Science fiction film

Science fiction film (or sci-fi film) is a genre that uses speculative, fictional science-based depictions of phenomena that are not fully accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial lifeforms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition. In many cases, tropes derived from written science fiction may be used by filmmakers ignorant of or at best indifferent to the standards of scientific plausibility and plot logic to which written science fiction is traditionally held.[1]

The genre has existed since the early years of silent cinema, when Georges Melies' A Trip to the Moon (1902) employed trick photography effects. The next major example in the genre was the film Metropolis (1927). From the 1930s to the 1950s, the genre consisted mainly of low-budget B movies. After Stanley Kubrick's landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the science fiction film genre was taken more seriously. In the late 1970s, big-budget science fiction films filled with special effects became popular with audiences after the success of Star Wars and paved the way for the blockbuster hits of subsequent decades.

Characteristics of the genre

According to Vivian Sobchack, an American cinema and media theorist and cultural critic:

Science fiction film is a film genre which emphasizes actual, extrapolative, or 2.0 speculative science and the empirical method, interacting in a social context with the lesser emphasized, but still present, transcendentalism of magic and religion, in an attempt to reconcile man with the unknown (Sobchack 63).

This definition suggests a continuum between (real-world) empiricism and (supernatural) transcendentalism, with science fiction film on the side of empiricism, and horror film and fantasy film on the side of transcendentalism. However, there are numerous well-known examples of science fiction horror films, epitomized by such pictures as Frankenstein and Alien.

The visual style of science fiction film can be characterized by a clash between alien and familiar images. This clash is implemented when alien images become familiar, as in A Clockwork Orange, when the repetitions of the Korova Milkbar make the alien decor seem more familiar.[2] As well, familiar images become alien, as in the films Repo Man and Liquid Sky.[3] For example, in Dr. Strangelove, the, distortion of the humans make the familiar images seem more alien.[4] Finally, alien and familiar images are juxtaposed, as in The Deadly Mantis, when a giant praying mantis is shown climbing the Washington Monument.

Cultural theorist Scott Bukatman has proposed that science fiction film allows contemporary culture to witness an expression of the sublime, be it through exaggerated scale, apocalypse or transcendence.

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