Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


IR33 (Let's discuss Sci-fi)

Posted on April 10, 2011 at 4:44 PM


The past couple of week have been a bit slow. In my eye of things really cool, at least....and my determination of cool is questionable so who knows? Anyways, a few articles and vids here, but a look at what is/is not science fiction at the end thanks to a rather disappointing article from an otherwise good website.

The Big Picture: The Other Street Fighter

Wait...what? I must see this movie now. Sometimes a movie can be so bat-shit crazy you just HAVE to see it, right? It's the Gymkata think "oh, surely there's not an action movie with gymnastics-meets-kung fu. find out there is and have a insatiable yearning to see it and will never find happiness until you do.

Music Decades Ahead of Its Time

Just impressive. Decades, literally, before a lot of the music was around, people were already dabbling in it. The world jus wasn't ready then, I suppose. I mean, lok at the first entry alone. Industrial music from the 60s that sounds like it should have come out in the late 80s (at least). It needed the Punk phase for that transition to work, you can't go from Beatles and Pink Floyd to that without some anarchy in between.

Love Without Sound is impressive stuff. It is Radiohead and sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday.

10 Offspring Who Do Their Nerd Idol Parents Proud

More to acknowledge than to bring awareness, this is a great list. Duncan Jones being a great one happening right now as one of the best directors working today (and only two moveis in),

When Harry Met Sally 2

One of the funniest things to come out of the Funny or Die camp in a while. Love it.

Cinemasnob: Alice in Wonderland - An X-Rated Musical Fantasy

So strangely uncomfortable I just have no desire to watch it...yet I do have a desire to watch a video showing how strangely uncomfortable the thing is. Brad does a great job making this nauseating film funny.

Dorkly: Charizard’s Revenge

Ash had it coming. Poor little pokemon all stuck in little tiny balls.


Sorry, what was I saying?

Jimmy Fallon/Colbert - Friday

I’m going to call this as the send off. No parody will out do it. Let’s let this thing die now. This was awesome, but the 15 minutes were up 15 minutes ago.

And finally...

i09: 10 Sci-fi films that are better than Serenity and Empire Strikes Back

For a website dedicated to science fiction, they have a really, really loose definition of the term. Empire isn’t science fiction. Batman certainly is not. Young Frankenstein is borderline but sci-fi is certainly not the intent. I might even argue Alien, but there is a thematic motif of human condition versus something we simply cannot understand and look upon as a “monster.” Hell, even Serenity is something I wouldn’t classify entirely as “science fiction” though it does enough for me to not argue it.

Many people assume science fiction the minute they see robots, spaceships and computers. Those aren’t science fiction elements (because they aren’t fiction, silly). Those are “things” and not much else. Science Fiction is “about” something. It’s about those “things” and how they impact the human condition, not simply being there to look good. Those things in movies like Star Wars or Batman are there to create a world of fantasy, not to be a commentary on something. Even Star Trek V got that right, showing the dynamics of faith and belief in God and how technology has intervened...and that movie friggin sucked. What is a starship in Star Wars other than something that shoots or a lightsaber other than a weapon of a Jedi? Those are fantastical things, those are fantasy films. They have “technology” and maybe some Science Fiction elements, but are not science fiction stories or films. There’s not theorizing, scientific method or, as Rod Serling put it “Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.”  By that, a fantasy story is fleeting and unbelievable, conjuring up new worlds (it doesn’t need to be a Hobbit with a sword to be “fantasy”) whereas Science Fiction is rooted in the elements of scientific theory and how that relates to our society and there just might be a string of truth running through it all. It’s both a commentary and exploration.

Just to compare, let’s look at some popular movies:

Back to the Future – Science Fiction, absolutely. Time travel theory is crazy in this series of films.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure – fantasy. It doesn’t really dwell into theory, it just travels through time. There’s a difference between doing something in a story and having that something actually “say” something in attempting to make a point.

The Terminator films – As loopy and a bit crazy as their theories can get, they are still exploring the elements of time travel and its effect on society and life. Science Fiction all the way.

Note: They are NOT science fiction just because there’s a time machine or even that someone travels through time...they’re science fiction because they explore the theories of time travel. There’s a difference. The phonebooth in Bill and Ted also travels through time, but the film doesn’t really look to theorize the principles of science and look for answers.

(all rock)

Star Wars – Fantasy. Think of it as Lord of the Rings in Space. The Force is more than proof that it’s just magical fantasy.

Star Trek – 100% Science Fiction. From its early inception, it’s ALWAYS been about our future society, technology and the impact of science and theory on the human condition.

(both rock)

Batman – Why is this on their list? It’s fantasy. Comic book fantasy, at that. It doesn’t even have radiation to fall back on for superpowers like some cheap-ass throwaway 1960s Cold War hero. Is it because he uses gadgets? So does James Bond. It's this entry that makes me think this article was written by a 12 year old.

Frankenstein (even Young) - can be considered Science Fiction. Using technology and the theory of how our bodies work to reanimate us? Absolutely sci-fi really before sci-fi was it's own thing.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Fantasy, mainly, but with a nod to Science Fiction. Though there’s a ton more fantasy elements in it, the book (and radio/movie incarnations) dwell on the idea of “perception.” It’s about how human perceive things against the cosmos and, as you find out in the end, we assume way, way too much. It balances both styles incredibly well (which might be why it’s one of my favorite books).

A Clockwork Orange – Science Fiction, and one they got absolutely right on the list. Brainwashing, a dystopian future where violence rules all and how our minds work through audio, visual stimulation. It's also a strange commentary on art and artistry in a world where violence and sex has become the new form. It's in the vein of Brave New World and 1984, only far more brutal.

The Mad Max films – Fantasy. Some assume dystopian = Science Fiction. To an extent, that can be true, but you need a causation to it all along with a method as to how a dystopian world would effect the human condition. Here it’s merely a setting and, unlike A Clockwork Orange’s world of violence, there’s no exploration of science or the human condition other than (like Star Wars) the elements of the “hero’s journey” and basic survival. It's an apocalyptic series of films, not much else. Love all three Mad Max movies, especially the second one, but there's nothing Sci-Fi about it.

At most, I might consider the very first film a bit of science fiction as it showcases a new standardizing of law and order and the basic structure of society turned upside down. Anything "sciency" there? Not really...but it's about as close as I would consider. It's speculative fiction, but not science fiction.

Dune - Fantasy. Pure fantasy (and one of the best). Some label it science fiction, again, because it takes place in space and has technological things...but it's not science fiction.

Tron – Fantasy...but with a dash of Science Fiction.  A film entirely about computers and technology I see more as fantasy than science fiction, yes. A man journey’s to a make believe world and that world using techno-babble as allegory and metaphor. It’s smart, yes, but it’s not really looking deep into thematic ideas of science fiction. At the same time, it has a long-standing story of social change that science fiction just loves, so it has a bit of a half-and-half going on. (I do see it as a bit more fantasy, though, but like Hitchhiker's Guide, I’m fine calling it either and/or both).

Brazil – a Personal favorite film, and one I see more as fantasy. It explores things such as dreams and ideas more than anything scientifically theorized or tangible. It’s still looking at social change, has a dystopian future, but is more a look at bureaucracy and the absurdity of it in the same way Dr. Strangelove does (a film I would never consider science fiction either). It has some sci-fi elements that are great, though (food/plastic surgery), but does it in this fantastical sort of way.

Two more just to touch on, two I consider great science fiction films:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Children of Men, two amazing movies that are everything what science fiction is about. Eternal Sunshine’s idea of memory and love is so unbelievably poetic and original I get chills just thinking about it, and Children of Men, using our beloved dystopian setting, has quite a lot to say about race, government and simply asking the question “what if we lived in a world with no children?” That’s not even technology related (as I said, sci-fi doesn’t need to be), just a scientific, biological idea of looking into how that would effect our world...and potentially destroy it.

Science fiction is where the story and plot takes a scientific principle, poses a question or hypothesis about that principle, and then explores the effects of that principle on society or culture or the individual (Blade Runner explores the idea of "living" with artificial life, Eternal Sunshine asks "what if we choose to remember things or forget them," Moon about life in general and how technology can "extend" it and even something incredibly broad such as Hitchhiker's Guide's question "normalcy is relative, how would a human being act if thrown into the normalcy of an alien world they're unfamiliar with?"  


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