26 May, 2007

My top five sci-fi movies

Here's a list of what I perceive as the best science fiction movies around. These movies are classics in terms of film and science fiction. Of course, you may notice some notable films that didn't make the list, such as Star Wars. I really love Star Wars, but that's more of a fantasy movies and as far as films go it just ain't that good.

Firstly, some notable mentions (coincidently both films have "run" in the title):
  • Silent Running - (1972) - A sad movie, with a commentary on the state of the environment and our perceptions towards it. Stars Bruce Dern and is directed by Douglas Trumbull.
  • Blade Runner - (1982) - A good movie, a prototypical cyberpunk film. I'm a sucker for a good cyberpunk. Directed by Ridley Scott, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. Stars Harrison Ford in probably his best role.
So here's the list, starting at 5 and finishing at the Number 1 film:

5 - Fantastic Planet (1973)

An animated film which from the seventies. Sure the animation isn't that good, and sure it may seem a little dated, but the immense fantasy of the world and the artwork makes up for any short-comings. The story tells of a race of creatures called Oms who live an existence as pets for the giant Draags. This film is really a story of role-reversal, what if Humans became subservient to another gigantic species. The Draags have a completely different culture from the Oms, so they assume that any semblance of intelligence is just a "cute-thing" that the creature is doing. This film is important from a social/behavioural/cultural viewpoint. Particularly as the Oms have been dispossessed from their original home world, Terra.

It is originally a French film entitled, La Planète sauvage and was created by René Laloux.

4 - Dune (1984)

This film is epic in scope, has a solid story base, strong visuals and an evocative film score. A pity that it was poorly executed, and is one of the weakest films in this list. The biggest problem is trying to create a filmic version of an epic novel. It is based on a story by Frank Herbert (who novel could be argued as a philosophical thesis) and was directed by David Lynch. It tells the story of Paul "Maud'Dib" Atreides, heir to the Atreides throne. It is set on the planet, Dune, also known as Arrakis, a desert planet. This planet is home to the Fremen, an indigenous people who believe that Arrakis was created by God "to train the faithful". The harsh conditions enabled the Fremen to be superior warriors to fight an evil empire. (That's why we must keep an eye on the "insurgency" in Iraq, perhaps the Coalition of the Willing has created circumstances where the "faithful" can be trained). I'm only scratching the surface with this rough outline, there is a struggle, mysticism, religion, and ecology, just to name a few. It is easy to see that David Lynch may have been out of his depth in making this film. It is hard to visualise "plans within plans" and "schemes within schemes". The score by composer Brian Eno and 80's has-been group Toto gets an honourable mention. The main theme/overture is very memorable.

An early 70's film was going to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky (who has been quite influential in this list) with art from H.R. Giger (see the next film). Trom what has been released of the pre-production work, although it would have been a huge departure from the Novels, would have been quite an interesting experience. His ideas later developed into his comic book stories, The Incal, The Metabarons, and The Technopriests.

3 - Alien (1979)

This star of this film and its follow-ups is not Sigourney Weaver. It is the monster created by H.R. Giger. An almost humanoid creature that shows no emotion, but is extremely intelligent. It is a reflection of the darkness of people, both physically and in the way in which we act. We are vicious in achieving our goals and would hurt our peers for our aims. This alien is dark, evil, nasty creature with the some-what human face. The best films of this series are the first film and last film, Alien Resurrection, where the fine line between the monster and humans is blurred and we are left thinking about who is the greater monster. This movie is an important reflection on the darkness of our species.

It was filmed by Ridley Scott, who I regard as one of the best directors around.

2 - The Fifth Element (1997)

This film is sort of a easy going, light-hearted adventure. It was directed by Luc Besson. It doesn't take itself too seriously. What makes this movie so good is the quality of it and the world that was created. I really enjoy the diversity in the scope of the world. A lot of this film has been influenced by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius. Overall, this film is really an enjoyable experience, both visually and in terms of audio. Diva Plavalaguna? A stand-out point of the movie!

1 - 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Ok, this Arthur C. Clarke storied, Stanley Kubrick directed film. It is a monolith as far as sci-fi films go. It involves a huge epic story line, and huge questions. Where do we come from? What does it all mean? It deals with the Savage ape theory (I don't really agree with this theory), exo-genesis, evolution and lots of other things. It really is quite a remarkable film. It combines very effective visuals with an immense storyline.

So here's an open discussion, what do other people put in their own top five?

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