Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: My Favourite Sci-Fi Films

scifipostheader2
I touched briefly on my favourite sci-fi films in my introduction post, but I’d like to go into a little more detail this time. To start with, I have to admit that apart from the occasional film, most of my science fiction film viewing has been of more recent releases. I’m more than happy to take recommendations of any classics I may have missed. You’re more than welcome to join in and I’ve added an InLinkz widget at the bottom of the post, where you can share your own favourites! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 
And now, in no particular order, my top ten sci-fi films, plus some honourable mentions – because I’m rubbish at deciding…

“The space vessel Nostromo and its crew receive a distress call from an alien planet. After searching for survivors, they head back home only to realize that a deadly alien life form has joined them.”

1. Alien – I would be completely amazed if any of you have never heard of this one! It’s a science fiction classic and inspired the ‘survival film’ genre. The entire film is set on the Nostromo, making the viewer feel very claustrophobic at times – especially when the alien is loose on the ship. With a whole bevy of shocks, including the infamous chest-burster scene, this is one film never to be forgotten.

“A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.”

2. Prometheus – the divisive prequel to the Alien movies, released last year, I absolutely loved this one despite its cheesiness and rather stupid characters (RUN TO THE SIDE YOU SILLY WOMAN!). The presentation of the film is brilliant – dark and mysterious, with flashes of blue and silver finishing up the colour scheme, and the original score by Marc Streitenfeld is perfect. Not to mention that Michael Fassbender does a fantastic job as David. I read in this month’s Empire magazine that there will be a Prometheus 2, so I’m pretty pumped for that!

“A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.”

3. Avatar – if you haven’t heard of James Cameron’s Avatar, then you must have been living under a rock for the past couple of years. When it was released there was a lot of fuss over it, as it was shot through motion capture for the majority, came out in 3D (first 3D film I saw in the cinema) and used many new cinematic advances. When I first saw it I completely fell in love with Pandora – anyone want to move there with me? Whilst the story is a bit hit and miss in places, I don’t care because whilst watching it I just sit there soaking in the beautiful sights and sounds (thank you Mr. James Horner for the soundtrack).

“As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.”

4. War of the Worlds – yes, I actually like the 2005 adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic! I love the book, and think this puts quite a nice modern spin on it, transporting the action from London to the US (I forget where it starts but I know it ends in Boston). The utter helplessness of the human race against the tripods is both terrifying and fascinating, and the sounds that the tripods make in this film could haunt my nightmares!

“In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self.”

5. Looper – two words: time travel. The explanation for time travel in this film is passed over, to make way for the consequences of altering the past, and how even small decisions can change the path you take, and somehow the explanation doesn’t really seem necessary. I thought this film was really clever, and it’s not particularly a ‘big scale’ science fiction film – as in the only futuristic technology we really see is the aspect of time travel, although telekinesis does come into it. It’s very gritty and delves more into character development than you might expect.

“A team of astronauts are sent to re-ignite the dying sun 50 years into the future.”

6. Sunshine – a highly underrated film that I absolutely love. Maybe there’s something wrong with me that I enjoy all these ‘survival’ type films so much: anywhere where small groups of people trapped in an enclosed are threatened by some sort of alien/mysterious force. There’s also a Doctor Who episode that really reminds me of this film – 42. So if you enjoyed that episode, give this wonderful film a shot!

“During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.”

7. Jurassic Park – I’m trying to work out when I first saw this film: it was released when I was three, and I think I must have been six or seven when I saw it. And ever since then, it has remained one of my favourites (one of my big ‘childhood three’ which also includes Jumanji and Mrs Doubtfire). I was one of those kids who loved dinosaurs and I collected gemstones and fossils, I even wanted to be a paleontologist for a while. I think this is what  lead me onto a love for history, and eventually archaeology, even though archaeology and paleontology are very different fields – don’t ever ask an archaeologist what dinosaurs we’ve dug up recently. Ever. There have been three films in the series so far, and they’re currently working on number four, for release in 2015. And if you haven’t read the book by Michael Crichton – do it.

“A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a “harvestable being”, and is being kept as a source of replacement parts, along with others, in a utopian facility.”

8. The Island – okay, so it wasn’t received to great critical acclaim, and it’s a Michael Bay movie which means that anything that can explode explodes. And anything that can’t. Actually everything explodes. But still, I really enjoy this film and think it’s good fun, especially with Sean Bean playing the villain (of course). I first saw it in year 10 biology class, where we were studying cloning! It may not be a masterpiece but I have a soft spot for this film.

“In 1962, the United States government enlists the help of mutants with superhuman abilities to stop a malicious dictator who is determined to start World War III.”

9. X-Men: First Class – firstly, I am sorry for covering your lovely face, Mr McAvoy. This is my favourite of the X-Men films, and as I discussed yesterday I’m really excited for the sequel next year. This one focuses a lot on the relationship between Erik and Charles, so ends up being a lot more centered on character development than the previous films. It also has a pretty great 1960s themed soundtrack, and plays cleverly on real events.

 
“Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.”
 
10. The Hunger Games – I sped my way through all three books in this series, was so excited for the film when it came out and was not disappointed. The source material is quite violent, and I think they did really well at portraying that without making it an 18/R-rated film. I’m excited for the second film, Catching Fire, which looks to be even darker and greatly build upon the world of Panem.
 
What do you mean I haven’t included Star Wars?? Well, I wanted to but I think I will nominate that as my favourite science fiction film series. I love them all, minus Attack of the Clones which was just boring. Yes, even The Phantom Menace – that was the first one I saw in the cinema and it brings back warm, fuzzy memories. I remember my dad borrowing the original films on VHS from one of our neighbours, then sitting me and my sisters down to watch them all when I was about seven or eight years old. 
 
Honourable mentions also go to TRON: Legacy – although I think it’s a visually stunning film with a brilliant soundtrack it does tend to drag a bit, and Blade Runner – great film, but I actually preferred the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick.
 

What are your favourite science fiction films? Do you have any recommendations for me?

 

Advertisements
Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Common Concepts in Science Fiction

scifipostheader2

Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 
There are some factors that just make a science fiction book. That’s not to say that all sci-fi novels have to contain all, or even any, of these points, but they’re often found within works of the genre. In the style of my very first Fantasy Friday post, I’m going to do a similar post with science fiction and talk about common concepts in the genre. You’re more than welcome to join in, if you make your own post there is an InLinks widget at the bottom where you can share your post URL.
 

 
Time travel is something that has always fascinated humankind. I know some people do not get along with it in books, but personally I love it. There are series like Doctor Who where it is one of the main elements, or books like All Our Yesterdays. It opens up so many possibilities: parts of history can appear in a futuristic novel, historical figures can be brought to life – or civilisations even further ahead in time can be imagined. There are so many elements of time travel – alternate timelines, the grandfather paradox, many elements that would take a great deal more space to discuss!

See also: Doctor Who, All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, The Time Machine by H.G Wells, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Looper, Back to the Future, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 
Space travel is another big factor, often hand-in-hand with time travel. What makes it so exciting is that it’s something we can already do – albeit on a smaller scale than appears in most science fiction – so events in many books could be ones we have yet to look forward to! In some cases spaceships are able to travel in hyperspace and reach destinations very quickly, but some works of science fiction show space travel in a different way. For example, in the Mass Effect game universe, the player can find objects called mass relays (shown above), which form an enormous network allowing interstellar travel. In the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons, there is a price to pay for space travel. Certain characters are able to travel through space at such a speed that it kills them – but they are resurrected on the other side. It’s every bit as painful as it sounds, much to the dismay of one particular character who has to make several journeys in a short period of time!
 
See also: the Mass Effect video game series, the Hyperion Cantos series by Dan Simmons, House of Suns by Alistair Reynolds, Firefly, Sunshine, Star TrekStar Wars – in fact there are so many different books, TV series, films and games I could mention!

 
Aliens appear in so many works of science fiction, in all shapes and sizes. Occasionally they are friendly and help the human race, but most of the time… well you really don’t want to cross them. The Alien franchise (well, some of it) is a fantastic example of hostile alien races terrorising humans. I think they’re so popular because, admit it, we love the idea of there being some other form of intelligent life out there. There have been so many UFO spottings, abduction reports and other alien eyewitnesses that just prove we are obsessed. I for one am both really excited and kind of absolutely terrified by the idea of extra-terrestrial life. On one hand, they could be like the turians from Mass Effect (I’m a big Garrus fan), but on the other hand they might just be something like the creatures from Alien. And I don’t fancy meeting a facehugger, thank you very much.

See also: the Alien film series, the Mass Effect video game series, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, Doctor Who, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

 
This is one thing that makes me kind of sad when I read or watch sci-fi. I can’t remember ever seeing physical copies of books represented: characters always use ebooks or tablets to read or study. In fact it’s often some sort of multi-use device, for reading, communicating, studying and looking up information. I really hope that this is not our future; as much as I see the uses of an e-reader I would hate to live in a world without paperbacks.
 
See also: Acid by Emma Pass, the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Star Trek

 
It’s not just extraterrestrial life that fascinates us, but also artificial life. And like extraterrestrial life, it can be scary. In many examples, life created by humankind gets its own back on its creators – but in some cases, androids or cyborgs are seen as lesser citizens. One such example is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, also adapted into the film Blade Runner, where a bounty hunter has to dispose of several androids who have defied orders. As for YA fiction, there is Cinder by Marissa Meyer, where the eponymous character would be shunned from society were she to reveal her true status. In many cases, androids and cyborgs are indistinguishable from humans, which can be all the more dangerous. **Alien spoilers ahead** Think how shocked the crew of the Nostromo were when they discovered Ash was an android all along. **end spoilers** So maybe you should think about thanking that ATM next time it spits your cash out. Because one day, the machines might rebel against us!
 
See also: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Prometheus, Blade Runner, Artificial Intelligence

What concepts do you often see cropping up in science fiction? I can think of plenty more but have chosen only to cover a few. Which are your favourites?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Top Five Spaceships in Science Fiction

scifipostheader2

Today as part of Sci-Fi Month, I’m discussing my top five spaceships in science fiction. Feel free to join in with the top five, and share your link in the comments. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 
 

1. The TARDIS, from Doctor Who – Time and Relative Dimension in Space, this one is an obvious choice for me. Who doesn’t want a spaceship that’s bigger on the inside – imagine the library you could have in here! Although the Doctor does have one, but it might currently be part of the swimming pool… It’s such an iconic spaceship and also makes some awesome sounds.
 
 

2. The Normandy, from the Mass Effect series – technically there are actually two Normandys, SR1 and SR2, as the first is destroyed at the very beginning of Mass Effect 2. The Normandy is the main hub of the game, where you return to after each mission, and where you get to know your crew. Some of the best cut-scenes and interactions between Shepard and various squad mates take place on the Normandy. My captain’s cabin would be complete with a photo of Garrus on the desk, and a space hamster.
 

3. Serenity, from Firefly – if you’ve never watched Firefly, then do it. And then lament at the fact it was cancelled after only one season, despite being AMAZING. What I love about Serenity is how cosy it looks. Despite being a spaceship, the interior in most places doesn’t look very high-tech – the kitchen for example, looks like something taken from the 1950s, and Inara’s pod is decorated in silks and velvet.

4. Prometheus, from Prometheus – if I had to pick between Prometheus and Nostromo, I would pick Prometheus. We see a bit more of the ship in the film than we see of the Nostromo in Alien, plus I just love how everything looks. The contrast between the silvers and blues of the ships interior, and the dark earthy tones of the alien planet works really well. Only problem is, the escape pod isn’t that great…

 
 
5. Icarus II, from Sunshine – I’m hoping at least some of you have heard of Sunshine, personally I think it’s a rather underrated movie. It’s set in 2057, and the sun is failing, so a crew is sent to set off a bomb and hopefully reignite it. And the spaceship that gets a little too close to the sun is wonderfully called Icarus, referencing the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus. What I especially loved about this ship was the greenhouse, lovingly tended by Michelle Yeoh’s character, used to maintain the ship’s oxygen levels.
 

What about you? What are your top five spaceships in science fiction?

 

 

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Sci-Fi Sounds

scifipostheader2
 
In the past I’ve posted a couple of themed playlists on the blog, and shared my reading soundtrack. I thought it would be fun to do a similar thing for Sci-Fi Month, and share my favourite science fiction sounds.

The playlist is available to follow on Spotify, and the tracks are listed below.

Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

  • Life by Harry Gregson-Williams, from Prometheus– this is the song that plays when Shaw realises what she and the team have found, something every space explorer dreams of – extra-terrestrial life.
  • Pulstar by Vangelis – a lot of his music has a sci-fi vibe but I really love this one.
  • Icarus by Michael McCann, from Deus Ex: Human Revolution – a haunting theme song from a game based around a rather eerie prospect
  • I Am The Doctor by Murray Gold, from Doctor Who: Series 5 – apart from the main theme, this song really rounds up the series for me. It reminds me of all those moments where the Doctor and his companions seem truly stuck – and then the Doctor does something brilliant and saves the day.
  • Suicide Mission by Jack Wall, from Mass Effect 2 – with some definite sci-fi elements, this song brings back memories from a very emotional and tense part of the game.
  • Das Malefitz by Faunts, from Mass Effect 3 – the ending credits song for Mass Effect 3, this song encaptures the final moments of my favourite game series ever.
  • StarWaves by M83, from Oblivion – I have Sarah J. Maas to thank for this! When I met her I told her that my reading playlist is basically the same as her writing playlist (soundtracks), and she recommended this one.
  • End Theme by Vangelis, from Blade Runner – sadly this one is a cover, because the original isn’t on Spotify.
  • Prologue by John Williams, from War of the Worlds– wonderfully creepy and foreboding, and complete with Morgan Freeman reading that amazing quotation from the original H.G. Wells novel (albeit slightly updated for the modern age).
  • Across the Stars (Love Theme) by John Williams, from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – even though it’s from my least favourite Star Wars movie, the love theme of Anakin and Amidala/Padme is just wonderful.
  • Duel of the Fates by John Williams, from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – because that is one EPIC duel.
  • The Bioluminescence of the Night by James Horner, from Avatar – because I wish I lived on Pandora.
  • Derezzed by Daft Punk, from Tron: Legacy – I don’t care what people say, I kind of loved Tron: Legacy. But you know what I loved more than the film? Daft Punk’s soundtrack for it.
  • Main Title by James Horner, from Aliens – you know what’s coming… I scream at the people in that film when they decide to leave the spaceship. NO!
  • I Am Legend – Epilogue by James Newton Howard, from I Am Legend – a post-traumatic events song that gives you hope.
  • Adagio in D Minor by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, from Sunshine – this is from a rather underrated sci-fi film, and the soundtrack has just the right mix of creepy and beautiful.
  • Sector 6 by Steve Jablonsky, from The Island – if you haven’t seen The Island, then watch it. It’s about cloning, and stars Sean Bean, Ewan McGregor and Scarlet Johanssen.
  • Science is Fun by Mike Morasky, from Portal 2 – this whole soundtrack is insane, just like the game, but this song definitely has a frantic feel to it.

What do you think of my playlist? I tried to avoid main themes – what would you put in your own Sci-Fi Sounds playlist?