Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cranky At The Movies

Recently I saw the new Nicholas Cage movie, Knowing, which Roger Ebert gave a glowing review as "intelligent SF." I can't imagine what Roger was drinking at the time.

This movie does what 90% of SF movies do: sacrifice sense and logic for special effects. It starts out well enough, with the planting of an intriguing supernatural mystery exemplified by one of the spookiest little girls I've ever seen. Then 50 years pass, the mystery is logically brought to life and begins to operate in the present, and I was genuinely interested. Where might this go?

Where it went, was off the rails. Before the end, we had an unholy mish-mash of supernatural, aliens, the Old Testament, life after death, and a giant solar flare. None of these elements is developed logically in itself, and they don't fit together in any way that could be accepted by anyone with an IQ over the speed limit. But, of course, that doesn't matter because it's "only SF," so anything goes.

Then last night I saw the French documentary The Class, which follows around a high school teacher in a difficult district as he attempts to teach his students. This was completely plausible, logical, and boring. My companion shifted restlessly in her seat. I fell asleep. I have taught in such a high school and so perhaps should not expect to encounter much that was new to me (except the French language), but I don't think anyone could be deeply interested in this for very long. Rational, but stultifying.

My next attempt at movies will be the caper-thriller Duplicity. Maybe that one will work.


John D. said...

"I can't imagine what Roger was drinking at the time."

LOL! Classic.

It's a shame that filmmakers can't see that truly intelligent SciFi (like Primer or Timecrimes) can be done on the cheap with little special effects. Ah well, same old song, isn't it?

Mike Flynn said...

The best SF movie ever - Charly - is not even recognized as SF. No ray guns, space ships, or monsters.

Blue Tyson said...


Is that a freeway speed limit, or one in a built-up area?


Blue Tyson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orion said...

It's interesting that plot seems to drive most other movie genres, at least nominally. SF is the orphan. In fact, much of what I have seen passed off as "SF" in the theaters over the years (starting with those Japanese monster flicks that I loved so much as a kid) is really fantasy, and not very coherent fantasy at that.

I guess the feeling in Hollywood is that a plot would just get in the way of the special effects, and I wonder why they don't trust the audience's ability to follow anything more challenging. Hey, murder mysteries can be (must be?) complexly plotted, and people pay to see them on film, right? So why not treat SF intelligently?

Has there *ever* been a true science fiction film made? One that both has a plot and does not devolve into handwaving when logic gets inconvenient?

I'll have to defer judgment on "Charly" (the film adaptation of "Flowers for Algernon"), as I have never seen it. The book didn't offer a lot of opportunity for a special effects extravaganza, which must have surely increased its chances of being successfully translated to film.

Mike Flynn said...

The Man in the White Suit

If you're willing to endure cheezy-by-our-standards special fx:

Forbidden Planet (but I think that started as a movie and was novelized afterward).

Blue Tyson said...

Sure. Primer, for one.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Mike Flynn, CHARLY was mighty. But better than 2001? (I won't even try to rate ATTACK OF THE MISSHAPEN ANDROID ROBOTS FROM THE INSANE ASYLUM OF THE THIRD MOON OF MARS.)