Approaching Science Fiction – Stop Setting Phasers To ‘Dumb’

Those who follow my blog posts will no doubt have noticed the recent section I’ve created entitled ‘Rapid Reviews’. This is where I take a DVD release (old or new) and review it as quickly as I can. One of the latest reviews I wrote was for the new Star Trek film, which very nearly made it is a four star film but just missed out. Some people (for some bizarre reason) disagreed with my judgement and slated the film for being too action packed. I refer these people back to my review, particularly the section where I discussed the different themes and underlying messages, clearly they were too blinded by the lens flares to notice what was right in front of them. It didn’t annoy me that much, it did however get me thinking about science fiction and the layers behind it.

When outsiders to science fiction take a glimpse at it all they mainly see is two actors, one dressed in terrible alien costume, in front of a strange setting and locked in poorly choreographed combat (not your best moment Shatner). Not being able to look past this shows quite an unengaged and impatient person if you ask me. The depths that some pieces of science fiction explore are so much more than what you see on screen. Take ‘Star Trek’ itself for example, the basic message behind it is that equality is something we should strive for. It displays a hopeful future where people live together harmoniously, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or any other factors. Admittedly it’s not all perfect and the sense of conflict is still present, but that’s just what happens when a fleet of Klingon war-birds are approaching and shields are at 30%. Regardless of this people take one look at Leonard Nimoy in the ‘silly ears’ and give up watching, which denies them access to one of the best forms of entertainment; intelligent sci fi.

From watching as much science fiction as I have you start to develop an understanding of who has a true grasp of the subject matter, and who quite frankly hasn’t. Ridley Scott is one for me that is a pioneer of science fiction, he steers away from the bog standard 12A certificate sci fi fling and presents the audience with a piece of intelligent cinema that means something. Take ‘Blade Runner’ for example, one of the best science fiction films of all time, not only was it a big, bold and unashamed science fiction film but it had depth. The underlying messages focused on quite a central idea; the idea of wanting to meet your maker. The characters that are replicants have actions that at first seem irrational and odd, until you realise that they’re merely representing the human instinct present without an understanding of rules or boundaries. The film focuses a lot on the human condition, testing the audience on what it means to be human, and what makes us who we are. There are action sequences admittedly, but they show a more gothic approach to science fiction, with Rutger Hauer giving an outstanding performance as a machine that has the freedom all humans want and the question that all humans ask; why are we here?

It’s a message that Scott keeps quite close to him in his films, ‘Prometheus’ had quite a similar message behind it. The key characters of the film are all questioning the same thing; who is their maker? The humans are on the search for who made them and what they were designed for, and then the robot character of David, played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender, understands fully who made him and what he was made for so he questions what intrigues the humans so much. It’s the sort of science fiction that makes you think about how small you are as an individual human, and if there is ever going to be an explanation for our existence. Linked closely to this there is the idea of questioning religion and faith in ‘Prometheus’, with the main character making use of the response “because it’s what I choose to believe” when justifying her actions. It shows truly intelligent sci fi when a film plunders such depths and presents philosophical arguments. David questions why Doctor Shaw still has faith even after all of the pain and loss she suffers, but she represents the human urge to seek the truth.

Cinema isn’t the only place you’ll find science fiction that has meanings to it as well, all you need to do is flick through your television channels on a Saturday and you’re sure to stumble across one of the most important science fictions creations of all time; ‘Doctor Who’. Running for fifty years now ‘Doctor Who’ is one of the single greatest science fiction creations ever to be made, presenting the audience with an interesting character that is both human and yet not human and adventures every week that take the audience away from their lives for a short period of time. The character of the Doctor is very interesting because he represents a lot of ideas linked to being human, such as the sense of adventure we all share and the need to find someone who you consider a friend. The Doctor is just like any human, he had the chance to run away from the reality of life and took it to go off and live properly, an experience I think everyone will admit they want. The show allows a lot of room for thought because it’s the alien side to the Doctor that makes him friends, and the human side that takes them away. It makes you think about the ones you love and how much you’re willing to do for them. 

On the other hand I know that a crucial element of science fiction is the action because that’s all part of the adventure. I mean if I’m honest if I want to possess a working time machine, alone with a sonic screwdriver, lightsaber and phaser. I understand that different people take different thinks from watching film and television, but being open minded helps when it comes to pieces of intelligent science fiction. I’m not saying that what I take away from science fiction is down to me watching them correctly and others not doing so results in them not enjoying it. I just feel as though judging something before you understand it properly somewhat holds you back from the key purpose of it. The purpose of it is to enjoy the experience in any and every way you can, and I thoroughly hope everyone does.


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