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horatio 10-23-2013 10:31 AM

A New Golden Cinema Age of Hard Science Fiction?
Moon, Europa Report and Gravity are hard science fiction movies with strong seventies retro vibes from the last years. Oblivion, while being one of these typical end-of-the-world sci-fi flicks which are produced in raw amounts, is visually having at least some mild seventies vibes.
So I wonder whether this is just me finally appreciating hard sci-fi again after having read too much Asimov as a kid and perceiving a trend where none is or whether other folks also see something similar.

Furthermore I wanna raise the question of whether sci-fi in general is becoming better. I do not recall many outstanding sci-fi movies from the nineties or early noughties but Cuar?n's and Jones' two movies (Children of Men, Gravity, Moon, Source Code), Bixby's Man From Earth, District 9, Looper, Chronicle and last but not least von Trier's Melancholia is the kind of stuff which makes you believe that cinema is still a kind of art and not just pop corn entertainment.
So I wonder whether this is just me or a simple perception bias, remembering the recent stuff better than the older stuff, or whether there is something to my hunch.

kevin 10-23-2013 11:07 AM

I'm dying to see 'Gravity' but the damn thing doesn't open for another two weeks so I'm trying to avoid as many spoilers as possible.

I think science fiction is going through a resurgence just now across the range from space opera stuff to that which has a less fantastical and more technical edge. I'm a fan of 'Children of Men', 'Looper', 'Moon' etc and while I'd agree 'Oblivion' is less than the sum of it's parts it one of the most beautiful looking films of the year.

'Source Code' and also 'The Adjustment Bureau' I like but the former is a skoosh on the silly side sometimes, though I guess so is the latter............still both hugely entertaining though.

The only 'new' director just now I'm not jumping on the bandwagon of is Neil Blomkamp. 'Elysium' is actually about the worst film I've seen this year and I'm not big on 'District 9'. Both lack subtlety and nuance which I wouldn't mind if the perception didn't seem to be they were. Or maybe it's just me reacting badly to them. Either way, just now I don't rate him very highly.

I think there were fewer films like that in the 90's and 00's though. There were sci fi films made which are very good ('Twelve Monkeys', 'Contact' etc) though.

horatio 10-23-2013 12:18 PM

I am also becoming less and less interested in such blunt in-your-face movies. Probably the toll of watching TNG-R (some of these typical mediocre 'let's do an allegory on XYZ' TNG scripts are really cringe-worthy). :D

District 9 does IMO only work because it is not just about preaching a message but mainly a get-thrown-into-the-action flick with some of this trashy charm of 80s flicks like RoboCop, They Live and so on. It is easy to do a Hollywood movie about whatever with this ugly condescending liberal distance, well-meaning as long as the poor subjugated folks do not come to close, there is ample of such crap on the market. But a movie win in which the protagonist is proletarized, becomes one of the very guys who is mistreated, is rare.
But of course you are right, District 9 is anything but a perfect movie and if we speak about proletarization, Moon was after all also about it but did it in a far superior way, without any melodrama. Furthermore cloning, biogenetics and so on is slightly more realistic form of being proletarized than becoming an alien.

Children of Men has shown that you can very well make a highly political and good science fiction movie when you put all of the political stuff into the background. Kinda like TOS which never (unnecessarily) signaled to the audience that it is sooo progressive with a Russian, a Japanese and a female Black officer.

NCC-73515 10-23-2013 03:45 PM

I seriously hope the fantasy wave is over ;)
Gravity was nice, but they lost me at "woof woof aoooouuuuh!":smash:

horatio 10-24-2013 06:16 AM

Sometimes it is hard to tell where sci-fi ends and where fantasy starts. Genres are after all just categorizations and a good movie is always good mainly because it is a good movie, not because it is a good sci-fi, fantasy, action or whatever movie.
Let's take hard science-fiction, not all of it is pure hard sci-fi. In the case of 2001 or Gravity it is rather hard sci-fi on the outside and sublime drama on the inside.

Of course sci-fi is usually set in the future whereas fantasy is set in the past but then again Star Wars is both at the same time, archetypical characters are part of a story which happened "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" yet this very past is for us futuristic. You could have the identical structure, i.e. a futuristic past, in a sci-fi movie about Atlantis.
Sci-fi and fantasy have in common that you have more dramatic freedom but then they are not necessary to create dramatic freedom, a David Lynch flick is about a lot of strange, not so ordinary stuff without requiring elves or spaceships. Or, to drive home my point about the irrelevance of genres, elves on a spaceship which is how you could interpret Vulcans: pointy ears, longer lifetimes, a more distanced attitude toward the world.

About Gravity,

horatio 12-06-2013 01:28 PM

Just watched Elysium tonight. Not a brilliant sci-fi movie and slightly repetitive after District 9 (I only learned afterwards that both movies share the same director) but better than most of the crap out there.
I consider Blomkamp's work to be in the tradition of 80s sci-fi trash like RoboCop or They Live, i.e. you get action, profanity and so on on the outside and pure Left with a capital L on the inside.

I like that Elysium illustrated an old point of Gilles Deleuze. Being on the Left first and above all means that your perspective is a general, "zoomed-out" one (By the way, it is no coincidence that it is precisely a nun which tells Max that he should not dream about paradise but think about Earth. Christianity proper is after all not a religion for the elite but for everybody and also deeply materialistic in the sense of "the truth is out there", what matters is what you do, i.e. no Buddhist beautiful soul nonsense.). It doesn't mean that you care more about the folks who are not so well off (which is certainly true for me, I do not give a sh*t about the millions and billions who suffer), you just realize that it cannot go on indefinitely like this.

This is precisely what we have in Elysium. Many people probably dislike the movie because Damon's character is so unlikable. He is a petty criminal and doesn't care about other people. His sacrifice is more due to circumstances than to some actual deep commitment. But we nonetheless sympathize with him because he is totally proletarized. Not just in the classical sense of being a worker who earns little and works in a dangerous, lethal environment but also in the sense of sharing a hellhole with billions of people and having to become a cyborg to survive.
About proletarization, Zizek said it better:


Today's historical situation, I think, not only does not compel us to drop the notion of proletariat. On the contrary, it compels us to radicalize the Marxist notion of a proletarian, the exploited worker whose product is taken away from him so that he is reduced to subjectivity without substance. It should be radicalized to an existential level, well beyond Marxist imagination, a subject reduced to the evanescent point almost of the Cartesian cogito, deprived of all substantial content. What is ecological crisis if not another form of proletarization? We are being deprived of the natural substance of our existence. What is all the struggle for intellectual property if not an attempt to deprive us of the symbolic substance of our lives? What are biogenetic manipulations if not an attempt to deprive us even of our genetic legacy?
Obviously I am not a Marxist but I nonetheless think that this theoretical stuff neatly describes what is happening in Elysium which again describes what might be a possible future.

Actually I would say that it is an extremely likely future and I think that the 21st century will be far more horrible than the last one. My taste for utopian sci-fi like Trek is thus not utopian in the sense of dreaming about crazy, unrealistic visions but in the sense of "the actual utopia, the actual no-place is what is happening right now so we gotta come up with something else". It is thus deeply realistic and pragmatic.
If you think about the seemingly most idealistic Trek character, Picard, you realize that this seemingly crazy guy who fu*ks with every second Admiral over principles is at the same time the most realistic, pragmatic and unsentimental character.

NCC-73515 12-08-2013 04:24 PM

So is Elysium a remake of The Cloud Minders or not?

horatio 12-09-2013 03:33 AM

Not really. All they share is the visual 'look up at the golden city from down below' picture of class division.
The key difference is that there are no outsiders like the Enterprise crew in Elysium and that the ending is more radical than in Cloud Minders.
It has been some time since I watched this TOS episode (which I do not like) so my opinion is hardly representative but I have not thought about episode at all while watching Elysium which, as I already pointed out, reminds one more of District 9 due to the same director and the same "dirty" action elements.

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