With the Yang, there is always the Yin. Science fiction filmmaking is replete with painful, awful work, and so I will not scour the depths and cite Plan 9 From Outer Space nor any superhero films, nor any of the B-movie messes concocted in the ’50s and onwards. And so my apologies, but no Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.No Empire of the Ants. And no Barb Wire. The science fiction films I have selected for my Bottom Five actually seem to have tried to tell a story of some kind and failed…miserably. 5. Damnation Alley (1976) Okay, I admit that this film is essentially a B film, but they had a lot of money – $17 million in 1976 dollars – of which they invested almost half a million in the Landmaster vehicle. It’s a journey through the post-apocalyptic desert. What could be better than that? (Apparently a lot of things.)4. Avatar (2009) Talk about money and time wasted! $237 million and 15 years in production… all for a world of blue people who live around a magic tree. It seems that the film was a parable for something. I guess it went over my head. 3. Dune (1984) Sorry to say it, but the book isn’t very good either. There is nothing in this world except sand, worms and spit suits.2. Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace (1999) Three words: Jar Jar Binks. Thanks a lot, Mr. Lucas, for ruining a great franchise.1. Event Horizon (1997) There is nothing good to say about this film. It is just gross and violent and stupid and gross. (Probably sounds fun to you young’uns. It isn’t.)
I have always been a sucker – like a Christmas Tree – for Science Fiction films. I was insanely hyped for Prometheus (2012), Sunshine (2007) and Event Horizon (1997) and, 15 minutes after the opening credits, let down by a predictably dull and stupid story. And I expect Oblivion (2013) will be the same. However every once in a while, there are films that follow through past the set-up, that actually have a thought-out story with characters who are interesting and a plot that intrigues to the end. Here are my Top Five:
5. Planet of the Apes (1968) The costumes and sets might be dated, but the concept and characters work very well. The relationship between Taylor and Zira challenges us to this day. 4 Alien (1979) This film has everything in it, from the typical military conspiracy to grumbling union guys and, of course, the alien’s retractable punching bag jaw. Signourney Weaver’s Ripley is one of the great female leads in science fiction. 3. The Road Warrior (1981) Mad Max is a great ant-hero, and the villains have ever since been used as prototypes for the post-apocalyptic films that followed. Max’s dog provides the tragedy.2. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) The human – and alien – aspect is developed beautifully with some unsettling moments of alien sexuality. It is a contemplative film that makes great demands of the audience.1. Blade Runner (1982) This is at the top of many lists not only because it is a well-constructed film with a strong setting, story and cast of characters, but also because of its fidelity to the tenets of the Film Noir genre.