As a genre, science fiction can be portrayed quite negatively by the media, with ‘sci-fi geeks’ being ridiculed for their in-depth knowledge of films and television shows. Nevertheless, this geeky audience is on the rise, with more and more of us seemingly becoming self-confessed movie nerds. Why then are there less and less science fiction films being produced that are genuinely worth watching?
As long as cinema has been around there has been science fiction. In the beginning, filmmaking pioneer George Méliès tested the limits of the medium, creating works of science fiction that paid incredible attention to detail. With the use of ground-breaking techniques that included the painting of individual film cells, Méliès was able to stretch cinema to places it had never been, to worlds that could only previously be conceived through literature. The genre progressed and continually formed masterpieces through its imaginative storylines and sets. However, in today’s contemporary cinema, with all our improved technology, all we can boast is the re-hashing of old ideas, and sequels, spin-offs and prequels to science fiction films once considered original.
The very definition of science fiction is that there are endless possibilities, though in recent years there has been only one film that has, in this writer’s opinion, abided by that mantra: Christopher Nolan’s Inception. And yet, despite the construction of such an amazing concept, a film as great as Inception is pushed alongside yet another Transformers sequel, or a reimagining of a worn franchise such as Star Trek. As a result, the value of Inception is lost in a crowd of mediocrity, and science fiction loses another chunk of its integrity. Not that there is anything overtly criminal about a staple as historic as Star Trek, but the characters have been explored. Surely, reproducing a franchise with slightly different storylines, and the use of improved computer effects, will only create something that is extremely similar to the original?
At first glance there are some promising films coming out in 2013, such as Tom Cruise’s Oblivion and Cloud Atlas, but even these two examples are based on a graphic novel and book respectively. As far as original scripts go we’re not seeing much, and even when we are the majority aren’t quite box office hits.
Following the announcement of Star Wars VII, news websites and online forums were besieged by rumours surrounding the monopolistic franchise, leaving the rest of the sci-fi universe over-shadowed and overwhelmed. As an audience, do we not deserve more than to hear about a series that continues to exist for profit, and will consistently achieve a profit no matter the weight of its promotion? Where are the ideas, the substance and the satire that once formed the genre?
All of this is not to say that science fiction has completely lost its worth. Classic sci-fi is still constantly informing shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy, but can we really see this happening with, say, Prometheus in twenty year’s time? And, truthfully, the harsh question to ask is whether parody and homage are enough to sustain the genre’s respected roots?