Science Fiction Cinema

Science Fiction Cinema: Between Fantasy and Reality

Christine Cornea
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r28mq
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Science Fiction Cinema
    Book Description:

    This major new study offers a broad historical and theoretical reassessment of the science fiction film genre. The book explores the development of science fiction in cinema from its beginnings in early film through to recent examples of the genre. Each chapter sets analyses of chosen films within a wider historical/cultural context, while concentrating on a specific thematic issue. The book therefore presents vital and unique perspectives in its approach to the genre, which include discussion of the relevance of psychedelic imagery, the ‘new woman of science’, generic performance and the prevalence of ‘techno-orientalism’ in recent films. While American films will be one of the principle areas covered, the author also engages with a range of pertinent examples from other nations, as well as discussing the centrality of science fiction as a transnational film genre. Films discussed include The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Body Snatchers, Forbidden Planet, The Quatermass Experiment, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Demon Seed, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Wars, Altered States, Alien, Blade Runner, The Brother from Another Planet, Back to the Future, The Terminator, Predator, The One, Dark City, The Matrix, Fifth Element and eXistenZ. Key Features*Thematically organised for use as a course text.*Introduces current and past theories and practices, and provides an overview of the main themes, approaches and areas of study.*Covers new and burgeoning approaches such as generic performance and aspects of postmodern identity.*Includes new interviews with some of the main practitioners in the field: Roland Emmerich, Paul Verhoeven, Ken Russell, Stan Winston, William Gibson, Brian Aldiss, Joe Morton, Dean Norris and Billy Gray.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2870-4
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND THANKS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. 1 INTRODUCTION: THE FORMATION OF THE GENRE
    (pp. 1-28)

    There are almost as many definitions of science fiction as there are critics who have attempted to define it as a genre. Debate and argument has raged for several decades as to exactly what constitutes the essential structures and characteristics of science fiction and over which texts should or should not be included within this generic category.¹ This is most apparent in studies of science fiction novels, where definitions have been bound up with efforts to valorise popular works previously thought of as unworthy or frivolous. For instance, the practitioner and critic Isaac Asimov suggested:

    We can define science fiction...

  7. 2 SCIENCE FICTION FILMS IN THE 1950s
    (pp. 29-74)

    The 1950s marks a turning point in the history of the science fiction film genre. This is a period that is commonly referred to as the ‘golden age’ of the science fiction film, partly due to the unprecedented number of feature films produced¹ and partly due to a group of highly influential, American-made ‘classics’ released over the course of the decade. Although the period is frequently associated with low budget, ‘trashy’ B features, landmark films like Destination Moon (dir. Irving Pichel, 1950), The Day the Earth Stood Still (dir. Robert Wise, 1951), The War of the Worlds (dir. Byron Haskin,...

  8. 3 SPACED OUT: BETWEEN THE ‘GOLDEN YEARS’
    (pp. 75-110)

    After the B-movie boom of the 1950s, the production of science fiction films in America rapidly decreased during the early 1960s. Following the end of World War II, the paranoia associated with the earlier Cold War years began to give way to a sense of hot competition between the Russian and American superpowers in the 1960s. The so-called Space Race was central to this shift, becoming a major national and international preoccupation. This was the ‘big science story’ of the 1960s, right through to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in 1969, and the NASA publicity/PR machine made sure...

  9. 4 THE MASCULINE SUBJECT OF SCIENCE FICTION IN THE 1980s BLOCKBUSTER ERA
    (pp. 111-144)

    The late 1970s and early 1980s saw a popular rebirth in the science fiction film in America, leading to the genre’s market dominance in the decades to follow. Following the experimental period of the late 1960s and 1970s, so-called New Hollywood entered its second phase of development, which was largely marked by the industry’s embrace of the summer blockbuster in the 1980s. Thomas Schatz dates the arrival of the blockbuster with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975), closely followed by two major science fiction hits Star Wars (dir. George Lucas, 1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1977).¹...

  10. 5 GENDER BLENDING AND THE FEMININE SUBJECT IN SCIENCE FICTION FILM
    (pp. 145-174)

    As the previous chapter indicates, the 1980s science fiction blockbuster exhibited an overwhelming concern with masculine identity and subjectivity. Both the ‘family films’ and the ‘cyborg films’ I have discussed seemed, in one way or another, to question, reinvent and/or preserve outmoded forms of masculine subjectivity in a world that was fast moving toward cybernetic connectivity and globalisation. At its most basic, the Freudian model of gender acquisition was based upon the bourgeois family and required the presence of both the father and mother in order for the boy-child to successfully complete his passage into manhood and take up his...

  11. 6 ALIEN OTHERS: RACE AND THE SCIENCE FICTION FILM
    (pp. 175-214)

    In science fiction ideas about human subjectivity and identity have traditionally been established in a comparison between self (human) and Other (non-human) characters. So, the alien, monster or robot of science fiction may provide an example of Otherness, against which a representation of ‘proper’ human subjectivity is established, interrogated and, on occasion, problematised. Images of Otherness in science fiction can be understood as a metaphor for forms of Otherness within society or between societies and in this way the genre can engage with the fears and anxiety surrounding a given society’s Others. Preceding chapters have concentrated on the representation of...

  12. 7 GENERIC PERFORMANCE AND SCIENCE FICTION CINEMA
    (pp. 215-246)

    Science fiction writing has traditionally dealt with ideas; often subordinating characterisation (or creating what are commonly called ‘flat’ characterisations) to a more overarching premise. As Alexandra Aldridge puts it: ‘Whilst individual experience in a fragment of historically familiar world constitutes the principle subject matter of the traditional novel, in SF individual experience recedes into the background.’¹

    Similarly, the kind of characterisation found in film genres more readily associated with cinematic realism (as adopted and adapted from the novel) is not the central concern of the science fiction film genre. Although a film narrative might revolve around a relatively small number...

  13. 8 CONCLUSION: THE TECHNOLOGY OF SCIENCE FICTION CINEMA
    (pp. 247-281)

    Since the inception of the science fiction film, the genre has been built upon a thematic interest in the social and philosophical delights and dangers associated with industrial, communications and biological technologies. This is a characteristic that it shares with the written genre and, to an extent, with the science fiction comic book, graphic novel and television series. However, science fiction films are also known for their devotion to technological display and for the presentation of phenomenal spectacle. These are characteristics of the film genre that can be traced back to the beginnings of cinema. As outlined in the introduction,...

  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 282-288)
  15. FILMS CITED
    (pp. 289-294)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 295-308)