Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Five Classic Sci-Fi Films Everyone Should Watch
We’re still all pretty much housebound at the moment and while this does chafe it does also afford us the opportunity to catch up on some quality viewing. Not only have we been finding some new series to enjoy on TV, we’ve watched a few classic movies that differ a little bit from the usual Star Wars / Marvel dross that Disney pump out. In this time of global pandemic and an all permeating sense of unease I thought I’d share five classic claustrophobic sci fi movies for you to watch, enjoy and thereon see the world as a slightly darker, moribund place.
1. THX 1138
Made in 1971 by George Lucas some time before he conceived of the Star Wars films, THX 1138 is an altogether darker affair. Where 60s sci fi had been bright white suits and full of hope, 70s sci began to look more cynically at possible futures. IN THX 138 we’re introduced to a world where people remain medicated to allow them to conduct dangerous but tedious tasks. Where a faceless state controls their every move and where individuality is suppressed in extremis. It’s not big on laughs but it’s an excellent film. Bonus points are available if you can identify the Nine Inch Nails album that sampled THX 1138, incidentally a scene where the protagonist watches torture for entertainment, which is totally unlike Love Island.
2. Dark Star
Any list of films purporting to be about dystopian science fiction would be pointless without John Carpenter (or Terry Gilliam see next) and it was tough to find one to choose here. I would say my overall favourite is the mighty Escape from New York but if we’re talking nihilistic Dark Star is best of all. The basic premise is a space ship that uses intelligent bombs to destroy planets which may jeopardise future colonisation efforts. The beauty is in how utterly peurile the people carrying out the task are. It encapsulates in simple terms how boorish and inept we are as a race. By the time the final bomb becomes self aware and even more solipsistic than its creators any reasonable viewer actually wants the bomb to explode.
Where to begin with Terry Gilliam? His vision of a future consumed by faceless authority and ranging between slightly and utterly broken is sublime. Arguably 12 Monkeys is more relevant to current times but Brazil, with it’s tale of futile love set against an overarching state is far darker. Whereas 12 Monkeys, ultimately, derives its pathos from the recurrent memories of the main character, Brazil never lets the viewer get off so easily. From start to end the story of one man and his fight against the state is soul crushing and far less fantastical than it was in 1985.
Sunshine, on one hand isn’t that depressing as, ultimately it ends well but it’s one of the few films I have seen that really catches the utter inhospitability of space. IN most films space is used as a backdrop for action and adventure without mention of how inimicable it is to human life. Not so in Sunshine. Danny Boyle’s 2007 film captures that bleakness perfectly by setting the dark of space against the roar of an all consuming, if dying sun. There’s not one single moment in the film where there’s any sense of respite from the environment and the situation and in that it’s a marvellous accomplishment.
If Bladerunner appears cliched these days take a moment to muse on the fact that entire genres of films, including its own sequel have aped the look and feel of Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece. Don’t obsess about which cut you watch (who knows which to pick there’s about a thousand), don’t get hung up on memories of being a snotty undergraduate and trying to impress people with conversation around ‘what is life anyway?’. Just watch it and drink in how ruined the world is, how broken and greasy everything is, the subtle cues that tell you anyone who had anything has long since left earth to the never hads and, most of all, how we made beautiful beings in our own image and put them on the battlefront or screwed them in brothels. Is there not a more fitting description of what our future will be like than this? No, there isn’t.