Hollywood is Finally Doing Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films Right

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Films and Television' started by Vortigern99, Jun 28, 2008.

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  1. JediTrilobite Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 17, 1999
    star 7
    Um, yes you did:


    I mean all of that. Films generally look better nowadays, there is no getting around that by any stretch of the imagination. Sets have a lot more work with, as people pay more attention to the smaller details, the CGI, camerawork, costumes, etc. But these elements are just PART of what makes a film good or even great - they are there to support the story, and that is what comes first and foremost. You can have the best looking film in the world, with the best actors, and still h
  2. Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2000
    star 5
    Ouch! I can't comment on your whole respose at the moment, Trilobite, as I'm off to see Tropic Thunder (neither a genre film nor a "fine offering", I'm sure!). But I must say I completely erred in listing 10,000 BC as a "fine offering" -- and then forgot that I had done so! I've not seen the film, but I understand it's quite bad, which is why I later (and repeatedly) listed it as one of the failures of recent years. Please strike it from the list of movies I put forward as examples of good SFF films.

    I'll return to reply to your whole post later today.
  3. JediTrilobite Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 17, 1999
    star 7
    Heh, I shall look forwards to it!
  4. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    JediTrilobite, I greatly enjoyed your post. One passage that got a particular chuckle was about American audiences occasionally being able to pick out a good movie, but not always (pleas pardon my paraphrasing).

    To this I hold up one movie above all others as the worst movie of all time, not just because it was bad, but because it was so highly over-rated, hyped, and undeservedly praised. This movie, nominated for 11 oscar nominations, completely and utterly failed to live up to any potential it might have had given the subject matter. The movie, if you haven't already guessed was "REDS".
    If you have not seen it, count yourself lucky.
    It makes "Blair Witch Project" seem like a cinematic masterpiece.
  5. Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2000
    star 5
    I agree with the bolded part. Where I disagree is that the PT movies were lacking in story. If anything, the story is too complex and multi-layared. I realize this is a topic best suited for PT or Saga, but in brief, you may dismiss the dialogue all you like, but the story itself is grandiose, Greek-tragedy, epic, mythic stuff. That said, the adage about one man's trash and another man's treasure is once more evident. You reject or harshly criticise certain films that I hold as excellent. Thus you have a lower regard for recent SFF films in general.

    Yet my entire premise here is that recent SFF movies are better than what we had back in the day. The PT movies may not be as good as the OT films (and that is arguable, especially with regard to ROTJ), but they're far superior to just about any other SFF movie of the 70s-90s.

    Again, trash and treasure. I think the Potter films are brilliant -- absolute masterpieces of fantasy filmmaking, everyone. They strike a crucial balance between mainstream popcorn-art and edgy, stylish fantasy. They are also critical darlings, despite your assertion to the contrary. Both Hulk films are awesome genre movies, each in their own way. Once more, you personally may not enjoy them, and they may not have fared as well as hoped at the box office, but they're a vast improvement over the ludicrous TV series of the late 70s, and they nail the comics version of the Hulk in a really inspiring and artistic way.

    My contention here is not, as you seem to think, that every genre movie made in the last 8 years is better than the masterpieces of yestryear; far from it. Rather, it is that most genre movies of today are better than most genre movies of the 70s-90s. Since there are more today than ever before, that makes for a satisfying and highly welcome cornucopia of SFF.


  6. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    Are the same people who say Spirited Away is the best animated movie ever the same ones who said CTHD swept through China "like a storm" and was hugely popular?
    of the Miyazaki films I've seen, that has thus far been my least favorite.
    Oh well, maybe it's just that my perceptions are completely inverse from the rest of the world.

    Watched the original Metropolis last night. Had never seen it before.
    Not a movie to be watched lightly, nor often. Interesting to see how many items from later movies owe their history to that film, and what it owes to it's contemporaries. I found some online converters for currency and inflation. The movie was made for 6million DeutschMarks in 1927, which was about $1.5M. Adjusting for inflation makes the budget aproximately $15.5Million Don't know where that falls with respect to modern budgets. Just an interesting reference.

    Rather than fly fishing or any other forms of angling, Hollywood is currently throwing grenades in the water to find a hit film. Where in the past the options were a fishing rod or a stick of dynamite, Hollywood is using high intensity stun grenades with magnesium flares and thermite rather than laser-guided precision scalpels refined and honed to supreme effectiveness.

    I cannot comment on any of this year's major movies, as I haven't seen them. Waiting for DVD.
  7. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    Superman: The Movie, Superman II
    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
    The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day
    Blade Runner
    RoboCop
    Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
    Alien, Aliens
    Batman, Batman Returns
    Edward Scissorhands
    Back to the Future, Back to the Future Part II, Back to the Future Part III
    Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
    Jurassic Park
    E.T. the Extra-terrestrial
    Hook
    The Last Starfighter
    Short Circuit
    Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch

    Of course everyone has different tastes, but the above are just some of the older genre movies I'd argue are anywhere from slightly to vastly superior to the PT.

    I think that the modern era has overall sacrificed quality for quantity. Most of the films on my list above are considered iconic, and a good number are considered masterpieces. Other than The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, and now perhaps The Dark Knight, I can't think of any SFF films in the last decade that reach the level of even half the films on this list.

    I'll give you this, though: 2008 specifically has been a very SOLID year for genre movies, and one of the strongest summer seasons since 1989. Iron Man, WALL-E, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy II, The Dark Knight were all quite good, while Indy 4 and The Mummy 3 were fun if flawed adventures. It would've been even better if the two big 4th-quarter SFF releases (Harry Potter and Star Trek) hadn't gotten bumped to 2009, but if the movies are improved because of this then I'm OK.

    I don't think the ratio of good to bad SFF movies is much different now than 20 years ago. But I do think the ratio of great SFF films to the rest has dropped a bit.
  8. Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2000
    star 5
    I do think the PT films are at least comparable to most of the movies of your list. Either way, I highly approve of the list as a collection of genre greats from the 70s-80s. A few months before I created this thread, I authored one called The Golden Age, about the glorious fantasy films of the 70s and 80s. I have a deep and abiding love of evey film listed(with the exception of TMNT2, Batman Returns and -- good heavens -- Short Circuit)! They're all classics, a few masterpieces, and all much beloved. Yet today there is a comparable film for just about everything here, as you can read below [I've separated your listings from my reponses with a "//". Note that I've included some 21st-century TV because TV is vastly superior to the TV of yesteryear, in some cases at least as good as the movies of past decades]:


    As you've noted, it does indeed come down to personal taste. Unfortunately, my heartfelt opinion on this score appears to be at odds with many others'. If the negative response I've received so far is any indication, I seem to be in the extreme minority with regard to the general thrust of this thread and its title. Nonehtless I stand by my assessment: most genre movies are excellent these days, with a few duds and precious handful of masterpieces; whereas in the 70s-90s most genre films were awful, with a few good ones and precious handful of masterpieces.
  9. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    Looking over my own rack of DVDs, I'm going to agree with that. Films like Hellboy II and Stardust that fly almost under the radar today would have been genre classics twenty years ago. It's harder for a film to have the same impact that some of the classics of decades past have had, but that doesn't mean that they're not better films in virtually every way.
  10. Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2000
    star 5
    At last! Agreement! Raven, that's exactly what I've been attempting to say here. If Stardust, for example, had come out in the 80s, it would have be considered an instant classic. If this year's Incredible Hulk had come out in the 90s, critics would have proclaimed it brilliant, and audiences would have rushed to see it in droves. We're so inundated with amazing genre films now that we're jaded to the high degree of quality these movies have compared to the bulk of yesteryear's SFF movies.
  11. ezekiel22x Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 9, 2002
    star 4
    I took a quick inventory purely in terms of what immediately came to my mind. In honor of the Olympics, I awarded each era three tiers of excellence.

    70s-90s

    Masterpieces: The Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner, Aliens, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, but oh well)

    So close to perfection: Star Wars, Alien, Alien 3, The Terminator, T2, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Princess Bride, Twelve Monkeys, Back to the Future trilogy, Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    Great but not great (i.e. I can't help but love it): Return of the Jedi, Willow, Silent Running, Rollerball, The Road Warrior

    2000 and beyond

    Masterpieces: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers

    So close to perfection: Donnie Darko, Return of the King, Children of Men, The Dark Knight, Serenity, A Scanner Darkly, Pan's Labyrinth, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

    Great but not great (i.e. I can't help but love it): Prequel trilogy, X-Men 1& 2, Batman Begins, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Unbreakable, Signs

    Things are relatively even for me, which might bode really well for the 2000s considering we're comparing 30 years' worth of material to 8. The biggest thing for me is that the 70s-90s clearly leads in terms of masterpieces, although sometimes I wonder if my "jaded old age" has something to do with that.
  12. JediTrilobite Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 17, 1999
    star 7
    Hm, I haven't thought about things that way, but I do agree with you there, although I suspect that the opposite is true, especially with all of the remakes that have been coming out recently. What other older, under the radar movies have come out that would be classics nowawdays?

    Back to some of the earlier arguments, we got stuck on the introduction of literature. I realize this is a movie thread, but be careful of lumping Science fiction and fantasy as a genre without the literature component - that, in my opinion - makes up a large part of the genre. While movies are popular, if you look at the opening weekend numbers, books aren't read as much, unfortunately.
  13. henchman24 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 22, 2008
    star 2
    OBJECTION!! This is pure speculation and I demand it be stricken from the record =)
    In no alternate bizarro reality or timeline of any kind, would Stardust even be considered, let alone considered a classic.

    If this years Incredible Hulk (which I thought was quite good) was released in the 90s, 2 weeks after a blockbuster success in the same genre, it would most likely have been recieved in the exact same way. The lack of success of Hulk was due to the fact that it simply wasn't as all around good as Iron Man, and the proximity of the 2 made the contrast even stronger. Jaded fans isn't an issue. Fans of the source material should have been fairly pleased with it, and the random movie goer was rite to be a bit let down, or to not buy a ticket at all.

    I have made this argument before, its all about FX. Your last sentence "high degree of quality" should actually read "high degree of special effects quality"...Even the really solid ones like Iron Man couldn't have even been made in the 80s. The compare/contrast is a very tuf sell, like which basketball dynasty from which era would beat who.

    Stardust...wow
  14. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    Have to agree about Stardust. Over-rated is the kindest thing I can say about it.

    Then again, I'm in a pathetically small minority that wasn't impressed by Princess Bride except for Bob Anderson's sword choreography.
  15. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    I actually think that The Incredible Hulk is a better movie, but that Iron Man overshadowed it because of A) the talent/charisma of Robert Downey Jr. and B) the fact that Iron Man has broader appeal due to not really being a 'superhero' movie. Like Batman, Iron Man doesn't require a leap of faith regarding superhuman powers, simply a slight exaggeration of what modern technology can achieve. This makes him a more 'realistic' hero, and therefore gives him a broader audience appeal. Box office aside, The Incredible Hulk was a better-made movie.
  16. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    There's one thing I see in a lot of Sci-fi/Fantasy movies that just drives me nuts: bad strategy & tactics.

    Bad Movie Tactics 1: Archers
    The job of the archer is to fire arrow. The archer is supposed to continue firing arrows unti s/he is out of targets, out of arrows, or over-run by melee fighters.
    Yet what do we see in LotR, King Arthur, Last Sumurai, and countless other movies? Archers fire a round of two than charge into melee. That's right, archers... CHARGING... INTO... MELEE... UG

    Bad Movie Tactics 2: Numerical Superiority retreats just because the ****-ship is downed.
    Hmmm... We outnumber the enemy 50-to-1 or better. They all concentrated fire to take down the flagship as a symbolic gesture... We should just run away now. Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and others are guilty of this.
    PotC:AWE The british armada of hundreds of ship just breaks wind and high-sails it out of there. Gee, all the pirates of the world in one place, under-armed and just waiting to be crushed. Even a marginally competent officer would have formed a wall and blown the parsnips out of the pirate fleet.
    SW:RotJ has the loss of a single star destroyer and the deathstar cause the rest of the fleet to scatter or surrender. WHY??? THe rest of the imperial fleet could have continues pounding on the rebels and ripped their ships apart.

    Bad Movie/TV tactis 3: Fire all phasers, both of them.
    OK, according to both official specs and any decent view of the models, the -D enterprise has over a dozen phasers. So why does "Fire all phasers" usually result in a token firing of one or two? I have never seen (to the best of my knowledge) more than three of the -D's phasers fire, and not much more from -E. Even the Defiant from the Enterprise mirror-mirror episode used photon torpedoes instead of phasers. Now, Star Fleet Battles (FASA tactical game) clearly had all the torpedo lauchers firing forward, with all weapons mounted in the saucer. Naturally, the Defiant fires photon torpedoes from the aft above the shuttlebay. Firing the side/rear arc phasers would have just been too easy and consistent.

    I guess incompetent military officers are just par for the course staples of fantasy & sci-fi movies.
  17. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Well, if I were to rank the five best English-speaking SF/Fantasy films from each decade, they'd read:


    70's
    Close Encounters of the Third Kind
    Alien
    THX-1138
    Star Wars
    Superman: The Movie

    Runners-up: ?


    80's
    The Empire Strikes Back
    Blade Runner
    Brazil
    E.T.
    Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

    Runners-up: Star Trek II, The Terminator, Back to the Future, Aliens


    90's
    Beauty and the Beast
    Babe: Pig in the City
    Dark City
    Terminator 2
    The Abyss

    Runners-up: ?


    00's
    The Lord of the Rings
    The Dark Knight
    Children of Men
    WALL-E
    Revenge of the Sith

    Runners-up: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Batman Begins, The Incredibles, The Fountain


    I'd call it a tie, between the 80's and the 00's


  18. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    I think you'd have to put Trek 2 in the winner's circle of the 80s. Undoubtedly the best ST movie (so far anyway).
    Superman2 can manage the runners' up.

    What about Indianna Jones movies? Or are they more 'pulp retro' than fantasy?

    Also, wasn't The Abyss 80s? I seem to remember that coming out while I was in High School. (incidently, I also remember hating it, but that's my problem)
  19. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Crap! Thanks, Koohii. The Abyss was released in '89. And I'm at a loss to find a substitute--which reinforces my belief that the 90's was the worst decade for popcorn pictures.

    Not a big Superman II fan, myself. The quality disparity between that and the original, IMO, is almost as stark as the TESB/ROTJ gulf. Donner's cut is certainly an improvement on Lester's, though.

    Indy doesn't exactly adhere to my understanding of SF/Fantasy.
  20. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6

    I do consider Indiana Jones to be SF/F. There's magic, it's in the genre.






    Independence Day, the Matrix, Jurassic Park, Gattica and Terminator 2 are what I'd call the best/most fun overall SF/F films of the 90s.



  21. Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2000
    star 5
    I agree that outside of the 00s, the 80s was the decade that saw the most and best SFF films. It is the model against which all other decades must be measured! That said, looking at the missteps of the 80s alongside the masterpieces, we see that as in other decades, many or even most SFF films released during that time were failures on one level or another.

    Off the top of my head, here's a list of bad 80s SFF movies: Yor the Hunter from the Future, Hercules, Seven Magnificent Gladiators, Star Trek V, Ator the Fighting Tiger, Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja, Disney's The Black Cauldron, Howard the Duck, Return to Oz, Santa Claus the Movie, A View to a Kill, The Boy Who Could Fly, Short Circuit, DARYL, Troll, Beyond Thunderdome, Millennium, Space Camp, Supergirl, Superman 3 and 4, Swamp Thing. This is purely from memory, and does not include the host of awful soft-horror/fantasy films like The Gate, House, Fright Night or Cat's Eye that were unleashed on us, unwittingly, in the 80s.

    My point is that for every SFF great of yesteryear, there are perhaps a dozen stinkers -- even in the 80s, which produced the most masterpieces outside the 00s. Today, of course, there are still stinkers (10,000 BC springs to mind), but they don't come in massive bulk loads the way they did in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. There were more missteps then than there are today, and the missteps then were awful on a level that we cannot imagine today. Go ahead, just try and watch Superman 4 or Howard the Duck. See if you can sit through Yor or Ator. Those films were unbelievably bad; the so-called bad movies of today -- Jumper, 10,000, whatever else you care to name -- are nowhere near as mind-numbingly awful as the missteps of the 70s-90s.
  22. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    I can play this game too!

    Off the top of my head:

    Attack of the Clones, The Clone Wars, X-Men 3, Spider-Man 3, Terminator 3, Daredevil, Elektra, Ang Lee's HULK, Catwoman, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, Eragon, TMNT, Disney's Atlantis, Disney's Treasure Planet, Shrek the Third, King Arthur, The Island, Superman Returns, Die Another Day, Signs, The Village, Men in Black II, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, The Scorpion King

    And that's not counting the plethora of spoof movies that manage to be even worse than the movies they 'parody', as well as Saw and Hostel style gore-porn and the numerous sequels and remakes of those same stale horror franchises that were so big in the 80s.

    Many of the movies you listed wouldn't get a theatrical release nowadays. Instead they get sent to that dumping ground known as "the SciFi channel in-between BSG and reruns of good shows from the 80s and 90s". Small sci-fi/fantasy movies simply don't often make it to the cineplexes these days.

    Thanks to advancing technology, almost every SF/F film in theaters these days has a certain professional polish. They look 'cleaner', because digital capabilities have made a lot of the trickiest parts of working with film/tape a thing of the past as far as major releases are concerned. But it's a trade-off, because films that make use of film's grittier qualities, such as the original Halloween and The Terminator, are mostly a thing of the past, too. At least among what you'll see at your local theater.
  23. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    I pretty much agree with you, Vortigern: the bar has been raised in this new century.

    I've often wondered how well the OT would be received, were it released today. I'd venture:

    Star Wars would have a warm enough reception, but the broad characters and dearth of subtext might prove serious demerits, in the age of the Miyazaki epics and Pixar extravaganzas.

    The Empire Strikes Back would fare well, possibly inviting comparisons to Pan's Labyrinth.

    Return of the Jedi would be laughed off the screen, with memories of Peter Jackson's Wagnerian Return of the King still fresh in mind.
  24. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    At least six of those movies named were actually pretty good. Not just in my opinion, but in the critics opinion as well ? the six that I'm looking at scored 66%, 70%, 61%, 75%, 66%, and 77% at Rotten Tomatoes. There's some in there that I agree with, and some I've never seen, due their reputation for being terrible preceding them. In any case, this brings up personal preference and rose colored glasses (one way or the other) as being a major factor in the whole "my decade is better than your decade."


    On a similar note: 2008 has been quite possibly the best year in history for fun weekends at the movies during the summer months. Bar none, ever. All numbers after films are Tomato meter scores from Rotten Tomatoes: The Dark Knight (94%), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (77%), Wanted (73%), Kung Fu Panda (88%), Hellboy II (88%), Iron Man (93%), Wall-E (97%), The Incredible Hulk (67%), Prince Caspian (66%), Mongol (88%) should all come recommended. Look at that line-up! I'm going to be buying a lot of DVDs this holiday season.
  25. Vortigern99 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2000
    star 5
    Of course there's a subjective aspect to this discussion; that's what discussion boards are for, and that's what this thread is for! I respectfully disagree with Halcyon's list, as I find Attack of the Clones, Ang Lee's HULK, Prince Caspian, Superman Returns, and The Village to be superlative SFF films, while many of the others he's listed are at least moderately well-made and entertaining... especially compared to the sheer drek that I listed in my 80s misfire list.

    Comparing apples to apples, for example, Scorpion King, while certainly not qualifying as a "good movie", is a sight better than Hercules, Ator, Ypr, Conan the Destroyer and Red Sonja put together! [face_sick]
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