With the premiere of the movie Prometheus approaching, I am looking forward to a resurgence of quality Science fiction in films. I have great faith that Ridley Scott will live up to his earlier efforts in the genre. Alien and Bladerunner were ground breaking films that have still not been equaled in my opinion. In this day of a short attention span, twitter society, movie studios have settled for effects laden brain dead efforts to represent the Science Fiction genre. Examples of this are the Transformer films and the recent battleship
In Alien, Ridley Scott used many classic story telling devices to create a gripping edge of your seat story. At the start of the film the viewer was inserted into a gritty dank cargo vessel that seemed like it was actually a well used spaceship and not a sound-stage. You were introduced to a disparate group of characters that all had their individual quirks and experiences. You were given time for their back-story to develop so you became invested in these characters. Scott then began to slowly give hints that something dangerous was happening. Little by little we were given glimpses of the Alien as it lurked in the dark crevices of the cavernous ship. When the Alien finally started to attack the crew it was done in a way that made us use our imagination. We were given short, quick cuts of a partial view of the alien then a quick cut to the horrified crew member. In my opinion this fosters much more real terror than the in your face mutilations and bloodbaths that are endemic in t film today. When we were finally treated to a full view of the Alien it was like nothing we had ever seen in films before. It was a well thought out organic creature that drooled acid and was at once ferocious and intelligent. Given that CG effects were still in their infancy this was a tremendous accomplishment.
In his next masterpiece, Bladerunner, Scott introduced us to a dystopian near future that seemed like a lived in world and not a shiny new set of props that were designed for aesthetic quality. There were street scenes filled with a conglomeration of misfits and multiracial characters that appeared to be living out actual lives. Our senses were assaulted by futuristic vehicles that navigated the crowded cityscape with huge floating video billboards advertising a better life on an off world colony. So immediately you knew that the people that populated this gritty urban landscape were not living an ideal or pleasant life. The view that we were given was visually stunning and depressing at the same time. Great care was taken to design a world that was a cautionary tale of our future.
As the story developed we were treated to an intelligent, thought provoking story line.It posed the question that if we could create humanoid androids that were as intelligent as humans, would they have souls? Where would the line between man and machine be drawn? Did they have the same right to a life as we do? These were provocative themes for a science fiction film. Most of the genre at the time was filled with space opera or schlock filled monster movies.
I am praying that Mr. Scott has returned to his roots in film and has taken as much care in crafting Prometheus. I am also hoping with all my heart that it does well at the box office. Maybe then we could look forward to Hollywood emulating quality science fiction instead of 2 hour long assaults on our senses.