A few articles ago, I mentioned trends that kept recurring in this summer’s blockbusters. Well, if you want to find trends that are almost constantly recurring in movies, then limit yourself to a genre. That way, you will be hard-pressed to find a movie in that group of films that breaks away from these seemingly vital rules. Today I shall be looking at three storylines that Sci-Fi movies seem contractually obliged to follow.
As a side-note, occasionally I shall slip into Sci-Fi television series as well, because the rules have cropped up there too. On some occasions, it is even easier to explain myself using them as an example, so I let both movies and TV series overlap. My points still stand, however.
3 – THERE MUST BE AN OUTSIDER
As seen in: Star Wars, Futurama, Doctor Who, Oblivion, Matrix
I kind of get this one, as it makes telling a story so much easier. In almost every Sci-Fi movie, we are introduced to the action through a newcomer or outsider. Luke Skywalker in Star Wars pretty much had no idea what a Jedi Knight was or what the Rebel Alliance once, until the movie got going. In explaining current events to the character, the movie can explain events to us at the same time, without coming across as patronising. It became such an easy trick that Sci-Fi movies started doing it all over the place.
The best example is probably Futurama, which involves Fry, a simple-minded human being sent forward into the future. As each episode is 20 minutes long and involves fast-paced comedy, the writers don’t have time to deal with exposition. Therefore, whenever something new and futuristic comes across the characters in an episode, all it takes is a quick explanation to Fry and the viewer is up to date as well. It is a pretty neat trick, but once you know what the writers are up to, you can’t help, but notice it all over the place.
2 – ALIENS MAKE GREAT SIDEKICKS
As seen in: Star Wars, Star Trek, Defiance
I don’t know what it is, but Sci-Fi loves the idea of having the alien as the sidekick, when a duo come onto the big screen. The most famous are Kirk and his deputy, Spock, closely followed by Han Solo and his co-pilot, Chewbacca. Why is, in both cases, the alien a side-kick? It is a mystery, although in the case of Star Wars it is probably just a little easier for the exposition. It would be a much harder movie to follow if Chewie howled something and Han Solo acted it out, with a curt nod. It is much easier when the leader of the duo speaks English. That doesn’t really work on the Spock example however. Maybe it is just us humans needing to have a clear upper hand on the foreign species, as some sort of arrogant stance. When we look at a future programme, we want to be the ones in charge. Even though Spock is far more intelligent, faster and probably stronger.
Even some of the smaller characters follow this rule. Scottie in the new Star Trek movie has a weird alien sidekick when we are first introduced to him. Lando Calrissian has an unnamed alien co-pilot on Return of the Jedi. In this instance, I think this is more the writers being clever, rather than arrogant. There is no time to introduce yet another character into the story, so why not make it an interesting looking alien. That way, the audience is kind of invested in the character, even if it doesn’t have any dialogue. Let’s be honest, we would much rather that smiley, short alien riding next to Lando than some nameless human.
1 – THE MOVIE MUST HAVE A BROTHEL
As seen in: Defiance, Total Recall, Looper, Firefly
I don’t know what it is with Sci-Fi, but it seems to have a thing for the dark underworld of their future universes, most of the type involving some sort of prostitution.
In Defiance, I am only one episode in and already most of the characters hang out at a bar, where you can purchase sex quite easily from the prostitute behind the bar. In Firefly, one of the main characters, Inara, is a Companion, which is a nice future word for prostitute. If the Return of the Jedi was made a few years later, the censors might have let George Lucas openly admit that Jabba’s palace is pretty much a brothel. And don’t tell me you have forgotten the three-breasted woman in Total Recall? In fact, I am willing to place a dare bet that a kind of seedy, underworld bar will feature in the new Star Wars movie. Any takers in the comments below.
Why is this? I have come up with a few reasons. One, I think that Sci-Fi is far more interesting, when we look at the gritty side of the planet, as that is the demographic that usually deals with the consequences of that era. The rich side of the Sci-Fi world will pretty much be the same as it is now, just with more Apple products. Another theory is that Sci Fi writers are making a social comment about how uptight we are about sex. In Defiance, it seems that sex and prostitution aren’t as big a deal as it is in our era. The writers could be telling us that we should be more open-minded about our more sordid desires.
However, it is probably just an excuse to see alien titties.