Weird Science

In a recent conversation with Director Duncan Jones, quoiffed film critic extraordinaire Mark Kermode referred to the former's new film Moon as part of the 'old' science fiction genre, when science fiction was really 'about something'. In the context of the conversation, Kermode was really saying: 'there's two types of science fiction; one where robots hit each other over the head and explode and another where 'what if' scenarios are really tested.' The discussion covered other areas surrounding science fiction as well and you can see Kermode talking about some of them by clicking this thing.

Kermode's comments come at a time when science fiction, for possibly the first time, truly means something different to the generations. Anyone around 18 and younger (certainly 15 and younger) sees science fiction as explosions and spaceships, the (new) Star Wars and Transformers view of things, whilst anyone older might find themselves more comfortable recalling the poetic Blade Runner or thought provoking Solaris.

Unlike Kermode, I can see merits in the above 'new' science fiction, but the genre does stand at a crossroads where it threatens to make itself into a McGuffin to further Michael Bay-esque pyrotechnics. What I mean by that is this; instead of having an idea as a plot device which is then explored through fictional manipulation of future likely or unlikely sciences, 'new' science fiction instead has 'the result' as facilitation for action movie extravagance.

Case in point: Transformers (the physical robots) are science fiction, cars that can change and morph with extremely advanced mechanics to make robotic super-strength entities. But in The Transformers films the science fiction is simply plot facilitation. The robots arrive and cause havoc across an Earth entirely the same as ours without care for how they came to be or what this could mean for humanity at an idealogically level. Blade Runner on the other hand, considers how Replicants came into being and what implication their existence has on humanity (at crucially, both and idealogical and physical 'they might kill us all' level) and, whilst it's at it, what humanity actually means, taking this new science fiction into account. It's almost now two different genres; Science Fiction Practical and Science Fiction Theory - one might look flashier and be more entertaining on the surface but it is, literally in some respects, a flash in the pan, here today, gone tomorrow, entirely forgetable.

Which makes films which aspire to the heights of Moon so important in this day and age. Without aspiring, forward-thinking science fiction we wouldn't of had Orwell's Catch-22, never mind Solaris, Blade Runner and numerous other examples. If a generation of young people grow up knowing science fiction as an excuse for a battle of titantic, intergalatic proportions then the death of science fiction as an art form, rather than just a MacGuffin is closer at hand than a time machine journey.

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