My movie buddy and I saw Solaris when it opened. There was no new “Firefly” on the tube that night, so we watched a tape of Star Trek. Since present-time fiction tends to describe the way storytellers see the world today and sci-fi gives them a chance to describe the future, there are reasons to wish that more of today’s artists had a bright, progressive view.
Solaris is a psychological drama. It’s actually psy-sci-fi. Some film critics hate it more than it deserves. They find superstar George Clooney’s bared butt the only interesting sight. Critics can be really hard on artists like Steven Soderbergh and James Cameron because they received all the recent rave reviews. Solaris isn’t a bad movie at all. Its message is the no-message of existentialism, but it says it rather well.
The newest Star Trek “prequel” is a re-hash of the things that were done much better in “Star Trek, the Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” – all conceived when author Gene Roddenberry was still alive. The crew of the first Starship Enterprise have the exact same adventures, even some of the exact same stories, that have already been told on the earlier versions of Star Trek.
My sci-fi hungry hopes soared when “Firefly” came on TV. It’s a space-western, with really interesting outlaw characters applying high morals to a world in flux. “The Alliance,” which rules the galaxy, might be good or bad – the writers don’t say – but the little band of rebels on the tiny space-freighter are forward-looking, and that makes good sci-fi. The big problem is that the pilot never aired (the series started in the middle) and there have been no new programs for two weeks. The show never received a proper launching, and it seems to have trailed off.
The other current sci-fi offerings on the big and little screens use the latest technological gadgetry for the wonderment of blowing things up, but leave science fiction’s tremendous opportunities for projecting ideas unused. Avoided. Scorned. The people capable of making really good science fiction have turned to big-budget fantasy productions that star, not people nor ideas, but special effects. My movie buddy and I like fantasy, too, but we long for good sci-fi.
Really good sci-fi with a positive message requires optimism about the future. Classless artists view the right-wing cruelty around us and despair. They abandon the future, they abandon sci-fi, and turn to fantasy. Our fiction suffers. It’s unfortunate, because there is still a bright shining future ahead. Hopefully, some of our movie and TV artists will see it soon.
– Jim Lane
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