Monday, January 26, 2009

5 Underrated Sci-fi Movies

5. Sunshine

I watched this expecting another space horror movie, and while it is scary in places there is more to it than that. It is easy to forget on earth just how big and powerful the sun really is. Nothing in our experience prepares us for the power or immensity of the sun.

That is what this movie is about. Dealing with something so much larger than yourself and having no choice but to face it. The science isn’t great, I’m pretty sure that we can’t reignite the sun and the technology isn’t forthcoming, but who knows what might happen in the future.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I am only judging from my friends, most of which haven’t seen this but it seems underrated. Part of the problem I have is that people want to discount that this is science fiction because it is mostly about characters, but as you’ll see from my next two choices many of the best science fiction movies are about interesting characters.

As for the science, it might not be as extreme as it seems. We are getting better all the time at telling what people are thinking, and we have at least a passing idea of how memories are created. The idea of destroying specific memories may or may not ever be really possible, but if it is it might not be all that far off.

For scarier ideas of what would happen if people could mess with the memories of people read Phillip K. Dicks books, he has a number of stories about this, but none of them have Jim Carrey.

3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Based on my favorite book I was excited when this movie came out. This book is one of the most cinematic stories I have ever read, in part because it was based on a radio play, and they got a great deal of it right in the movie. The book certainly has far more than the movie, but I love the additions in the movie, as well as the subtle tips of the head towards the books.

If you’ve already seen the movie, watch it again, but this time watch Mos Def and the towel. Mos Def is certainly one hoopy frood.

2. Gattaca

For some time this was my favorite science fiction movie. This is what I love about science fiction without any of the traditional tropes that people think it needs. There is very little action in this movie, it’s all about ideas and the ideas are becoming more important all the time.

The question this movie asks is how much of what we are can be defined by our genetics. As any good movie it never completely answers the question, but it examines it completely. In the world of Gattaca genetic screening has become so easy that those who aren’t perfect have become second class citizens, and having children without it is considered unnatural.

The hero of Gattaca was born naturally and has a potential heart defect but he wants to be in the space program. He has fought his entire life against this idea, but the only way to get into the space program is to fake who he is. He becomes a “Stolen Ladder” by assuming the genetic identity of a man who was genetically almost perfect.

I would not ruin any of the surprises in this movie, I would just say that it deserves far more attention than it got.

1. Serenity

There are a great many people who consider this a great movie, but it is still called a cult film in many places and it doesn’t deserve that. This movie is as good as any number of far better known movies. I saw this in the theater with a friend who said it was the best science fiction movie since The Matrix and I have to agree. The effects were great, the characters are fun, the plat was exciting and it deserves attention not just from a small army of devoted fans, but from the general populous.

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  1. Very interesting that you put Eternal Sunshine on this list. I wouldn't have thought of it as sci-fi, even though it really is essentially.

    And I agree on Serenity. Should be right up there with the other "greatest" sci-fi movies of all time.

    I still need to see Sunshine...

  2. Sunshine was definitely better than I expected. I liked it at least as much as event horizon and the Riddic movies.