There are many reasons that I love science fiction on the screen above and beyond any other format. I’ve always been someone who enjoys being told a story where I can see it in front of me. Yes I love the theatre too, but I also love the special effects with films and TV shows to make us believe. I believed that Dorothy really was in Oz and that Superman really could fly. What gets me more is the technology used to tell that story. Looking back to the films from the 80s and 90s it looks a bit bad. I also think that one day (although I already do) we will look back at Harry Potter and think that the Quidditch scenes look a little low quality on the digital Harry. But look at something like King Kong or the Wizard of Oz, very early films in the history of taking a story from stage to screen, the Wizard for example was the first film in colour, but yet they were able to do so much. Blade Runner is another example, but it wasn’t necessarily the technology behind the story, but the incredible story itself.
But these films where classics, and probably the bigger part of my enjoyment of these was that they were films from the past that my parents and grandparents had all watched. Films and television shows from my time, where I remember seeing them at the time they were launched, well there are five that have made an impact on me.
1. Men in Black – “really?!” I hear you cry. A family comedy adventure about aliens living amongst us? Well that is exactly the reason why. This film was released when I was a teenager, at a time when I actually started to take an interested in watching the news and finding my political beliefs. The film had me asking a lot of questions. What if aliens are living amongst us? What if the Government was wiping our memories – we would in fact have no memory of it. And of course that lead to, are any of the people I know aliens in disguise? Now I knew this was all silly, but was it? Think to Sixth Sense, when we hear that he sees dead people, the camera keeps showing us Bruce Willis to point out that he, is in fact, dead. My biggest question was is this a film which is so close to the truth that we wouldn’t believe it? DC Comics did after all write a Superman comic strip about splitting the atom, right around the time that scientists where doing exactly that.
2. The Matrix – Although Men in Black gave me my opening to science fiction, the Matrix is truly the film that took me down the rabbit hole. I worked at Blockbuster video at the time. My mum had seen The Matrix at the cinema and told me I wouldn’t like it due to the gore (she meant the scene where Neo wakes up in his pod covered is goo). So, I have to admit I overlooked the film when it was at the cinema. But I decided to use one of my free rentals to give the film a go. I was drawn in with Trinity’s high kick 360 cam shot and then with the story. This is when I realised that I wasn’t just a film fan, I was a sci-fi fan. When I was at university, the summer before my final year I was pondering what to write my dissertation on. Then I read in Empire about the upcoming Matrix sequels. I read in more detail about the reference to Jean Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation as well as religion and that was it. I pitched it to my tutor, started working up the angles and eagerly awaited the release of the two films in the cinema to complete my story, just in time for me to write The Matrix: Reality and Simulation. It might have been my last piece of work at university, but I knew it wasn’t the end of my journey with sci-fi.
3. Smallville – Now I loved the Superman films growing up, and as I mentioned I like a story being told on the screen. One thing I always found myself asking at the end of a film is what happens next. I never watched a Disney film and thought I’m glad they live happily ever after, but did they have kids, did they have a long happy life together (sadly the sequels that Disney went on to make only disappointed me). When I heard that Smallville was going to tell the story of how Clark Kent became Superman, well I was intrigued to know more about his journey. I really got in to Smallville not for the story, or the technology. But the simple use of colour. I could go in to great detail about this (in fact I have on many occasions) so I won’t say more than how it is used to show when he looses his powers, becomes bad and when he grows into the man he must become. I also liked how much the writers used Superman’s back story and comics to write tell the story, rather than going off in a completely made up direction. This introduced me to Superman and why a Superman branded gift is the top of everyone’s list of what to buy me for Christmas!
4. Chuck – I am also a big fan of comedy, so when I watched this show and started to spot the sci-fi references in the first episode – Tron poster, Lost flight reference, Star Wars, etc I thought, this is a show about my kind of people that pretty much become the people they dream about. As I continued to watch I started to wonder what references and guest star cameos I was missing. I also loved the fact that the show was saved by fans, perfect for a show which is about fans. Chuck has made me want to see as much sci-fi as possible and then go back and watch the series again.
5. Inception – I wasn’t doing what I did with The Matrix and went straight to the cinema to see this one. It had me on the edge of my seat all the way through. I could hear some of the audience’s confusion and it reminded me of the time of The Matrix where I was trying to explain it to my mum – it wasn’t just the so-called ‘gore’ as to why she didn’t like it, but she didn’t understand it. The ending was brillant, but with the audience it seemed to have a bit of a Marmite affect (they either loved it or hated it). I walked out of the cinema realising that i forgot how much I missed my passion for these kind of films and how I hadn’t seem something that affected me in this way in about a decade. It also made me remember why I decided to start blogging. So I could carry on the discussions that I enjoyed so much at university with fellow film and sci-fi fans.
Now I know some people may not agree with me, and think that Men in Black is not the film to start my journey. yes Blade Runner had an impact on me, but not the first time I watched it as I felt I was too young to understand its brilliance. This is my journey, I’m sure you have a very different story to tell. But what I can say, is that my story isn’t over.
Image source: dan-dar.org