This week on Comparative Opinions we’ll be talking about “Hollywood Fatigue”… more on that on the podcast! But thinking through movies, and Hollywood, and originality, I was reminded of this post I ran on my now mostly defunct personal blog. And about how there were some great movies I was incredibly excited about and excited by just a couple of years ago, and that’s without including several other excellent movies that year! I still think 2014 was a remarkable year for movies, and it wasn’t that long ago so things aren’t long gone from that. But without further ado, my contenders for the Science Fiction Film Trifecta of 2014.
I have been putting thought into doing more in terms of Science Fiction lately. More than anything, I’ve been thinking about doing more with my idea of Science Fiction Today. The idea being, take today’s problems, consider them in a Science Fiction setting, and consider whether we can be working on a solution to a problem in that way. I explained it all in more detail on Comparative Geeks.
This whole line of thought is where I started blogging from. My initial question on my Tumblr was, what would it be like for our presidential candidates (and other politicians) to present their beliefs in a Science Fictional sort of way – to say what they think the future would really look like if we followed their beliefs and plans into the future. I was contemplating writing it myself, but everything I thought of seemed like a Dystopia…
So this brings me around to the title. And some of my thinking is, maybe Science Fiction is doing alright on its own. Maybe it doesn’t need me championing the way it considers and explains the world. Maybe the big ideas I think are important are being shared with the public on a broader scale. My thoughts for this are based on three movies this year, each very different from each other, and all from big-name directors presenting big ideas. So read on for some of my thoughts on Noah, Lucy, and Interstellar!
As I wrote on Comparative Geeks, Noah totally surprised me by pulling off being one of the best movies I have seen. I think I have this opinion because it made an argument I want to see made, because it bucked the trend of everything falling into categories of either Creationism or Evolutionism. Evolution believers? Scientists? Whatever the term is.
Okay, you say, why am I bringing this up in the middle of a post about Science Fiction? Well, for one thing, I write a series about Science Fiction and Religion on Comparative Geeks. For another, the film is by Darren Aronofsky, maker of other fine, thinking, fantastical movies like The Fountain and Black Swan. And it is, in many ways, a visual-heavy reimagining of the story of Noah from the Bible. Pulling from a lot of older ideas, like the Nephalim. And, I argue, pulling from the idea in Hebrew storytelling of the main point being not at the end of an argument, but being in the middle.
In which case, the most important part of the movie is the middle, when, while Noah is telling the story of creation from Genesis, the visuals on the screen are the Big Bang, followed by Evolution. And the story and visuals track quite nicely. Which for me, is like saying, why do the two have to be at odds with each other? Why can scientists not be believers, and believers not believe science? Or, put another way, why do people believe that God is so small that he could not have created the universe in the ways we have discovered through science?
I think that the approach in the movie to this concept was amazing, and I highly recommend checking it out just for this scene. Or, you could just watch the scene as it appears on YouTube:
So the last was a religious-adaptation movie that I have reclassed as Science Fiction… now how about an action movie that I’ll reclass as Science Fiction? Luc Besson is known for his heavy-action movies, though the ones he has actually directed have been some good ones: Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, these sorts of films. Good stuff. But it meant that people went to Lucy expecting more of the same, and what they got was a meta-level exploration of Science Fiction, particularly of the idea of the super-human.
So I wrote a post on this at Comparative Geeks as well, about how Lucy is good Science Fiction. However, my appreciation was colored by other explorations of Science Fiction I have experienced lately and over time. For me, it comes back to Dune, which is so important to my thinking and is much of my philosophical grounding. Dune asks important thoughts about human consciousness, and in particular about seeing the future.
Lucy explores these themes heavily, and tries through both words and visuals to explain it. I think the movie is deeper than a lot of reviewers want to give Besson credit for being. But I thought it was good. I thought these important explorations, about what near-omniscience would be like. What it would be like to be more than we are. I recommend this movie as well: check it out expecting Science Fiction, expecting to think, and ignoring the whole “we use 10% of our brains!” thing that is more of a focus in the trailers than in the movie itself… and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
And finally, my third film, Interstellar. I wrote early on, after having only just seen the trailer, that this was one of the things I was most excited about this year. The year also seemed pretty front-loaded, so it’s the main thing I’m still looking forward to this year! And it’s the next Christopher Nolan movie, a man who has made mind-bending cinema a constant reality. The man who gave us Inception, a word that I think is now entering the lexicon, is now giving us a movie about how we need to move on to interstellar travel.
I said I look to Dune for philosophy. And one of my take-aways from Dune is that society should never be dependent on a single point of failure. In the books it’s Arrakis, Dune, the one planet where the Spice is found, which allows for interstellar travel and other benefits. In the real world, I argue that this single point of failure is the Earth.
If nuclear winter happens, we’re done. The climate changes too drastically? Done. Zombie apocalypse. You name it. All these disaster ideas we have floating through our collective consciousness… what is our escape plan? How would we survive such an event? I hope Interstellar explores this idea; it seems like it’s going to. I think this idea is incredibly important, as having human life set up on more than one planet seems like a solution to so many of our problems (bringing me back to Science Fiction Today…)
So What Does It All Mean To Me?
I often find that people get stuck arguing points without getting back to underlying assumptions, and that the political arena is full of arguments like this – where the fundamentals are so different between people that they’re not even actually having the same conversation. Whether this is creation vs. evolution or any number of other issues. I think that Science Fiction is a really good way to take real problems, and put them in a setting where you can challenge these underlying assumptions, where you can play them out to logical conclusions, where you can test possibilities and consequences.
However, some of the big questions to me got explored in film this year, or will be at least. If you’re looking, if you’re thinking about it, if you’re open minded, the questions were right there. And that’s good. It’s really exciting. And these are not small-name movies, and not small-named directors (who also wrote or co-wrote these movies). These were seen by a lot of people, and I think will be seen by many more as time goes on.
So I don’t think I’m alone in thinking about these questions. Not by any means. And maybe I’m not even alone in feeling like these issues aren’t being given enough of a stage: maybe that’s what these directors are trying to do, to get these ideas out and have people talking about them. I look at something like Interstellar, in particular, and I feel like I see an issue that matters to Christopher Nolan. Like he made his name doing Dark Knight movies and such, but now he’s cashing in on that name to tell a story that matters to him.
What’s the best response from me, then? Exploring Science Fiction in a real-world sense through something like Science Fiction Today? Or asking new questions through writing fiction? I’m still considering this question, but it’s good to know that I’m not alone wanting to get ideas out there. Not alone by any means.