Science-fiction film: Are we on the cusp of a golden age?
Welcome to a new column called Geek Speak, in which we take on an aspect of geek culture each week.
District 9 is just one of many classics of recent years
Pacific Rim, a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, is about to open in hundreds of theaters nationwide, released by a major studio and accompanied by a gigantic ad campaign. It's at least the fourth blockbuster sci-fi film this year, and if you count superhero fare as science fiction, then you can add two more. Throw in smaller releases and that number doubles. Between now and the end of the year, that number will double again, at least. That's no anomaly, either -- look back a few years and you'll find the same pattern. Science fiction movies are more mainstream than they have ever been, and there's no end in sight.
Even better, a surprising number of them are really fucking good.
Not most of them, mind you, but a lot. In the last five years alone, we've seen the release of half a dozen future classics, minimum. In 2009 alone we got District 9, Moon, The Road and the Star Trek reboot, not to mention Avatar and a handful of other good, if not quite great, films such as Splice. The years between then and now brought Inception, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Source Code, Super 8, Chronicle, Looper and The Hunger Games, just to name a few of the best, with dozens of other solid films ranking just behind them. For fans of the genre, it's beginning to seem as if we're on the cusp of a new golden age of science fiction film.
If you haven't seen Looper yet, you are missing out.
All of those films are top-notch entertainment. Even better, a good number of them also dig deeper into the places that only the best science fiction can, using aliens and the unknown not just as spectacle, but as a unique way to pose questions about the human condition. District 9 dealt masterfully with racism and South Africa's history of apartheid, all in the context of great sci-fi action film. Moon dealt with the ethics of human cloning, corporate malfeasance and even what it means to be human -- wrapped in a lunar mystery. Looper offered a stirring meditation on fate versus free will via a time-travel story. These kinds of science fiction movies have traditionally been few and far between, but the past five years have offered a generous bounty of thinking man's science fiction.
Sure, there's also been plenty of stupid shit like Transformers and Battleship, but when has there ever been a shortage of terrible garbage from Hollywood, regardless of genre? That doesn't detract from the good stuff. And just to be clear, we're not there yet: We've had a great five-year run, and if the next five years can match or even top them, then we'll be looking back at the teens as the best period of science fiction film ever. The real question is, will it continue?