Sunday, August 21, 2011

Movies After Star Wars

“The encounter could create a time paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum, and destroy the entire universe! …….Granted, that's a worse case scenario.” – Doc Brown, Back to the Future Part II

After Star Wars came out there was suddenly a huge demand for big, special effects laden movies.  This was both good and bad.  It was good because it created a huge market for summer movies.  (Believe it or not, the summer used to be kind of dead in regards to movies.)  It was bad because it meant studios mostly stopped making SF movies that made you think, and instead made dumbed down sci-fi movies.  They missed the fact that Star Wars was more than flashy effects.  This even led to the first incarnation of Battlestar Galactica on TV.  Let’s just say the writing left something to be desired.  (“Admiral, the cylons are two microns and closing.”)

First, explanations on a couple of terms I am going to use.  There are two kinds of science fiction movies – “sci-fi” and “SF.”  “Sci-fi” movies are the somewhat dumbed down ones whose only ambition is to sell tickets – lots of them.  These make up most of the science fiction movies that get released, from all the superhero movies, to all the space battle movies, to all the creepy/cute alien movies.  These have the biggest “wow” factors.

“SF” movies, on the other hand, are actually about something.  The best science fiction books and movies make you look at things in ways that you never have before.  They stimulate thought and maybe even discussion after you are done with them.  These kinds of movies do not get released as often because they usually do not sell as many tickets.  Also, let’s face it - a majority of moviegoers today don’t want to have to actually pay attention to a movie that makes them think.  They want one that they can still follow even though they are talking over it, texting, etc.  They just want to be entertained.

Both sci-fi and SF movies are entertaining to me.  Depending on what mood I am in, either one can provide a couple hours of enjoyment.  Are these two categories mutually exclusive?  Almost.  On very rare occasions a movie gets released that is both sci-fi and SF.  The Matrix is an example of this.

There are so many good science fiction movies that came out after Star Wars that I will probably revisit this category at a later date.  To pare this list down for this first post I will skip any big name films like The Matrix, as well as any superhero movies. 

In this set I am going to cover Contact (1997) – SF, Dark City (1998) - SF, The Iron Giant (1999) – SF and sci-fi, Battle Royale (2000) – sci-fi, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) – sci-fi, Serenity (2005) – SF and sci-fi, Children of Men (2006) – SF, and The Man from Earth (2007) – SF.

You can find my posts for these movies here:

Serenity (2005) - [previously posted]

You can also see my Before Star Wars category by clicking here.

On to the reviews…


  1. Hi Chip. Thank you for your comments on my older posts. I'm glad someone read them. My blog didn't become popular until recently so most of my older stuff was unread. I enjoyed reading your comments.

  2. @msmariah - You're welcome. Needless to say I know how it feels when you spend time writing up something you feel good about, and then no one comments on it.

    I've made it a point to go through as many posts as I can at the blogs I have started to follow. I've managed to do yours, CS' and JBT's Big Thoughts from a Small Mind, and blah blah blah Toby's. I've visited Tom's Motion Picture Gems and TJMac510's The Movie Encyclopedia, but have yet to make my way back through their older posts.

    My blog being on the LAMB site has garnered me several new followers, so perhaps I will start to get more comments. My recent posts have been getting some.

    I actually get more hits in a week on my hiking posts than my movie posts. It's probably because it's summer and a lot of tourists are visiting Maine and are googling for info on the national park. None of those folks ever comments on them, though.

  3. I have to echo MsMariah, in saying thanks for all your insightful comments on our site. As for the Sci-Fi/SF discussion, I find your breakdown of the difference rather interesting. Obviously there are mindless science fiction films and thought provoking ones but I I had never really thought of them as warranting two separate labels.

    Here are my quick thoughts on the films you listed:

    Contact – Enjoyed it at first but does not hold up for me on repeat viewing. The ending just does not jell well for me.

    Dark City - Really like this film, too bad it never struck accord with mainstream audiences.

    The Iron Giant – Love this film. Gets better with every viewing! Again, why this film was not a hit is beyond me. I think people tend to only watch Disney animated films, cutting themselves off to a world of great films beyond the Disney/Pixar brand name.

    Battle Royale – Watched for the first time this year and liked it. There was no need to show every single death though. More focus on a few key students would have been sufficient.

    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow – Great visuals but the underdeveloped story is what kills it for me. So much potential though.

    Serenity – I think the show is better but I had fun with the film regardless.

    Children of Men – As you know I love the film. JBT, on the other hand, cannot stand it. We bicker about this one constantly.

    The Man from Earth – Still need to see this one.


  4. @CS - You're welcome and thanks for the comments in return.

    When I was younger I was more concerned with others taking science fiction seriously, since I liked it so much. Responses I would get would be along the lines of "that sci-fi crap?" with examples from stupider movies.

    This led to my feeling that the term "sci-fi" was somewhat derogatory. I wanted a different term for the "real" science fiction. It may have been Robert Heinlein who used the term "SF"; I am not sure. Whoever did, I latched onto it and I have used it ever since to distinguish between the two.

    Of course, which group a science fiction movie fits into is completely a matter of opinion, too.

    Children of Men does seem to divide people. I got a comment from blah blah blah Toby on the post indicating it didn't do much for him. I've found that even though I liked it the first time I saw it, my appreciation for it has grown as I watched it a second and a third time.

    In regards to The Man from Earth - I hope I haven't talked it up too much. I know that if my own expectations are too high movies have a harder time to live up to them.