The awards ceremonies would have you believe that hard-hitting drama, and maybe more specifically biopics, are the best film genre. But a lot of people don’t see these films, and a lot of demographics don’t want to watch the films they would call ‘boring’ (Boyhood anyone?). Box office results would tell you that blockbusters, and at the moment comic book films are the best. But that would mean that Avatar is the best film ever? Well, nobody’s gonna argue that. Before I go any further, I will openly admit that there is no such thing as ‘the best film genre’, as it’s completely down to personal taste, this is simply an argument as to why I think one particular genre is the best.
Small-scale science fiction. Oh poop, I didn’t wait until the end of the article for the big reveal! Well, better get on with the explanation. A number of films over the past few years have contributed to me thinking this, but the one that has most recently effected me is Alex Garland’s Ex Machina, a film that not only got a great review from us, but also inspired another article that went into more detail about the questions it posed. I had better back track, as this is starting to sound like a conclusion.
So what makes small-scale sci-fi better than the big budget stuff? And Todd, wasn’t your favourite film last year X-men: Days of Future Past, followed by Guardians of the Galaxy? Yes, surprisingly well-informed reader, and they are pretty much as big as they come. I love big event films too, and while they’re the most enjoyable kind of film to me, I think there are ‘better’ films out there. I believe the main way a film can become truly great, is if it sticks with you, and I mean really stays with you, not just for the post film discussion over chicken with your friends. Were you thinking about it in bed that night? The next day, were you pondering some of the questions, or theories that it asked? When you’re looking into which film to watch next, are you worried that it can’t possibly live up to what you’ve just seen? It’s rare, but for me that feeling happens almost exclusively with small-scale sci-fi.
This year has already had the aforementioned Ex Machina, and luckily enough just around the corner is Chappie, a film I think is more than capable of having the same effect, even if it does cover similar subject matter. 2014 wasn’t the best year for this genre, with Interstellar and Lucy both being this kind of film dressed in the clothes of a big release. Also, The Maze Runner and The Anomaly were surprisingly good. 2013 had The World’s End, which, when you look past the comedy and action is one of the most intelligent, thoroughly thought out films I’ve ever seen. The same year we saw Oblivion, which a lot of people didn’t like, and some people might describe as a blockbuster, but I think it has enough concept and such a small amount of action that it can be classified as a small-scale. I’ve also heard a lot of people say that it’s a rip off of Moon, but then I would just say look at Moon as another example instead. Let’s also not forget Elysium, which I think is highly underrated.
2012 might be remembered for The Avengers and The Hunger Games, but there were some brilliant smaller sci-fi films in there. Looper, Chronicle, Cloud Atlas and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World all either posed brilliant, difficult questions, or at the very least had some amazing science fiction elements to them that stuck with me, and I’m sure stuck with other people too. I haven’t even mentioned Cabin in the Woods, which is possibly my favourite film of the last few years, and a film that to this day I tell people they have to watch. Oh go on, I’ll do one more. 2011 had Rise of the Planet of the Apes (back when the studio didn’t want to put too much money into it, they had no choice but to make it all about story), Source Code (a film I actually didn’t like at all, but it helps make my point), Limitless, Contagion, Another Earth, In Time and Attack the Block.
Some people might disagree with me and say that some of these are not small-scale films, and that’s fine, it’s why I’ve listed to many, so that hopefully my point gets across. Some people might also disagree with me and say that some of these films aren’t very good, and that’s exactly what I want! That’s another reason I think this genre is so brilliant. It gets people talking, and isn’t that really the point of any piece of art? Yes, I loved X-men: Days of Future Past, maybe a little too much, but after I’d seen it five times, and the conversations about how cool the action was, and how hard I cried at the end (just me?) were over, that was about it. I can still debate and argue with people about The World’s End, Cloud Atlas, Looper, The Maze Runner, and every other film on this list, and that’s what small-scale sci-fi has that other genres don’t. Or at least, they don’t have as much of it. What did the ending of Birdman mean anyway?
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