a few movies I’ve watched recently, Annihilation (2018), Ex Machina (2014) and Arrival (2016), all fit into this description (and they’re all great movies).
Even Ready Player One (2018), which focuses on life in VR world, picks up on the latest themes of the time and runs with them in an entirely new way. (A book/film I absolutely loved, and reviewed earlier this year.)
I feel the key to a timelessly classic sci-fi movie is that we are able to pick it up at any point in time, watch it, and it still be as marvellous as the day it was released (allowing for CGI changes and changes in directing methods.) I should be able to pick up and react to all the original feelings of the genre, while being completely surprised.
So, what’s next?