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Film Appreciation... Science Fiction Overview


Although some film scholars have chosen to include the subcategorizes of horror films, monster films and science fiction films in one genre this is not a decision I am comfortable with. Each of these genres has certain characteristics that are unique and, as such set them apart from the others. Putting all that intellectual stuff aside I have to admit I have a particular love of these genres which makes me want to spend more time enjoying and examining them. With the disclosure statement out of the way let's examine the genre that we have come to call Science Fiction.

Science Fiction films call into question the world we live in and have come to accept as real. Films in this genre ask their audiences to ask the question that has plagued scientists and philosophers throughout the centuries, "what if…..?" Perhaps this is why Science Fiction films periodically undergo a resurgence in popularity, as each generation is prompted to contemplate the what ifs that are associated with the eras in which they live. The effects of these films on the audiences should not be underestimated - after all even media scholars are divided over whether films are a reflection of the values of the societies in which they are made or if the films themselves are the driving force behind those societies. Whether for good or ill, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. None-the-less it is important to remember that although Science Fiction focuses on the future it is made in the present. As such, of all the genres Science Fiction is potentially the most revealing of the times in which it is created.

Science Fiction films can be set virtually anywhere in the past, the present or the future. They can be set on earth or, as George Lucas put it so succinctly, "in a galaxy far, far away." Science Fiction films do not even need to be accurate, (although many great Science Fiction films are solidly grounded in scientific reality), in order to entertain.

When it is done well Science Fiction uplifts its viewers and forces them to think about new ideas and alternate realities that can make their lives and the world the live in a better place. When it is done really badly it can be not only hysterically funny but also awesome in its awfulness. Indeed, more than any other genre Science Fiction films seem to comprise some of the best of the cinema ("Metropolis", "2001 A Space Odyssey", and "Star Wars" to name a few) and the worst ( Ed Wood's classic masterpiece " Plan 9 From Outer Space " - rated by many critics as the worst film ever made comes to mind). Putting all that aside, if we didn't have bad Science Fiction films we never would have had Mystery Science Theater 3,000. For the uninitiated this enormously popular cable TV show is constructed on the premise of a group of characters who are trapped on a space ship and forced to watch the worst science fiction films ever made. The viewing audience is then treated to a barrage of the characters barbed comments about these films (the sorts of things you always wished you were smart enough and fast enough to have come up with on your own). No other genre has ever been so elevated and ridiculed at the same time, but hey, maybe that is why so many people love it.


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1999 Debbie Twyman. All rights reserved. TERMS OF USE