Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Sci-Fi ... Bad Sci-Fi

I've always said that the beauty of sci-fi movies is that even the bad ones are interesting to watch. That's because even the bad ones are trying to say something. The new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica has obvious parallels to our current world politics. Star Wars explores the common mythology of religions. 2001: A Space Odyssey explores evolution and technology. And so on.

But forget what I said. There ARE bad sc-fi movies that are just bad and don't try to say anything. I just saw one yesterday - Jumper. I was optimistic that I would like it despite the scathing reviews I'd heard. After all, Doug Liman was directing. He had directed a couple of really good movies - The Bourne Identity and Swingers. Samual Jackson and Diane Lane, Oscar nominated actors, are in it. It seemed to look mildly cool in the previews.

From IMDb:
"A genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between "Jumpers" and those who have sworn to kill them."

Between the previews and that blurb, you have the entire movie. Jumper gets no deeper than that. The movie doesn't really delve into why they can "jump" or why others are trying to kill them. It's like a Highlander rip-off. There is nothing likable or redeeming about the protagonist David Rice, played lamely by Hadyn Christensen. I keep hearing that Hadyn is really a good actor despite the contrary evidence of his movies (Star Wars). If he doesn't start proving it soon, no one's going to be around to care.

The characteristic that I had spoke of relating to bad sci-fi movies that made them palatable was some kind of message. Jumper is not a metaphor for anything. There is no morality play. There is no hidden meaning. It's just fluff with pretty young people in it. Grade: D


I've talked about bad sci-fi, let's talk about good. One of the most important science fiction authors or our time and one of the four most important sci-fi authors of my youth, Arthur C. Clarke, passed away this week (Frank Herbert, Robert A. Heinlein and Larry Niven being the other three). He wrote the previously mentioned 2001: A Space Odyssey, numerous other books, and was a highly respected scientist and futurist whose writings are often cited as influencing the development of the modern communications satellite. Farewell, Arthur.


Also of note, and not unfamiliar in sci-fi circles (Fifth Element, Harry Potter, Batman Begins), today is my favorite actor's 50th birthday. Happy Birthday Gary Oldman. Check out my blog entry of a few years ago for recommended films by him: dbackdad's favorite actors: part one -- gary oldman


CyberKitten said...

I had some hope for Jumper - at least it looked interesting and fun. Pretty dire though wasn't it? Basically it was a movie without a plot (or at least without a coherent plot). My thought was that it was an interesting idea (if not particularly a new one) just incredibly baddly done. Shame really.

Shame too about Arthur C Clarke. I've read *lots* of his books and he was certainly one of the pillars I built my love of SF upon. He'll be missed.

dbackdad said...

There's definitely a seed of a good story there. I'd be curious to read the source material.

CyberKitten said...

Apparently there is a series of books in print.

Scott said...

I keep hearing that Hadyn is really a good actor despite the contrary evidence of his movies (Star Wars). If he doesn't start proving it soon, no one's going to be around to care.

See Shattered Glass. Other than that... not so good.