Was 1997 the Greatest Year for Science Fiction in Film?

I never paid attention to this, but may be damn true. And if we consider “Flubber” a science fiction movie, that is so damn true!

Plot and Theme

Most years have a few high-quality genre pieces to offer, some years see the release of a genre-defining film and a solid collection of supporting movies, and every now and then there are collisions where two absolute classics are released side-by-side (see:  1968, 1977, and 1982).  But, there’s nothing quite like what happened 20 years ago.  Eleven science fiction films of note were released in 1997, spanning all subgenres.  This piece will discuss each of these films, heralding 1997 as a seminal year for cinematic science fiction.

Intellectual Dramas 

In the first section, we’ll look at three slow-burn, intellectual science fiction films:  Contact, Gattaca, and Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes).  These films respect the intelligence of the audience while discussing some of the most classic science fiction concepts.

Contact

contact Jodie Foster, listenin’ for aliens.

Based on the 1985 Carl Sagan novel of the same name and…

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Event Horizon

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson. Starring: Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan. USA, 1997. Budget: $60 mln. Box office: $27 mln. IMDB: 6.7. My rating: 3/4. Sci-fi/horror/thriller in deep space.

– Where we’re going, we don’t need eyes to see.
(Dr. Weir)

– You will never be alone anymore. Now you are with me. I have beautiful things I want to show you.
(Dr. Weir’s dead wife)

Darkness, space, hell, madness and obscurity. Such a cheerful company. Welcome on board of the “Event Horizon”.

Before Paul Anderson entered the endless Resident Evil epos, he did some other notable films as well, like “Mortal Combat” and “Event Horizon”. We all know how his films look, right? I suppose almost every teenager (well, I speak mostly for boys) had a period, when he is eager to watch stuff about zombies, strange creatures, space and stuff. So what happens when these boys grow up? Some make movies, others watch them. Mostly, without being too serious about it. If there is a movie for each occasion, so for me these movies are perfect to watch late on a Friday, when the brain protests against any kind of work. Or after a late party, when you come home late but still not sleepy. But… “Event Horizon” is not exactly what you would expect from a typical Paul Anderson’s film.

It’s also has a very curious and bleeding produciton history, probably one of the best I’ve ever read together with ”The Island of Dr. Moreau”.

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Jonas Mekas / Vladimir Kobrin / Wire / surrealist cinema

Surrealism and absurdism have always captivated me, they slice the reality as we know it and perform its autopsy, opening unseen layers… But first things first. Here is my new video on of the best post-punk/new wave songs ever by the British band Wire, 1979. The clip is composed of 2 works by great surrealist directors Jonas Mekas (born in 1922, Lithuania/USA) and Vladimir Kobrin (born in 1942, USSR).

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Jumanji 2 / childhood tales mutating into mindless blockbusters

Another tale of the childhood is turning into a mindless blockbaster. Directed by the guy who did “Sex Tape” and “Bad Teacher”. Why!?

I know, I know – the first one could be also considered a blockbuster with CGI animals and a decent $65 million budget. Pardon my nostalgia rant. However…

…it had an original time-reversing plot with love story that made sense and was believable.

…it had the director Joe Johnston who has worked as effects artists on the original Star Wars trilogy and art director two Indiana Jones movies and you could easily feel that influences in Jumanji too. Maybe it was a blockbuster, but at least it didn’t feature trivial sexist jokes like here:

giphy

If “Jumanji 2” was a genre deconstruction like “Cabin in the Woods”, this would have made sense. Sadly, it doesn’t.

…and it had Robin Williams.

giphy (1)

Now we have another obtuse action-based blockbuster with dick jokes. Hell, they even don’t roll the dice since there’s no board (the final scene of Jumanji actually had a clue that the original board wasn’t destroyed). And what is the audience of this movie? The teens didn’t watch the first part. Those who did would be barely interested in this reboot.

Maybe I am just too old for this shit and don’t get something?

“What, are you crying? You don’t cry, all right? You keep your chin up. Come on, keep your chin up. Crying never helped anybody do anything, okay? You have a problem, you face it like a man.” (Alan Parish, Jumanji, 1995)

P. S. Express Elevator to Hell movie blog made a hell of an analysis about the modern blockbuster culture and how they influence smaller films here. Check it, it’s really worth reading.

Mimic

Director: Guillermo del Toro. Starring: Mira Sorvino, Jeremy Northam, F. Murray Abraham, Giancarlo Giannini. USA, 1997. Budget: $30 million. IMDb: 5.9. My rating: 3/4. Gothic gloomy tale about giant bugs vs humans with incredible visuals.

– How come you love bugs so much?
– These guys were building castles while dinosaurs were still wimpy little lizards.
(Mira Sorvino’s character about her passion)

mimic

I must confess that I approached “Mimic” with some kind of suspicion. I adore Guillermo del Toro. He is an incredible artist with unique visual style, but being just his second feature film (“Cronos” was the first one and it had good critical success, by the way), I had a doubt that it wasn’t already that Guillermo del Toro we all know and love. It’s also his lowest rated movie on IMDb. Damn, I couldn’t have been more wrong. A thousand apologies. Darkness blended with acid colours, gothic gloom in Victorian style, church-like sewers, unborn creatures, gore and blood. Pure joy for the heart. Continue reading

Screamers

Director: Christian Duguay. Starring: Peter Weller, Jennifer Rubin, Roy Dupuis, Andrew Lauer. Canada, USA, 1994. IMDB: 6.4. My rating: 3.5/4.screamersposter

– Well, you’re coming up in the world – you’ve learned how to kill
each other.
(Colonel Hendricksson about two screamers fighting each other)

– Jefferson, you must be confusing me with someone who gives a shit.
(Colonel Hendricksson)

For a horror story set on a faraway planet, where almost nothing alive is left and killer robots keep on furrowing the ground in search of a new prey, “Screamers” is a very sentimental movie. Under a bloody and violent disguise one can easily feel that it’s also a story about alienation and loneliness. Then mix enough dark humour, abandoned wastelands on a faraway planet, robots with human-like disguise and extreme cynicism. Yes, it’s a B-movie – and it’s exactly that type of B-movie that we sometimes need so much.

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Hardware

Director: Richard Stanley. Starring: Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, 238de25db1c5f601cbe1b1d56673a304John Lynch, William Hootkins, Lemmy, Iggy Pop. USA, 1990. IMDB: 5.9. My rating: 3.5/4. 100% natural cyberpunk.

– My heart…it feels like an alligator.
(Shades)

– This is Angry Bob, the man with the industrial dick, coming to you loud and clear on W.A.R. Radio with the good news and the bad news. Bad news is the heatwave’s not going to let up. As for the good news – there is no fucking good news! So let’s just play some music!
(Angry Bob, the DJ)

Post-apocalyptic future. The world became one big slum covered with radiation. Most seas and oceans have dri20170213_031230ed, leaving just a devastated radioactive desert. The space marine Moses Baxter (Dylan McDermott) buys a robotic cyborg head that some nomad found in the desert. It’s a gift for his girlfriend, Jill (Stacey Travis), who creates works of art of various metal garbage and broken robots. Pretty soon, the head of the robot reactivates and he starts to rebuild himself, preparing for a violent massacre.

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