Happy February, everyone!
This month I won’t be focusing on a particular fandom. Instead, I’ve made February Miscellaneous Movie Month. 🙂 Each day I’ll post about a stand-alone sci-fi film. There are a lot of great movies out there that don’t have their own fandoms simply because they never got sequels. It’s hard for even the most dedicated nerds to keep obsessing over a story if there’s never anything new. But that doesn’t mean the story wasn’t amazing to begin with.
So here are my criteria for a good sci-fi movie:
1) It has to take me to another world. I have nothing against realism in fiction, but when I watch science fiction, I want to see a world that is more exciting, beautiful, and/or dangerous than my everyday life. And I want to believe in it completely, so the more detailed and well-constructed that world is, the better. And, you know, it’s always nice if they throw some actual science in there–as long as it doesn’t spoil the fun.
2) It has to have good characters. This is true of all fiction, period. But sci-fi movies in particular seem to forget it a lot. They pile on the special effects, complicated plot twists, cool aliens, and space battles, but without strong, relatable characters to propel the story, all that stuff is just lights and noise. A good sci-fi movie, one that I’ll willingly watch more than once, takes time to develop characters I can fall in love with–or love to hate. Which means it needs at least as many talking scenes between the characters as punching-and-blowing-things-up scenes.
3) It has to be entertaining. Don’t get me wrong–I am not at all opposed to punching and blowing things up. As long as it’s in the context of a good story with characters I care about, I can sit through as many creative special-effects scenes as a director can dream up. I’m also not opposed to jokes or silliness. I love movies that keep me on the edge of my seat, make me laugh, or make me tear up. The best movies do all three. Good sci-fi is always serious about something, and always emotionally moving (sometimes emotionally traumatizing), but that just means it needs laughter even more than other genres.
4) It has to make me think. You wouldn’t know it from some of the trailers for this year’s blockbusters, but the whole point of sci-fi was originally to make a point about the real world–usually a political point, but often a more universal one as well. It takes what we know (or think we know) about the world and asks “what if?” What if we could travel in time? How would that change our society? Our family life? Our perception of ourselves? How would we use that ability–for good or evil? Asking questions like these, especially in story form, can reveal a lot about human nature and the way things work in real life. Not to mention the complicated plots they often lead to. I like movies that make me work hard to even understand what’s going on–as long as it’s not impossible to figure out. I also like movies that make me re-think the way I see the real world. Because that’s what a good story does, whether it takes place on Earth or in a galaxy far, far away.
This month I’ll be introducing you (again, or for the first time) to movies that fit all–or at least most–of these criteria. Reviews and pretty pictures to come. Namarie!