‘Writers Choice’ is a monthly segment. Each month a theme will be chosen and the contributors asked to choose a film to mini-review based around said theme. This months theme is ‘futuristic’.
I saw Alphaville in the basement screening room of a geeky café; which I can assure you is probably the best setting to see Jean-Luc Godard’s foray into science fiction. In this gloriously melodramatic and strange noir, Godard puts a futuristic twist on his typical New Wave aesthetic (cue heavy sighs, angsty pouts, black eyeliner and Anna Karina.) The film is about a city controlled by a computer, Alpha 60. Under the computer’s harsh, productivity-minded reign, anything that provokes emotion is outlawed; because who needs emotion, right? Obviously it bares no resemblance at all to the world we live in today.
But despite the dystopian backdrop, Alphaville doesn’t feel like a cautionary, anti-technology tale. The stakes are high, but Godard is careful to leave room for freedom and love. Alphaville, like stinky French cheese, reeks of existential crisis. The film is not just about the physical realities of living in a cyber-dictatorship, but more so the philosophical struggles that haunt its citizens. Overthrowing the computer’s mainframe isn’t about physically rebelling against the system; it’s about freeing your mind and thinking autonomously. Even if you’re not open to that level of introspection, it still looks and sounds cool as hell. If that doesn’t convince you, just watch this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7m3iO0blDc . –Ana Bauer
Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is a beautifully made neo-noir sci-fi movie set in 2019 Los Angeles. The special effects used never cease to astound me, for a film made 33 years ago they have stood the test of time and to me do not appear overly dated. It’s a truly sad fact that as we are only 5 years away from when it is set that there is a slim-to-none chance that we will be using hovercrafts and having colonies out in space like in the film (you can dream though). However, the futuristic world that Scott created is a true masterpiece, as you are lured into a world that is bleak and filled with a sense of cynicism – yet still makes you imagine what it would be like to live in such a place.
I am a firm believer that not only is Blade Runner one of the best science-fiction films ever made, but that it is one of Harrison Ford’s best roles. His performance as Richard Deckard is fascinating to watch because you can almost feel the internal conflict that is raging within him. He once again excels at beating people up, winning what should be un-winn-able fights and staring into the distance looking unhappy – something that no Harrison Ford film is without.
Watching Blade Runner is such a feast for the eyes, with the neo-noir lighting contrasting perfectly with the brash, in-your-face outfits of some of future LA’s citizens. Although some have accused the film of progressing too slowly I prefer its more sedentary pace as it allows you to really soak up the plot line and the brilliant performances, rather than being bombarded with action sequences that would take away from its sci-fi feel. –Megan Gibb
If you are a fan of the film Gravity, you will certainly appreciate Oscar winner Alfonso Cuaron’s early work, 2006’s Children of Men. Starring Clive Owen, Michael Caine, and Julianne Moore, Children of Men is a tense thriller that tells the story of a dystopic future where women can no longer have children. Thus, the human race is slowly but surely going extinct. Children of Men takes place in England 2027, (the film was released in 2006, and now in 2015 that year is not too far off) which has descended into chaos. Society is collapsing, and heavy laws in England, (the one place out of the few that are still functioning) many in place against immigrant refugees. Clive Owen ends up aiding Kee, who is the first woman in 18 years to be pregnant. He must help her escape from gangs who want to use her child as a political tool, the dark places of the government, and much more in order to get her and her child to safety. Children of Men may take place in a bleak and stark world, but it through the power of the story it manage to become a beautiful one as well. Accompanied by a haunting score and mesmerizing camerawork (including single-shot action sequences that will leave you on the edge of your seat), Children of Men is both an evocative thriller and sensitive human drama, one that will leave you riveted the entire time. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest films of all time and is very much underrated. While there are many films about dystopic futures, Children of Men has an engaging and original concept that leaves the audience much to mull upon. What would happen if women could no longer have children? –Caroline Madden
People have told me to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for years, but for whatever reason, I never did. It might have had something to do with the fact that I’ve never been a huge fan of sci-fi films or that I can’t stand Jim Carrey’s comedic persona most of the time. Either way, I finally got around to watching the film a few months ago and fell absolutely in love with it. It is one of the best and most original love stories I have ever seen. Although the film isn’t necessarily set in the future, it does revolve around future technology that allows a person to undergo a procedure to erase their memories. Joel, a slightly awkward and reserved man (portrayed wonderfully by Jim Carrey) wants to erase his memory of Clementine, his eccentric and free spirited ex-girlfriend (played by the talented mega-babe Kate Winslet) after she erases him from her memory. The film plays out like a dream and explores relationships, memories and heartaches in a beautifully complex manner. For a movie about memory erasing, I for sure won’t be forgetting this movie any time soon. –Rena Johnson
Alex Garland wrote one of my favourite books and the screenplay of my favourite film, The Beach. Fast forward 15 years and his name is attached to something starring Oscar Issac AND Domnhall Gleeson. BAE CENTRAL. Ex Machina is another one of those ‘is AI really possible?’ movies that everyone’s banging on about these days and I just popped along to enjoy Oscar Issac in all his bearded glory, but what I got was so much more.
The film follows Caleb, a computer programmer who wins a competition in his workplace to meet his mysterious boss and see his latest project. He’s shipped off to a secret location via helicopter and stumbles upon his boss’ pad, all very high tech and mysterious. Upon meeting his boss, Nathan, he’s introduced to Ava, Nathan’s latest AI development and from then on Nathan uses Caleb as the catalyst for a series of tests to find out whether or not Ava really does possess consciousness.
But unlike most other AI films that hit the ‘EUREKA!’ moment of consciousness being proved or not, Ex Machina gets dark. Real dark. There’s closets full of previous AI’s’, stabbings, drunks, power cuts and one very scared AI, Ava. One minute she’s cute and alluring, next manipulative and mysterious, the films constantly plays on these features, chopping and changing your mind every so often to keep you guessing. This is the sort of AI film I want to see from now on, not a questioning of the realities of artificial intelligence, but what happens when it succeeds. –Chloe Leeson
FANTASTIC PLANET (1973)
When I was in high school, I began listening to the artist Youth Lagoon. I became obsessed and started binge-watching anything I could find of his on YouTube. I came across the music video “Posters.” I loved it instantly because it depicts an eerie, surreal, cutout stop-motion of aliens and humans. Upon further research, I found out that the footage was from the Sci-Fi, french film Fantastic Planet (1975). Knowing that there was an entire film dedicated to this art form got me incredibly excited. I just had to get my hands on it. Once I did, I had to watch it numerous times. Partly because it is packed with themes, but also because, well, it’s pretty weird (in the best way possible). It even won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you definitely should.
Although this film is science fiction, I feel like it gives an honest futuristic outlook on what the world could one day become. We as humans have established speciesism, but how do we know that there isn’t a life form out there that is far superior? The “Oms” are the feral humans that are controlled by the alien race “Draags.” While most Oms hide in the wilderness to save themselves from the abuse of the Draags, Terr is not so lucky. Terr’s mother is murdered by a group of Draag children, but he is rescued by the Draag leader, Master Sinh. Terr is given to Master Sinh’s daughter, Tiva, as a pet. She is then able to control him via a collar tightly placed around his neck. In English, the motherland of the Draags is called “Fantastic,” but in French, it’s actually “Savage” (La Planète sauvage). The Oms are seen as savage, when it’s really the Draags who have no sympathy for the lesser species. Whilst watching the film, viewers will understand that the Oms are just as intelligent as the Draags. They merely have less of an advantage due to their size and lack of resources. This not only teaches us to treat other species with respect, but to also establish peace and equality within our own species. –Cristina Vazquez de Mercado
Set in future LA, ‘Her’ follows Theodore Twombly, an introverted writer, as he attempts to get over his ex-wife, and ultimately finds love in the form of his talking Operating System “Samantha.” Starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johannsson, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful films I have seen- if not for the aesthetically pleasing cinematography, for the beautiful music score by absolute angels (in my opinion, anyway) Arcade Fire. Not only is this film a joy to look at, though, it is both distinctive and endearing- ‘Her’ doesn’t paint some dystopian picture of the future where technology has rotted our brains, but quite the opposite- I really found myself encapsulated by Theodore’s love for his Operating System. I think it draws parallels with our reality now, as technology is a massive part of most people’s lives, and Spike Jonze’s take on this presents modern society’s technology obsession as a possibly beautiful thing. ‘Her’ is a touching and refreshing insight into ideas of love and ideas of the future. Captivating and pertinent, it’s definitely a worthwhile watch. –Laura Hague
In theory, living in the world “In Time” is set in doesn’t seem too bad. Freezing at the age of 25-years-old for for all your life? Awesome. Not having to deal with pounds and pennies because you can pay with your arm? Convenient. However, in In Time the saying “time is money” is literal and more dangerous than the proverb suggests.
When a billionaire gives Will Salas a century, the grieving protagonist must navigate through his penniless time-zone whilst debating on how to avoid a life like that of his century-giving donor, who proceeded to committing suicide immediately – before Will even woke up. If that’s not enough, he is hunted down by his fellow locals, who form gangs and mob people for just a few seconds, as well as the authority figures and timekeepers who discriminate against his kind.
The dystopian sci-fi boasts some pretty big names, from Justin Timberlake, who plays Will Salas, and Amanda Seyfried, who’s character is Sylvia Weis, to Olivia Wilde and Cillian Murphy – plus cameos from Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki, and the talented actors represented their respective characters perfectly.
Although set in the future, it still has some pretty present and common aspects to the plot. The xenophobia and classism Will battles is similar to the horrid occurrences in South Africa at present, and the antique folk tale of Robin Hood seems to be renewed and rejuvenated throughout the film. As a result, the futuristic tale still remains relatable and connectable to the viewers.
Oh, and who can deny the recreation of Will running to save his mother and again running to save Sylvia is undeniably one of the most intense movie scene(s?) ever?! No-one, that’s who. Glasses up to Andrew Niccol. –Sharon Igbokwe
Personally I think it would be shame, nay an injustice, to have a compilation of some of our favourite futuristic films without mentioning an icon of the genre. Fritz Langs 1927 sci-fi epic Metropolis, was by no means the first in its genre, but completely set the bar- giving audiences a glimpse into how expansive the future of science fiction cinema could be. The film, drawing on conventions of German expressionism, drama and the dystopian, is set in the future of 2026 where there is distinct class divide within society, with the lower class working to power the city contrasting with the wealthy industrialists who exhibit most of the power- in a H.G.Wells esque narrative. The character of Freder (the son of the mastermind of the city) is central to the film, with Metropolis following his discovery into the true plight of the workers. However it is arguably Langs affinity for gorgeous cinematography that makes Metropolis such a seminal piece of work. Clearly inspired by the sky line of New York, Metropolis’ large skyscrapers and vastly detailed environments meticulously composed, shows not only the work on a creative visionary (large statement right there!) but also through Langs own thoughts, Metropolis is a view of New York city shot through a German perspective: “I looked into the streets – the glaring lights and the tall buildings – and there I conceived Metropolis.” Perhaps something that I’ve failed to mention but should say about Metropolis is that, yes, it is a silent film. And before you all go sighing and scrolling away in horror at the prospect of it, Metropolis is just simply one of those films engraved so deeply within film history that it is a must see for anybody. -Molly Bennett
I don’t really care about Star Wars. Phew!—That was a load off of my mind. Maybe it’s because the first time I actively watched it was in college, and the magical complexity and wonder of the effects and story were lost on me. Maybe it’s because the only Star Wars movie I remember with any clarity from my childhood is the one with Liam Neeson and the silly looking guy with the red and black face.
So, with that in mind, it’s sure to confuse many a Star Wars fan that one of my favorite movies of all time is Mel Brooks’s Spaceballs.
In a galaxy very, very, very, very, far away, a young mercenary named Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) takes a new job worth one million “spacebucks.” His mission: to retrieve Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga), who ran away from her wedding accompanied by her faithful Droid of Honor Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers). Princess Vespa, however, is a target for the evil planet, Spaceball, who are scheming to blackmail her father to steal their planet’s fresh air. Soon she, Dot, Lone Starr and his best friend Barf (John Candy) are fleeing for their lives from the clutches Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis), President Skroob (Mel Brooks) and the Spaceballs.
This movie is a great futuristic choice for a person who wants a healthy helping of comedy thrown into their science fiction experience. It is a film that, even with its added visual effects, does not take itself very seriously. Mel Brooks is at his height with this film, with incredibly quotable lines, a talented cast and a pretty fantastic soundtrack by John Morris. And to all readers, may The Schwartz be with you. –Genevieve Hoeler
It is the typical story of love at first sight: boy meets girl, one falls harder than other, life ensues, the other finally realizes their feelings, and BOOM happily ever after. What sets this story apart from other films in this genre is every other aspect. Mainly, the boy (Wall-E) and the girl (EVE) are robots, and it’s taking place sometime near the year 3000 on an uninhabitable, post-apocalyptic Earth and a giant space cruise liner, lightyears into the galaxy.
Having rendered Earth unlivable with mass amounts of trash, humans are forced to flee into space and wait while robots like Wall-E clean it all up. 700 years later, EVE enters the picture as a probe sent to search for signs of new, organic life. Through a series of typical Disney and Pixar hijinks, unexpected villainy, and tear inducing moments, our star crossed lovers are united and the humans, realizing their ancestors’ errors, return to Earth to fix what they had destroyed.
Wall-E is, without a doubt, one of my favorite films of all time. It is a children’s film, but that doesn’t stop it from taking a dark look at the future. Instead of hover cars and metallic high rises, we have deserts and wastelands. Humans have grown fat and completely reliant on technology, all the while oblivious to the wonder around them in space. Ironically juxtaposed with Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World in the background, Wall-E can definitely be viewed as a cautionary tale against mass consumption and laziness.
Featuring a FABULOUS vocal cameo by the queen of sci-fi herself, Sigourney Weaver, Wall-E is an absolute gem. If you’re looking to laugh, smile, shed a few tears, and appreciate the Earth a little bit more, I cannot recommend it enough. –Tyler Dziubinski