Where This Meets That
I love good science fiction. It gives us stories that revolve around universal human themes but force us to open our minds to new concepts or at very least to view certain possibilities in a new light.
Unfortunately, the full catalog of sci-fi films out there includes many that become either trite, pretentious, or downright silly, leaving a relative few that I consider genuinely “good”.
Here is the first half of my top 10 sci-fi films.
10. The Prestige – 2006, Christopher Nolan
The Prestige is a morality tale on the dangers of obsession and a brilliant piece of sleight of hand trickery. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are superb as rival magicians driven against each other by the tragic death of Jackman’s wife. Jackman’s character is mad in his pursuit of revenge, traveling across the world to seek out the assistance of inventor Nikola Tesla to help create the world’s greatest magic trick. Ultimately, it is the audience who is fooled; “Are you watching closely?”
9. Primer – 2004, Shane Carruth
This low budget, first crack at film making from writer/director Shane Carruth is an impressively intelligent exploration into the paradoxes of time travel. It’s not one to watch passively, or even just once. You can expect to be stumped by most of its efficient 77 minutes, the first 15 minutes because of the realistic engineering jargon-laden dialogue, and the balance because of the repercussions that come from said time travel.
The basic premise is this: two Silicon Valley engineers dabbling on a pet project in a garage during their off hours stumble upon a discovery that appears to distort time. Their careful efforts to prosper from their discovery result in some interesting and unexpected consequences. “What’s worse,” asks Carruth’s character Aaron, “thinking you’re being paranoid or knowing you should be?”
8. The Terminator – 1984, James Cameron
Long before the days of $200M+ budgets for Cameron (i.e., Titanic & Avatar), he broke through with this bootstrapped time warp flick starring the one and only “Governator”. Even if you haven’t seen it, you know lines from it, and that makes it a classic.
7. 12 Monkeys – 1995, Terry Gilliam
In 12 Monkeys, Gilliam expertly blends plot elements from classics like The Usual Suspects and The Terminator to create a film unlike any other. In a nutshell, the human race has been wiped from the surface of the planet by a terrible virus. Bruce Willis believes himself to be a prisoner sent back in time to investigate the origin of the virus and collect samples so scientists can try to find a cure. From there, the plot changes direction constantly, keeping the audience off balance to what is real and what is to come next. It culminates in a fantastic twist ending that cinches the film as a top 10 sci-fi giant.
6. District 9 – 2009, Neill Blomkamp
Blomkamp’s gory, original, and semi-allegorical spin on the alien film genre includes one of the finest acting performances in recent years. Newcomer Sharlto Copley’s lead character’s transformation from charmingly naïve government worker to . . . well, prawn is disturbing and masterful.
Equally masterful is the change in cultural values on display as Copley’s character is abandoned by humanity. All sides grow to value – and try to use – him for what sets him apart. By the end of the film, it seems the social order has been turned upside down.
Click HERE for my TOP 5 all time Sci-Fi movies!