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Is the Sci-Fi movie dead?
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ridley Scott thinks so:
At the Venice Film Festival for a special screening of his seminal noir thriller Blade Runner, Sir Ridley said that science fiction films were going the way the Western once had. “There’s nothing original. We’ve seen it all before. Been there. Done it,” he said. Asked to pick out examples, he said: “All of them. Yes, all of them.”

The flashy effects of recent block-busters, such as The Matrix, Independence Day and The War of the Worlds, may sell tickets, but Sir Ridley believes that none can beat Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Made at the height of the “space race” between the United States and the USSR, 2001 predicted a world of malevolent computers, routine space travel and extraterrestrial life. Kubrick had such a fastidious eye for detail, he employed Nasa experts in designing the spacecraft.

Sir Ridley said that 2001 was “the best of the best”, in use of lighting, special effects and atmosphere, adding that every sci-fi film since had imitated or referred to it.
Maybe I'm just not culturally attuned or refined enough in the genre to accept such a pronouncement, but while I thought 2001 (1968) was a good film and I enjoyed it, being an old guy, I remember "Forbidden Planet" (1956) as one of the very best sci-fi movies I had ever seen. For its day, it was fabulous and it is the movie that hooked me on sci-fi. It starred Walter Pidgeon, Ann Francis, Leslie Nielsen (in a serious role no less) and Earl Holliman. It also introduced us to "Robbie the Robot".

As far as I'm concerned, it was Forbidden Planet which took the genre from the "B movie" category and made it respectable enough for Kubrik to do 2001. Of course I remember it as a 8 year old (when I saw it originally), but have seen it few times since and, frankly, it has aged pretty darn well.

Another sci-fi movie which is among my all time favorites is the original "Alien", a Scott film. A lot about that movie struck me as "original" in the way Scott is talking about 2001 although given his apparent hero worship I don't expect him to acknowledge his own film or put it in the same category.

So A) do you agree with Scott that the genre is "dead"? Or is this like the guy who wanted to close the patent office because he thought everything that could be invented had been invented?

B) do you agree 2001 is the standard for "best of the best" in Sci-Fi movies?

C) do you have any other Sci-Fi movies you'd add to Alien, 2001 and Forbidden Planet as among the best?
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Previous Comments to this Post 

It’s just resting.

Any genre needs a good story. There haven’t been many good sci-fi movies lately. I blame Hollywood for being uncreative.
Written By: jows
URL: http://
A. No.

B. Yes.

C. I’d like to offer up a little praise for the original star wars. It took the concept of "routine space travel" to what now seems like it logical conclusion, that lowbrow, unsavory types can travel through space in their beat up hunks of junk. It felt like an aesthetic breakthrough to me.
Written By: frendlydude2k
URL: http://
A)— I would open film up to comparison with what used to be a favored form of mine: the SF short-story. It’s been decades since I read any of that, but I recall a variety so florid that it only rarely occurred to me that a theme had been "done before". I think Scott is myopic: he’s not seeing the forest because of the trees he’s living in. In that aspect, however, he’s no different from anyone with executive approval of scripts. Whether they’re being written might be open to dispute, but it’s not as if they couldn’t be.

B)— No, I don’t. I love Kubrick, he’s my favorite director, but I thought that film was junk and I still do.

C) — Alien is an exemplary candidate.
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—
A) Not even close to dead. In any era Scott cares to exalt, there are counterexamples of crap SF movies, just as today we have plenty of crap (some of it entertaining) and a little bit of quite good. I’d nominate Children of Men as a recent of example of an excellent SF film.

B) Scott’s Blade Runner and Alien are both superior to 2001.

C) See above. Donnie Darko, Minority Report also. Both probably a notch below the others mentioned, but have the virtue of being recent counterexamples.

This came up on DA Ridgeley’s blog a little while back, and I mentioned Brazil too, but some might not consider it SF.
Written By: Robby
URL: http://
In order:
A) No. Many considered the Western as dead and gone and then modern classics like Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and Eastwoods’ Unforgiven come along. I agree with "jows" that a good story is a good story when painted with a Science Fiction brush or a Western one.

B) No. Just like in Baseball and Football, comparing the Hall-of-Famers from one era to another is difficult because of the evolution of the genre. Who was the greatest Home Run Hitter of all time - Ruth, Aaron or Bonds. Was the movie a revelation in its day and did it further the development of the genre. Those should be the basis of comparison.

C)You could even go back to the Silent Movie days of Metropolis to see a movie that rivals 2001 as the standard for "best of the best" in Sci-Fi movies for that era. I would say Forbidden Planet, Star Wars, Alien and Blade Runner could fit as among the best in their differing eras.
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
"There’s nothing original. We’ve seen it all before."
What arrogance! SciFi has more originality in it that all other forms of literature put together.

I would argue the exact opposite of Scott. Advancing technology gives the ability to put up stories that could never have been done before. "The Matrix" was impossible in, say 1990, and only barely possible when it was filmed in the late 1990s. But those effects are common now. New technologies and effects open up similar possibilities.

Just off the top of my head, I can think of a host of SF novels that I think would be fabulous films:

- The Mote in God’s Eye (the finest first-contact story ever written)
- The Moon in a Harsh Mistress
- Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat (a blockbuster in waiting, and could become a franchise)
- Ender’s Game (just show me a SciFi movie centered around children)
- Citizen of the Galaxy (Heinlein’s best juvenile)
- Spider Robinson’s Lady Sally stories (much better for movies than the Callahan’s Bar stories, I think)

Most of those could never have been done twenty years ago, but they could be today, I think.

(Certainly there are SF novels that probably would not transfer well to a movie. I’d put "Stranger in a Strange Land" and the Foundation series in that category. I’ve stuck to great stories that I think would translate well to the screen, and for which there’s been nothing similar ever done.)

For the remaining questions, 2001 was pretty good and a well-crafted movie, but a bit tedious and the deux ex machina ending left a lot to be desired. Forbidden Planet was better. So was The Matrix (though the sequels rather ruined the experience of watching the original). And I’d put Back to the Future on the list. What a fun movie to watch, and extremely well crafted. Same for Men in Black. (I think comedy is harder to do than drama, and good comedies deserve consideration on any best-movie list.)

And I do not put Alien in the very first rank of SF movies because I consider it too derivative. The story is basically lifted wholesale from "The Thing", or to be more precise, from the story that inspired both versions of that movie (Who Goes There?). Alien was well done, of course, but I don’t think it’s as good as The Matrix or Forbidden Planet.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
The dearth of invention in the science fiction model involves, as much as anything else, a decent story line. If I recall correctly, that was one of Gene Roddenberry is biggest objects; getting a decent storyline going. It was first a decent story, for him, with science fiction draped over it. The lack of that good story line, in my view, is precisely why there hasn’t been any decent science fiction movies lately.

Roddenberry, for his part, was blessed with a basic character ensemble which allowed for serious exploration of the human condition, by means of exploring each of the characters from one individual angle. This is precisely why that series in its many forms has been successful. In short, the way it was setup, allowed for great storytelling. the measurement, they are, in my view, is the surprising number of books that came out of that series, which could very easily have been made into movies, themselves. I’m in the process of re-reading Peter David’s Vedetta, as one example of such. A great story line.

Though, frankly, as time went on, TNG started becoming not storytelling, but preaching. When that transition occurred, they lost the edge. As an example,"The Outcast" from season 5... well too far are each for the characters involved to make a social point. the storytelling suffered under the stretch.

Science fiction stories, by their very definition, require a certain level of flash and splash to make the transition to film. But to many science fiction films are all flash and splash, all technical, and no story line that is adoptable.

That said, the plight of science fiction as a genre, is not unique; why in the world does anybody think Rocky 10, or whatever the hell it was, was released just recently? Same problem... the writers can’t for the life of them think of any new stories to tell. So they extrapolate from the old one, and hope nobody notices. How many movies have we seen like that? We live in the age of the sequel, because nobody can figure out a new story line. Formula, over substance.

On the other hand, why does anyone think that "Lord of the Rings" did as well as it did? (Yes, I know it’s not technically science fiction...) Granted that technically, the movie was spectacular. But it is heart, it was a great story. Which, in turn, is why the book(s) did so well. And it’s precisely because the story line was so good, that people came to see the movie, despite for the most part knowing how it came out.

Written By: Bithead
A.) No
B.) No
C.)I enjoyed "Gattaca." It highlighted how medical advances were used by governmental forces to thwart achievement.

I’d like to see something done to make a full length movie of Kurt Vonnegut’s "Harrison Bergeron." Maybe it’s been done. If so, let me know.
Written By: tom scott
URL: http://
"Made at the height of the "space race" between the United States and the USSR, 2001 predicted a world of malevolent computers,"

Okay, so, he predicted Bills Gates and Algore’s internet? Big deal! Truth is stranger than fiction (and Algore has got to be a work of fiction).
Written By: Sharpshooter
URL: http://
A) no.

B) no. I was in college when it came out, and a big science fiction fan. It played really well among that group who walked around looking dour with a copy of "Thus Spake Zarathrustra" sticking out of their pocket. It also played well among those who were perpetually surrounded by a haze of pot smoke. I found it an interesting beginning, a pedestrian middle, and a maddeningly opaque ending. In other words, it was just what the Artsy-fartsy crowd thought SF should be.

C) I nominate "Blade Runner" as a really top-notch movie. I would nominate Roger Zelazny’s "Lord of Light" as a good novel to film. It really blurs the SF-fantasy line, but it’s an excellent read, and I’d love to see the potential grandeur filmed. Charles Sheffield wrote some stuff that would make good movies, too. Likewise, Tim Powers blurs the SF-fantasy line and a couple of his novels would make good movies.

However, given that Hollywood typically thinks it’s the Fount Of All Creativity, it seems unlikely that they would be willing to bring a true version of either of these to the screen. Starship Troopers pretty much proved that, I think.

Written By: JorgXMcKie
URL: http://
The science fiction film isn’t dead.

However, space opera films are. Hollywood science fiction films are stuck in the rut that science fiction itself abandoned nearly 70 years ago. The rut can be spruced up with more sophisticated special effects but practically everything that the space opera phase had to say was said by 1940.

Character-driven science fiction (the development of the 1940’s and 1950’s) has barely been scratched. A few of the old Outer Limits and Twilight Zone TV shows touched on it but there’s still plenty left to do. And the later developments have hardly been alluded to.
Written By: Dave Schuler
To bend the premise a bit from "sci-fi film" I’d say you can look at the current Battlestar Galactica, Firefly/Serenity, plus the animes Akira and the various Ghost in the Shell works and say sci-fi is far from dead.
Written By: abw
A) No.

B) No. 2001 A Space Odyssey was not only not a great movie, it wasn’t even a good movie. It was pretentious and boring. That scene with the obelisk and the apes made me laugh out loud.

C) My favorite recent movie is Serenity, which beautifully merged the SciFi and Western genres.
Written By: Tim K
URL: http://
A) No

B) I’m not sure. It’s stunning, no doubt, but I guess I’m a little young to be totally awed by it. The original Alien is most certainly a benchmark as well.

C) I’ll agree on Blade Runner, but also put forward Black Hole, an old film I saw a lot years and years ago on the Disney channel, back when they still showed movies... I really did like it.
(and Algore has got to be a work of fiction)
I disagree. If we accept the premiss that "truth is stranger than fiction", Algore MUST be real, because GOD is he ever strange...

Also, abw and Tim make me happy. Anyone offering up the new version of BSG and Firefly/Serenity are good, God-fearing people... Truly fine human beings...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
A. No.

B. I haven’t been able to watch 2001 to the end.

C. The Fifth Element. That one with Vin Deisel doesn’t get near the credit it deserves. There are so many that are good and so many that are good but not remarkable.

And so many that are bad.

I’d suggest that one problem is that the science fiction movies that appeal to a non-science fiction audience simply aren’t very good and the really good movies that do science fiction very well aren’t considered particularly good because they self-limit the audience by being weird.

Ah, I just remembered the name... Chronicles of Riddick. Pitch Black was a really *good* science fiction movie that, underneath the "people die one by one" was squarely based on redemption with the twist that the wrong person survived. The sequel, Riddick was created for the big screen and the story, really, is very good... the forces of evil aren’t defeated and the hero isn’t a good guy and there’s enough strangeness to juxtapose unreality against stark human truth.

But it doesn’t seem intellectual on the surface of it. Someone who likes to go to the high-brow shows isn’t going to get past, "Well, there’s a death cult, see, except that what they are preaching is actually real, so it’s sort of like they’re turning everyone into zombies except that they don’t rot."

Blade Runner is a very good movie but it’s almost equally as Riddick, on the surface, about the strangeness. Of course it’s really about who has the right to even desire to live, which is a basic human question.
Written By: Synova
1) No. Serenity alone proves that.

2) No, but I think 2001 was outstanding for its time.

3) Besides films already mentioned above, I suggest Silent Running, Men in Black, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which were all special in their own ways.
Written By: Tim K
URL: http://
Oops! I wrote the comments above, not Tim K. Also, I forgot Twelve Monkeys.
Written By: Tim K
URL: http://
I do not think it is dead. It has dropped down in film making, but there are still completely and utterly fantastic scifi books being written. They should think about using those. Would love to see one of Michael Marshal Smith’s books done, particularly Only Forward and Spares.

2001 was fantastic, but, being as I was what, maybe 11 or 12 at the time Star Wars came out, gotta go with that.

How about The Terminator? Terminator 3 was fantasitic, as well. Empire Strikes back. I really enjoyed Revenge of the Site. Maybe a bit in more of the horror genre, but Underworld. Finally, one of my favorites (meaning I bought it), Serenity. Glad to see so many others agree.

Right now, Hollywood seems to be stuck in a rut with slasher movies which go too much for the gore. Saw was great. Saw III was an abysmal, vile movie. Sometimes it is best to let the audience imagine what is going on, not show it. Sooner or later, scifi will be back on the big screen.
Written By: William Teach
So A) do you agree with Scott that the genre is "dead"? Or is this like the guy who wanted to close the patent office because he thought everything that could be invented had been invented?
Of course not, as some of said Westerns, along comes The Unforgiven.....
B) do you agree 2001 is the standard for "best of the best" in Sci-Fi movies?
Yes, it is...Forbidden Planet is great too...
C) do you have any other Sci-Fi movies you’d add to Alien, 2001 and Forbidden Planet as among the best?
1) 2001-great film, beautiful and a lot of artsy symbolism
2) Forbidden Planet-Beautiful film, a remake of the Tempest, nice artsy film, in its own way
3) Alien-A great film, just not as deep as the others. Flight Officer Ripley was iconic...Yaphet Kotto was tremedous, as well as Harry Dean Stanton as Brett. Thought Ash was marvelous, "I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality..... I can’t lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies."

A great film was Aliens....The BEST Sequel, ever. From start to finish, it’s visually and story-wise compelling. See the Director’s Cut where Ripely sees pictures of her dead daughter. P/Sgt Apone was the quintessential NCO, "All right, sweethearts, what are you waiting for? Breakfast in bed? Another glorious day in the corps! A day in the Marine Corps is like a day on the farm. Every meal’s a banquet! Every paycheck a fortune! Every formation a parade! I LOVE the corps" Or;
"Hudson: Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?
Vasquez: No. Have you? " Loved this film. So, I’d put this up there as a movie great.

Three was the most DEPRESSING film I’ve seen and the fourth one was appalling.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
You just gotta know where to look.

I recommend Nightwatch for a GREAT new entry (it’s a Russian film but so what?)
Written By: shark
URL: http://
The comparison of Sci-Fi films to Westerns is apt, and many here recognize that Unforgiven is a masterpiece.

Before Unforgiven there was Silverado: an older style Western that re-opened the genre. After that movie it still took years for Hollywood to give a transfusion to a style they thought was dead, but they did and Young Guns, The Quick and the Dead, Tombstone and Maverick indicated an interest in the previously moribund. One could argue that the original Hitcher and Breakdown were modernized Westerns, and therein lies the marketing superiority of Sci-Fi. No need to update it.

The Hollywood money will not flow towards anything that is not a proven, timely seller; but by the time of filming, pre and post production and marketing, the windows for some flicks will have closed. This is why Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Comedy, and Horror will continue to dominate. Period dramas are okay, but rarely make back their outlay with budgeted return. Vanity projects.

I’d love to see a big budget production of Alan Dean Foster’s The Man Who Used the Universe or John Steakley’s Armor, but anything by Tim Powers or from Harry Harrison’s Deathworld or Stainless Steel Rat series would be grand.Good for Billy and Jorg for thinking of them and for expanding the accepted defintions of Sci-Fi. Both are based in good science, but Powers is more fantastic, and Harrison’s are capers/heists, and he already has Soylent Green under his belt, so it’s a toss up and I’ll go with Donald Westlake’s novella Anarchaos which would have few enough CGI scenes and would therfore piss me off less.

Need to get a petition going against bone dumb CGI. It’s kind of an insult. "No need for plot or camera work, we’ve got a mook with a Mac who will change perspective as you see fit!"

Sliding down the trunk of a war elephant? Bite me, Legolas.
Written By: Uncle Pinky
URL: http://
Alien is a good movie. But it is far from original in concept. It is simply the Sci-Fi version of the slasher films that were common in its day. Unlike those films, it was well written and produced. But its basically a group of people more or less trapped together getting picked off one by one by an almost unstoppable killer who lurks in the shadows. That’s basically Jason or Michael Myers.

So its sort of funny when he’s saying its been all done before. I guess it was.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
I’m a huge Sci-Fi fan. I’ve devoured everything I can find by Asimov, and ready heavily from authors like Arthur Clarke, Frederick Pohl, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Larry Niven, Harlan Ellison, George RR Martin, Aldiss, Zelazny, Van Vogt, EE "Doc" Smith, L Sprague De Camp, Lester Del Ray, and pretty much the entire lineup of legends found and molded by John W Cambell, Jr. during Science Fiction’s Golden Age.

I have never seen a genuinely good sci-fi movie.

I’ve seen good movies. I’ve seen good horror movies. I’ve seen good fantasy movies. But I’ve never seen a good science fiction movie. Nothing I’ve ever seen has captured the magic, mind-expanding thoughtfulness and creativity of a good science fiction story. Most of them just turn the science fiction into something else - fantasy, generally.
Written By: Jon Henke
A great film was Aliens....The BEST Sequel, ever.
I agree. But that’s because Alien was, in reality, a horror film and Aliens was an action-adventure film. Had they tried to recapture the horror in Aliens, they’d have failed miserably.
Three was the most DEPRESSING film I’ve seen and the fourth one was appalling.
Yes and yes.
Written By: McQ

I have never seen a genuinely good sci-fi movie.
Tell us what is lacking in the best of the genre (ie, 2001, Gattaca, Solaris (hate the original, never saw remake but everyone talks about it), etc)
Written By: abw
"Nothing I’ve ever seen has captured the magic, mind-expanding thoughtfulness and creativity of a good science fiction story. Most of them just turn the science fiction into something else - fantasy, generally."
Isaac Asimov once said that all he needed was one impossible premise in order to make a good science-fiction story.

I say that’s damned good authority, and I would submit "Predator" as an example in film. Yes; it’s also a horror film and action film, but it’s that impossible premise that finally refines the qualification.
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—
Don’t think it is dead put a few more movies like transformers will put it in the ICU.

2001 is not the best.

Blade Runner and the fifth element are two that I would add to the best. They seem to be opposite sides of the same coin. Blade Runner dark, atmospheric visually stunning. Fifth element, funny, irreverent, interesting plot line.

One of the things that really got my attention in Blade Runner was its soundscape. The sound in the scenes is utterly packed with audio (bikes riding by, rain, talking crosswalk signals, etc)that does a lot to construct the final atmospherics of the film.
Written By: TJIT
URL: http://
"There’s nothing original. We’ve seen it all before."

There is truth in that, but you can say that about any genre. After all, people have been creating literature for several thousand years. How many plots, conflicts, characters, etc. are left to create? Arthur C. Clarke wrote ’Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. A thousand years ago magic, the Gods, etc. was used in literature, now we also use advanced technology.

The genre is no more dead than any other. The problem seems to me to be that directors rely too much on special effects and ’Gee Whiz, this is amazing’ rather than plot, characters, etc. Most of the SF movies I have seen have been pretty rotten, even the ones with an interesting or novel theme.

To me, a good movie is one that I would not mind watching for a second or third time. Watching 2001 was great the first time, but I can live without seeing it again. Too much reliance on special effects and visuals; once you get used to them, the pace is too slow and the movie drags. I may be exposing myself(again, some might say) as a dunce, but I still don’t get the theme or the ending. 2001 is not, in my opinion, ’the best of the best’. SF is no different than any other genre, to be good you need the same elements that make a good western, mystery, etc.

"Things to Come" (1936), based on H.G. Wells’ "The Shape of Things to Come" has always stuck in my mind. I would like to see it again.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Coming late to the party I am mostly repeating what others have said but to put it all together.
1) You are correct, Forbidden Planet was "borrowed" from far more than 2001

2) There are literally thousands of great Sci Fi stories out there but Hollywood is notorious for only wanting to repeat itself.

3) Even though something has been done before, it can still be done in a totally fresh way witness Battlestar Galactica.

4) Blade Runner was really great, but what was it? It was basically a detective film noir set in the near future. Serenity/Firefly is a western set in the far future. Star Trek was Horatio Hornblower set in the future. If we get anything new it will probably be just a blending of genres.

My immediate prediction for the future: We will start to see more "end of the world/last man on earth" type stories just like in the late 1960,s. It all comes in cycles.
Written By: kyleN
None, Jon? Gotta be one. Now it is a challenge. How about Metropolis? The original Invisible Man? The original Planet of the Apes? The Thing From Another World? Star Trek II?

Of course it is difficult to capture what is in a book, but, that is always true.
Written By: William Teach
Pixar’s "The Incredibles" worked pretty well ... Of course if you stretch SF far enough to cover that you’ve encompassed most of the James Bond films, too.

The thing, is, the "one impossible thing" premise makes for a lot of candidate SF movies. "Jurassic Park" or any of the Michael Crichton stuff fits. ( JP is another film I would nominate for a top ten SF list and introduce to the coroner as evidence that the genre is not dead. )

Nobody mentioned "Back to the Future" ? In particular, part two?

Written By: pouncer
URL: http://
I’d say four things happened to Sci-Fi: 1. Losing the distinction between sci-fi, or hard sci sci-fi and fantasy, 2. Gene Roddenberry, and, 3. Hollywood, and 4. Sci-fi’s inferiority complex. Twenty years ago or so, the hard sci and fantasy groupies were at war; today, there is almost none of the former, and all the latter. Then, there was Gene Roddenberry and Hollywood. Star Trek, other than the original series, was poisoned by its utopianism, giving us such classic idiotic lines as, "We no longer imprison animals for food production." That utopianism, always juvenile and simplistic and sometimes worse, coupled with the equally silly apocalyptic movies (Mad Max). Add Hollywood and the inferiority complex, and you get "message movies," which are about as subtle as an armor piercing bullet. You also get pretentious crap like Dhalgren (though thank God nobody has tried to make a movie out of that).

There is good sci-fi on film, as others have pointed out. BSG is at least among the very best ever, if not the best. But good sci-fi is the exception, not the norm.
Written By: rightwingprof
Rock n Roll is a lot deader than sci-fi. A lot of good films mentioned, and some that I disagree wholeheartedly with. 2001 a space idiotcy stank (I could see that from within my pot-smoke filled aura). Nobody has mentioned Terminator. I liked it a lot. Blade runner is there, as well as Forbidden Planet. Serenity was ok, love Joss Whedon’s dialog.

I don’t think that sci-fi is being ignored because it won’t sell. Hollywood just hasn’t got a clue. It is just the same bunch of people, most of whom have run out of ideas years ago. The best movie that I have seen this year is 300. It is almost impossible to get me to go to a movie any more. I love comic books as well as sci-fi, so I will abide. Robert Hienlein instructed us on editors (screenwriters) and since none of his wonderful stories have translated to film well, his point is well taken.

Ridley Scott apparently is admitting that he is out of ideas. Colour me amazed.
Written By: Paden Cash
URL: http://
Spaceballs... Going to ludicrous speed still makes my sides ache.
Written By: dude
URL: http://
Out of ideas, indeed.

And if we’re going to include Spaceballs we mustn’t forget Galaxy Quest. ;-)

Hollywood does weird things to movies because of what they think they can sell or not and I’m not certain that I can say they are wrong. Someone mentioned Ender’s Game and that it would be a good movie. That book has been optioned multiple times. So what did they want to do to it? Make Ender a teenager! Why? Because it’s not a kid movie and there’s a "rule" that the main characters have to be the same age as the target audience. Not that book publishers don’t do weird things too.. my husband and I were shocked to find Ender’s Game in the children’s section of a book store! It’s not a kid’s book and wouldn’t be a kid’s movie and it just wouldn’t *work* if Ender isn’t eight. (Or whatever the heck age he is.)

My favorite author ever, Lois Bujold, had an offer to option one of her books and I think she decided not to do it (the risk of actually having the movie made is small, but there is still a risk.) I don’t know if she’s sold options since then or not. It’s got to be hard to resist the free money. I think that it’s probably best for her to avoid letting Hollywood muck with her stuff but I’d love to see what the Japanese did with it.

Some of the best science fiction I’ve seen has been Japanese Anime. It’s got a couple of things going for it... they avoid the trap that animation can’t be watched by adults and animation solves some of the CGI problems *and* I feel that animation more than live action stimulates audience participation in the imaginative elements of a story.
Written By: Synova
"Spaceballs... "

Right, I forgot that one. Good point. A sure sign that SF fans take the genre too seriously is thefact that you are the first to mention a funny SF movie. Of course, some of them are so pretentious they are unintentionally funny. I thought Martin Landau and Barbara Bain in "Space, 1999", for example, were hysterical.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"And if we’re going to include Spaceballs we mustn’t forget Galaxy Quest."

Arrgghh! How could I forget. Funny movie.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
While I like (and own) "Forbidden Planet," the 1951 half sci-fi / half anti-war film "The Day the Earth Stood Still" was (and may still be) the best selling B&W video. I got in line at Amazon to get my DVD of this classic featuring Michael Rennie as Klaatu, Lock Martin as Gort, and Patricia Neal as Helen Benson ("Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!").

It won a Golden Globe for "Best Film Promoting International Understanding" and was nominated for Golden Globe for "Best Motion Picture Score" for the Bernard Herrmann score that set the standard for sci-fi motion pictures.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
I watched Contact again last night, and thought it was worth a mention (if not "best of the best", at least adding to the pile of original films). I don’t think sci-fi is dead, although I do think Hollywood has more misses than hits in the genre. pouncer was right about Jurassic Park, although the first book had all the best scenes from all three movies.
Written By: Bryan Pick
A) do you agree with Scott that the genre is "dead"? Or is this like the guy who wanted to close the patent office because he thought everything that could be invented had been invented?
No, but "pure" sci-fi movies seem to be few and far between these days... there’s a lot of stuff out there passing for sci-fi that could just as easily be categorized as fantasy.
B) do you agree 2001 is the standard for "best of the best" in Sci-Fi movies?
No, if only because I have such a hard time narrowing down a list of the movies I love to just one that I can hold up as THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE.
C) do you have any other Sci-Fi movies you’d add to Alien, 2001 and Forbidden Planet as among the best?
There’s already been a lot of good suggestions here... but I’d like to add The Final Cut to the list of great movies. I also thought I, Robot was unduly maligned by the Asimov purists.
Written By: Watcher
A) No. The problem is, it seems that every studio is convinced that unless you make another "Star Wars" it isn’t worth making a SciFi movie.

B) Pitch Black, GATTACA, Ghost in the Machine, Iron Giant, First Season of the new BattleStar Galactica, and Serenity were all better than 2001. Sorry, that movie was loaded up with pretentious dialogue and "look how clever I am" camera shots.

C) See above. But I would also say that you could add Incredible Voyage, The Matrix, The Original Star Wars trilogy, The Terminator, and The Road Warrior among the best of the genre.
Written By: MunDane
URL: http://
A) No.

B) No.

C) Can’t have a comment thread that mentions both sci-fi and westerns without one of my favorites — the excellent Outland. Not western-themed but still good was Kurt Russell’s Soldier. And on the topic of Russell, Escape from New York was a fun romp. And Strange Days.
Written By: Achillea
URL: http://
do you agree with Scott that the genre is "dead"? Or is this like the guy who wanted to close the patent office because he thought everything that could be invented had been invented?
Interest in genres can SEEM to fade, but they are always one movie away from renewed interest. The way we classify genres is wrong, with some being subject matter and geography (Romance and Westerns), some being how the tale is related (drama and action adventure), and some being the style used to film the story (film noir, anime), while others it’s just about the emotion the film illicits (horror, thriller).

It’s easy to say that film noir is dead in comparison to action adventure, but it’s also silly, they are apples and oranges. Many great Sci-Fi movies and Westerns ARE Action-Adventure (Aliens) or Horror movies (Alien). Oh, and by the way, an interesting Sci-Fi, Film-Noir, Thriller is a movie called Dark City with Rufus Sewall (the bad guy from A Knights Tale).

As a story foundation, there is revenge, love, survival, and quest (which are often one of the previous three) stories. Virtually every story ever filmed can fit into these basic story concepts, so in that respect, there are no new ideas. But getting away from the foundation, there are unlimited numbers of new ways to tell these foundational stories.

I happen to enjoy seeing these stories told (or retold) in the Sci-fi and Western genres, or both as with High Noon and Outland, or both at the same time as with Serenty/Firefly.
do you agree 2001 is the standard for "best of the best" in Sci-Fi movies?
No way, 2001 was not even the best Sci-Fi movie of 1968, Planet of the Apes was better, and was not Kubrick’s best Sci-Fi film, A Clockwork Orange was better, so was Dr. Strangelove (classified as Sci-Fi).
do you have any other Sci-Fi movies you’d add to Alien, 2001 and Forbidden Planet as among the best?

Has anyone mentioned The Day The Earth Stood Still?

Serenity is the best Sci-Fi movie in the last 20 years, but y’all have hit upon most of the movies I’d put at the top of my list. In response to theory that Sci-Fi is dead, here are some movies from the last two decades, and all of them are great to some people. I have selected the one’s I enjoyed... some more than others, and I have highlighted some that I think are lesser known gems...

Back to the Future III (1990)
Darkman (1990)
Predator 2 (1990)
Total Recall (1990)
Tremors (1990)
Terminator 2 Judgement Day (1991)
Freejack (1992)
Lawnmower Man (1992)
Demolition Man (1993)
Jurassic Park (1993)
Stargate (1994)
Timecop (1994)
12 Monkeys (1995)
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Tank Girl (1995)
Virtuousity (1995)
Waterworld (1995)
Arrival, The (1996)
Independence Day (1996)
Mars Attacks (1996)
Contact (1997)
Event Horizon (1997)
Fifth Element, The (1997)
Gattaca (1997)
Men In Black (1997)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Armageddon (1998)
Dark City (1998)
Deep Impact (1998)
Soldier (1998)
Astronaut’s Wife (1999)
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Matrix, The (1999)
Frequency (2000)
Mission to Mars (2000)
Pitch Black (2000)

Red Planet (2000)
Evolution (2001)
Equilibrium (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
Signs (2002)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
I, Robot (2004)
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Island, The (2005)
Serenity (2005)
Deja Vu (2006)
Scanner Darkly, A (2006)
Slither (2006)
V for Vendetta (2006)
Children of Men (2007)

Here’s some movies from the dead genre coming soon... (some will suck, but others...)

Cat’s Cradle
Day Zero
Demolished Man, The
Dr. Strange
Ender’s Game
Farenheit 451
Red Dwarf, The Movie
Rendezvous with Rama

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
The problem with any movie is that with few exceptions you need a good story to back it up. 2001 was ok, because you were wondering what the heck is going on, but the sequels were lame.

Critics tend to want some artsy films that show how sophisticated they are, while Hollywood only makes films that they are sure will recoup their losses. The result is that Hollywood remakes the same films and plots over and over, and the Critics all bemoan it.

You can see the same thing in video games. How many times have space marines fought aliens to save the earth? Millions of times, but then somebody comes around and does it again with a good story and they rack up half a million pre-orders.

Of course, poor philosophy also kills movies. Shooter, and other anti-war movies that portray soldiers as killbots commanded by satan worshiping republicans always fail the "suspension of disbelief" needed for films, and thus suck. But they keep getting made because Hollywood critics can’t seem to get enough of them.
Written By: the Brain
URL: http://
I wanted Shooter to be a good movie, and it had it’s moments. His dead friend’s wife explaining her husband’s service was good. And then it all went into Truther-ville. Ugh. I think it was meant to be "pro-troop" by showing that the real bad guys were the "satan worshiping republicans."

A conspiracy with a few power addicted puppet-masters is always fun but in the world of "The Shooter" it really would have been possible for hoards of evil, and perfectly loyal, minions to blow up the world trade center with explosives, additional hoards of evil, and perfectly loyal, minions "disappear" two plane-loads of civilians never to be heard of again, and yet additional hoards of evil, and perfectly loyal, minions to fly missiles into the Pentagon and two of the planes into the twin towers just for kicks. This veritable army of operatives who never had a moment of conscience or even drunkenness that led to them telling the secret to a lover in the middle of the night is a necessity and impossibility. This is all the way into the realm of Homer Simpson getting hired on as a minion of Dr. No.

I’m all for enjoying the fantastical elements of a film for the sake of fun but there’s got to be a limit.
Written By: Synova
The problem with any movie is that with few exceptions you need a good story to back it up. 2001 was ok, because you were wondering what the heck is going on, but the sequels were lame
Interesting you should say that, given that the sequels had a far more discernible storyline than did the original.
Written By: Bithead
Interesting you should say that, given that the sequels had a far more discernible storyline than did the original.
In this case, no discernible story is better than a discernibly bad story.

Just my humble opinion, but I thought 2001 was pretentious crap with nice visuals and a great score.

We know Kubrick is capable of making atrocious movies, and I don’t think 2001 was any better than Eyes Wide Shut.
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
We know Kubrick is capable of making atrocious movies
WAS capable

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
I was just reminded, as I messed around on iTunes, of a true classic of Sci-Fi...


Not a movie propper, but god it was amazing...
We know Kubrick is capable of making atrocious movies
WAS capable
Dude, after "Eyes Wide Shut", I wouldn’t put it past him to make a crap film from beyond the grave...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://

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