Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Final whittery post - getting stuff off my chest.

I've always said that I like badly produced science fiction, but it seems that's changing, or rather the scifi being produced these days is missing the point.

Scifi has pretty much always been unbelievable, to a degree, which is what keeps it charming. Or it's made very believable, with full-on realism, which can make it rather slow and intellectually stimulating, if a little boring.

So. Star Wars. Space ships cannot fly between planets and attack each other like Spitfires and Messerschitts from a scene in The Battle Of Britain because the laws of physics can't be repealed and it's obvious that 2 spaceship-size objects closing together at the few hundred kilometers a second required for space travel can't then dogfight. But the charm of the movie makes us happy to suspend all worries about reality and enjoy the show, just because.

So. 2001 A Space Odyssey. A film made with incredible and entirely believable realism, set at a glacial pace (in keeping with pretty much everything Clarke wrote) and mundane with it's making fascinating things ordinary - like eating chicken sandwiches while flying across the lunar surface in a shuttle bus. And yet one comes away wondering about so many things afterward that might actually be possible in that universe.

Many recent films have been trying to blend the 2, with greater or lesser degrees of success (Avengers and Ironman did well, Thor less so).

CGI has made things worse.

I've seen 2 films recently that have convinced me CGI is not helping: Guardians Of The Galaxy and Pacific Rim.

GotG was seriously sucky, but was clearly intended to be a spoof. I've heard that some audiences stood and cheered at certain points, where a baddy was brought down, though that's hard to believe because it's all so hokey. But the super-real GCI made it feel wrong because the denial of various physical laws had become too unbelievable and it broke the acceptance of what could not be, while the story line lacked that Star Wars charm which prevented one from objecting.

Pacific Rim is an 'obvious' Boys Own fun film. I mean, giant robots fighting enormous alien monsters - what's not to like? But there's that super-real CGI thing again that makes you start asking questions instead of accepting the solutions as presented in the film (like why make man-shape robots and all the rest when you can build nuclear powered plasma cannons in smaller, armoured vehicles or aircraft etc and blast the monsters from a distance, etc etc.). I'm not one to question these things normally, but you know something has gone wrong when I DO start worrying about the faults instead of thinking about the fun and spectacle.

I'm tempted to mention the second Tron film in this, because so much of Pacific Rim felt borrowed from it (and from The Matrix) and that film felt like a transitioning point in the use of CGI, but by it's nature the unreality of that film was acceptable still, except for the idea of applications going for a drink after work. :p

Or maybe it's just poor story writing, with CGI being used to cover up the weakness? I'm still waiting for someone to film Ringworld, as an antidote to Marvell.


  1. I certainly don't love Sci-Fi like I used to. Does seem like CGI is not always helping. Still, there's some interesting stuff out there. Upstream Color is a fascinating lower budget film that does what good cerebral Sci-Fi should do (same director also made the Primer, another brilliant film). Timecrimes is a great Spanish film that tackles the classic time travel problems in a refreshing way. Monsters, from the director of this year's Godzilla (which is actually not bad), is really fascinating, made with minimal CGI and potentially a classic.

    As for this year's films, I enjoyed Guardians. Yes, it's not Star Wars, but the sequels are not Star Wars either! It's a goofy, fun movie.

    My pick of this year's Sci-Fi though is Edge of Tomorrow, or as it was screened here in Japan, All You Need Is Kill. Pure CGI and quite a entertaining ride with some fascinating ideas.

  2. Thanks Fern, I'll try to look at some of those.

    With Guardians, I think it's a generational thing, and a development of story style that simply appeals more to a younger generation than the one which grew up on Spiderman, Thor et al. Thinking about that, even the X men are a later series (or at least, less popular in the UK - I see they started in '63) but seem to have remained truer to the original Marvel style of fairly serious adventure.


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