Have I told any of you how much I love The Martian? It’s a fantastic movie. Every performance in there is utterly perfect in every conceivable way. It’s incredibly well shot. The CG is incredible, the set designs are used perfectly. I love this film so much. But another thing I like about it is the fact that it is smart science fiction. A horrifically lost art that hurts me inside to see what it’s become. When I look at the big-budget Hollywood movies in the genre now, it’s typically either mediocre movies like J.J. Abrams remake of Star Trek and the abysmal sequel. Or it’s absolute trash like the new Star Wars films. But hope may be out there. It’s small, but it’s there. Let’s talk about smart science fiction.
Plenty of movies have stupid science fiction. Like the aforementioned Star Trek remake, where Spock has this black hole machine that doesn’t work like an actual black hole does. Or you get shit like any of the science fiction films of the 90’s and early 2000’s. All of the alien invasion movies are the ones that rub me raw the most. I mean, really? Why is alien life always defeated by the lamest shit?
But in the last few years, always flying under the radar, are some really fantastic examples of science fiction. Naturally, pretty much all of them fall into the category of great movies that nobody saw. Just in the last couple years there have been some incredible examples. First, we have the movie that this post ostensibly is talking about, The Martian. Based off of an equally-great book (one of the few movies that stacks up to the book it’s based on), it tells the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars and his mission to stay alive. Listening to Damon’s character talk about the science involved makes me think of one of my favorite authors.
Next, we have my favorite film of 2016, Arrival. In that movie, aliens come to Earth and the first people who can actually communicate with them is a language expert and a mathematician. The process of deciphering the alien language and then being able to communicate with them on our own terms is pretty amazing. Plus, Amy Adams is phenomenal in the performance. She speaks like someone who knows her shit, as opposed to someone who is just acting like it. I have the same opinion of Damon in The Martian.
Last year, we got to see the most recent – Annihilation. That film struck such a chord with me. You ever notice in movies that pretty much all aliens, they seem to be easily understood to humanity. Star Trek was this way, of course. But in this film, the aliens are something unknowable. Telling the story of a woman whose husband is military and was deployed to an unknown location, he comes back as something else. Now, she is on a mission to figure out what happened. It’s one of the most intense and dark science fiction films I have ever seen, but it works. There is also one of the scariest horror film sequences of all time that still haunts me.
With more and more of what’s made being creatively-bankrupt dreck, such as the endless sequels, reboots, superhero films, and other mindless nonsense, the future for science fiction may be bleak. But there is hope. Several films that have really showed off the medium have been made over the last few years. It may not be too late to save this genre from utter obliteration. Or maybe it’s too late for Hollywood. I see that Disney has bought 20th Century Fox. Another studio whose good ideas they can take and drive into the ground. I fear for film as a medium. I fear for a lot of creative endeavors. But films like these give me hope for at least one medium. We’ll see what happens next.
Until next time, a quote,
“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option. I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.” – Mark Watney, The Martian