I was talking about science fiction with a co-worker yesterday and he mentioned some of his favorite SF movies. They were of the Star Wars, Star Trek, variety–obvious science fiction titles with lots of explosions in space. (Let’s not get into the question of whether Star Wars if fantasy or SF, m-kay?)
I realized then that the concept of SF in films to the general public seems deeply entrenched in the idea of spaceships and lasers. Kinda like golden SF, but with maybe a modern sensibility and with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis as the lead.
It got me thinking about what I’ll call “Real SF Films.” You know? movies that are not just golden-age rip-roaring adventure tales, but work hard to explore SFnal topics in a deeper fashion.
Here are five films that jumped to mind. They fit the bill as solid attempts at real SF work, and that are outstanding stories (at least in my opinion). Some you may not even think of as SF.
1) Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind: Great story about a guy who tries to erase a love from his life. Clearly SFnal in concept, but I don’t here it talked about when SF is discussed.
2) Primer: Outstanding low-budget film that explores time travel without dumbing anything down. I needed to watch it twice to really get it. One of my favorite films, really. Smart script, true to theory, engaging. What’s not to like?
3) Sliding Doors: An interesting exploration into the multiple worlds aspect of quantum theory. It doesn’t delve into the theory behind the science much at all, but uses it in matter-of-fact fashion and presents an interesting set of stories. I don’t think this is a story that comes to mind when people think “SF Film,” though.
4) The Fountain: This one probably isn’t for everyone. Very weird at times, but wierd in a way that Lisa and I both like. It’s hard to interpret. Some will call this a fantasy. Some won’t know what to call it. But I view it as SF, so it’s on my list.
5) Momento: To me this is a well-duh selection as SF, but it doesn’t show up as SF on some folks’ register. A lot of people liked this a lot more than I did (I was digging it until the very end, but that’s a discussion for another day).
You’ll notice there’s not a space craft or a laser gun in sight with these five films–not that a laser can’t be fun. After all, I like my cinematic space opera as well as the next guy.