Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #307: 1982, The SF Golden Age?

Website The Wrap posted a piece that discussed how 1982 was a banner year for science-fiction and horror films.

Take a look at the list and see how you c
an't agree:
  • E.T.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • Poltergeist
  • Blade Runner
  • The Thing
  • Tron
  • Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
I mean those are some pretty heavy hitters. Even films like Blade Runner and The Thing, which lost money in their initial release became, first cult classics, in the then nascent pay-tv and video rental markets, and then grew to be considered full on classics of their genre.

I think this was due to a trend that started in the 60s, where filmmakers tried to take the genres of SF and horror, from their "B-movie" roots, and thanks to Star Wars now had the commercial viability, and special effects technology to do it.

Now I think those very things that SF/F/H so great in 1982 have now made most modern SF/F/H so damned forgettable.

Thanks to the past success of genre films, studios will toss a minimum of $100 million into the budget, and thanks to CGI, all you have to do is think of something, and you can make it happen on screen.

Sadly, once the novelty of being able to see everything wears off, it becomes a crutch to all but the most imaginative filmmakers. Why need to be subtle with your monster, when you can render its every pore and pimple in 3D and the studio is giving you millions to do it?

So where old filmmakers used story, and characters to make their films stand out above the limits of visual effects, modern filmmakers simply just toss in the CG and let that do all the work.

What do you think?

Can the SF/F/H cinema become as memorable as it was in good old 1982, or am I just an old fart enamored with nostalgia for the years I discovered such cinema?


  1. To me the biggest problem is that most writers, even most writers of science fiction, don't really understand science fiction.

    A really good SF story doesn't rely on strange settings and freaky aliens. It relies on an Idea, usually of the 'What If' variety and then procedes to explore the ramifications of that idea on society. The old Twilight-Zone was a master at this.

    An more modern example Minority Report. The 'what if' is 'what if we had mind readers who could predict crimes'. That's a good question. Since I haven't seen the movie I don't know how well it was executed.

    Other good science fiction consists of a good story that could really fit in just about any time/place that just happens to be taking place 1,000 years from now on a planet on the other side of the Galaxy with a few strange looking people thrown in.

    A good example of that type would be Star Wars. The story is classic hero/princess-in-trouble/evil wizard sword and sandle adventure that happens to take place in space. For the record I don't really consider Star Wars to be Science Fiction. It should much more properly be considered Fantasy which (pet-peeve) most people these days clump into SF as a sub-genre.

    Bottom line, if you don't have a good story to tell, all the monsters, aliens, and spaceships in the Universe aren't going to help.

  2. Actually, I happen to remember some of the reviews of "Tron". They were a good approximation of your critque of modern effects driven movies. All flash and no story. Which is interesting since the techniques used in TRON grew up to become modern CGI.

    I think what needs to be addressed is the diversity in movies. Check out 1982-1984 and tell me how many totally unique movies there were. "The Thing" was a remake, but using the original story which was entirely different from the "original".

    So, we need unique exciting movies with good solid stories that don't use effects as crutches. It's not as easy as it sounds, so why were they able to do it in the eighties?

  3. FULOYDO: In regards to 'Minority Report', I suggest you watch it because that was a great future sci-fi flick. I only have one caveat: When the Main Badguy has got the hero by the balls at the end.. STOP the VIDEO! Make up your own ending since the one the director cooked up is nothing but a sack of vomit, piss and shit... It Is That BAD.

    Newer Science Fiction past the '80s are truly rare and I could only think up of but a few. 'Serenity' was a good science fiction movie held somewhat back by its tv origins. A movie that should've been made would be 'Babylon 5' that has the Epic in it by the droves. Though it too was a tv show first.

    'Gattaca' was a future movie that had a great story to tell as too did the movie called 'Equilibrium'. The introduction of "gun-kata" sealed the deal for that one!

    I guess 'Jurassic Park' might of fit the bill if they had stuck to the Original Story instead of the crap that was put out. Along with 'I, Robot'... Despite Harlan Ellison being a rabid suing bitch whore, he wrote the best script for 'I, Robot' that I would of loved to of seen. In that time it was considered too Expensive to be produced.. movie heads are all a bunch of flippant idiots! The script has been published and is a great read in my opinion so don't miss it.

    The final Insult to Sci-Fi would be 'Starship Troopers' that raped the original novel to satisfy a nazi jew hating director. He admitted too that he injecting his youthful fond recollections about the Father-land in this nut bag crap. hollyweird has raped quite a number of science fiction novelists up the bung hole and Robert Heinlein suffered twice with the above mentioned and 'The Puppet Masters', where the director couldn't afford the budget as well as the ending where everyone had to walk around in the nude.

    Sadly, truth be told. Only on paper will a person truly and fully enjoy a good Science Fiction yarn.

  4. I'm not even going to go into the abortion that was the 'Starship Troopers' movie.

    My comments would not be fit for public consumption, even on the internet.

    Jurassic Park was fantastic.

    Well, the book was.

    The movie was...good. Not as great as it could have been but definatly watchable. I didn't think of that one but JP is another example of the first category of SF I mentioned above. Posit a new technology and see where it leads.

    I have to agree that pretty much the only place you're going to find truly satisfying science fiction is between the covers of a book.