Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Top 20 science fiction movies: Part 4, #1-5

My Top 20 science fiction movies (continued)

If you have been following this series, you’ll know numbers 6-20 in my Top 20. My tastes won’t appeal to everyone. I’m sure most people would include a couple of Star Wars movies in their own Top 20, while others might like Jurassic Park. The good news is you can just ignore my opinion and buy both when they hit Blu-ray later this year.

Here are my five favorite science fiction movies:

5. I Am Legend (2007)
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring Will Smith, Alice Braga and Charlie Tahan

Will Smith was a good choice for the role of Robert Neville. His character looks like he can take care of himself, but he also looks intelligent enough to conduct scientific experiments. I’m fond of post-apocalyptic stories because they encourage me to think. What would life be like if you lived without any human contact? Where would you find food? How would you spend your time? What would your purpose in life be? Neville has adapted to his solitary existence and seeks a cure for the infection which has affected most of the human race. I find it interesting watching actors carry a movie. Tom Hanks had to do it in Cast Away and James Franco had a similar role in 127 Hours. Both are stories that I keep revisiting. I Am Legend has extended periods of quiet reflection as we are shown how Neville lives. When he does encounter somebody, his reaction is believable. The special effects aren’t entirely convincing, but I still love visiting Neville’s world. There’s a little action thrown in, but this is mainly a thought-provoking psychological study. The Blu-ray has been out a while, but the presentation is almost reference quality.

4. Avatar (2009)
Directed by James Cameron
Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver

Here’s a movie that you won’t have to think about at all. The dialogue is dumb and the second half of the movie is just a standard science fiction battle sequence. So why do I like it? The look of the movie is incredible and genuinely makes me feel like I’m visiting an alien world. There’s also an excellent sequence which lasts for about an hour in which Jake Sully (Worthington) meets some of the native population and learns how they live. The training sequence is easily the most interesting part of the story and I never tire of watching it. Avatar isn’t a great movie; it’s a piece of entertainment which appeals to a vast number of people. Sometimes, that’s exactly what I want. There isn’t a better looking Blu-ray than this and it’s pure escapism. I prefer the extended version which explains a couple of things in more depth and ties up an important loose end.

Click here for my full review.

3. The Matrix (1999)
Directed by Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss

The Matrix is a strange movie. Although it seems like an obvious story on the surface, there are a number of deeper themes if you choose to dig deeper. When it was released, it looked like something that had never been seen before. The use of slow motion adds to the overall feel and the special effects are still pretty cool. It’s an exciting ride in which Neo (Reeves) learns the truth about his existence. We see that there’s nothing he can’t do once he has been exposed to the relevant training, and that knowledge is downloaded in seconds. The story is also about belief in your own ability and acceptance of the real situation, as well as philosophical layers that make you question things such as religion and fate. The movie is an exercise in style, but it works well because of the action, effects and acting. Reeves is often ridiculed for his acting ability, but he’s certainly a good choice. He’s not meant to know anything, and he plays it exactly right. The Blu-ray release is decent considering the age of the movie and some of the chase sequences will fully test your home theater system.

2. Inception (2010)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ellen Page

Christopher Nolan delivers good movies on a consistent basis and hasn’t disappointed me so far. I’m not a fan of comic book characters, but Batman Begins and The Dark Knight took the genre to a different level. The Prestige and Memento are presented in an intriguing way and both are among my favorites. Inception is arguably Nolan’s most ambitious effort to date. The plot is complex and it must have taken a long time to get things exactly right. I imagine that many viewers won’t understand everything that happens and Nolan doesn’t dumb things down. Inception could work on some level even if you don’t grasp the whole story. It’s a visual feast with stunning special effects happening at several different rates of speed. The acting is good and there is no shortage of action. The ambiguous ending angered some, but I quite like it. This is a movie that I already love after two viewings, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood and William Sylvester

This is a prime example of how my tastes have changed over the years. The first time I saw 2001, I think I fell asleep. When I revisited it on cable many years later, I couldn’t get past the first act with the apes. But in recent years, I have started to appreciate what Kubrick achieved. The first thing to remember is what science fiction movies were like before 2001 was released in 1968. Most were laughable, predictable and not even remotely believable. Kubrick’s film completely changed the genre. It’s epic in scope, spanning around 6,000 years, and over half of the film is told without the use of dialogue. It may be easy to show apes or people floating around without gravity with the use of modern special effects, but consider what was available in 1968; even making a pen appear to float was a challenge. Actors had to dress up as apes and study the movements of real animals to produce the opening act. Kubrick’s use of music was another innovation. Think about the docking sequence and how Kubrick made it seem like a dance. He also got the details right. How many directors would have shown an explosion in space without sound? It’s not an easy film to watch by any means. If you go in expecting action, you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s a film that will stay with you a long time after you see it and might even encourage you to investigate some of the deeper themes. If you don’t know what the monoliths represent, it’s interesting finding out. The story does make sense when you take the time to research it, and it’s a work of genius. It also contains my favorite cut sequence, when a bone is thrown in the air and we move on to the next act. I’m sure a lot of people have never seen 2001, while others may have seen it and written it off as meaningless or boring. If that’s the case, I urge you to look at it again. It has to be the most influential science fiction film ever made. How many times have you heard Thus Spake Zarathustra when watching a documentary about space? It’s actually a piece of art as much as it is a film. The Blu-ray looks stunning considering the age of the film. 

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment or post your own favorites.

Click here to see numbers 6-10 on the list.
Click here to see numbers 11-15 on the list.
Click here to see numbers 16-20 on the list.

Return to index of every review on the site.

No comments:

Post a Comment