Sci Fi is my number one genre. I just love it and can’t get enough of it but I’ve become increasingly disappointed with Hollywood’s efforts in recent years. For every film I’ve been to see I’ve been left wanting more, expecting more and in general feeling my money would have been better spent elsewhere. It has come to the point that I have to check out as many reviews as possible to get a better idea of the film and judge its worthiness beforehand. Even then it’s not enough and invariably I end up leaving the cinema with a sour taste in my mouth. This year alone I’ve seen three major Sci Fi releases – Oblivion, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Elysium. In each case I was disappointed.
Hmmm do I hear protestations in the audience? No doubt many of you are saying they were good films, that you thoroughly enjoyed them.
To be honest so did I!
Let me pause for that to sink in, I’m sure you’re looking at the screen and thinking “is this guy high or something?”
Not at all! You see I did enjoy these films but they were nothing more than average. None of them had that something special, that extra x-factor to keep you hooked. You watch the film, are reasonably entertained and ho-hum it’s forgotten! Technically they were all brilliant, the effects were spot on but the stories were lacking and in some cases even flawed. Let’s take Elysium as a case in point – a word of warning, spoilers incoming! Jodie Foster’s character, Delacourt, was a strong female character. She was the perfect “evil” enemy. Her decision to shoot down the three immigrant shuttles really cemented her evil villain status. I expected a great finale between Max (Matt Damon) and Delacourt. Instead, what happened? She got stabbed in the throat, refused medical attention and died with a whimper – what a letdown! The final showdown ended up between Max and Kruger (Sharlto Copley). This too was utterly disappointing; there was no showmanship, no pizzazz. Just a quick fight and “Oops Kruger go boom!”. It was even more disappointing knowing the great action sequences Matt Demon is capable of – The Bourne Identity being a case in point.
Unfortunately it is not just this year’s films which are suffering from this problem. It has been going on for a while. Prometheus is another case in point – good film, average story line. Going further back Avatar was even worse. I’m not the brightest spark in the room but I was able to accurately guess how it was going to end within the first 30 minutes of the film. I am a firm believer that Avatar was the success it was for no other reason than the 3D hype which surrounded it – my regular readers will know that particular technology really grinds my gears!
The problem here is that Hollywood is relying too much on effects and the immediate wow factor they generate. The impact on the audience created by these effects fade away very quickly once the film is over. They have forgotten that for a film to be really great you need to develop the characters. By doing this you engage the audience so they create an emotional link with the character and become invested in his or her story. What saddens me even more is that all the films I have mentioned had great potential. In each case the underlying storyline was excellent and had a good foundation. One example of a Sci Fi film which really worked was Moon starring Sam Rockwell – the story and character development was simply excellent.
There are plenty of Sci Fi films to look forward to this year such as Riddick, Gravity, Ender’s Game and the Europa Report. I have high hopes for each one of them and will doubtless make an effort to catch them when they arrive in the cinema. I hope Hollywood learns its lesson, I hope I won’t leave the cinema with a sour taste again.
We want brilliant stories, and heroes we can love and relate to. Those special effects Hollywood is so fond of should support those stories not supersede them.