Monday, 6 June 2011

My Favourite Films (6/15) - Science Fiction

Favourite Science Fiction Film - Monsters (Edwards, 2010)

Sci-fi for me falls into two different categories really; cowboys and Indians in space and what, for lack of a better definition, I’ll call thinking sci-fi. What I mean by that is that some sci-fi aims merely to entertain and as I’ve said before and will say again, there is nothing wrong with that, while others look to combine entertainment with subtler, bigger considerations.

The first decision I had to make was whether my favourite sci-fi film was going to come from the former or the latter and in the end, despite some very strong contenders from the purely entertainment group (‘Star Wars’, the most recent ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Aliens’ all sprang to mind) I had to go for the slightly more challenging end.

That was only half the decision though because following that I had to try and decide between an even stronger selection of films. It was tempting to go for Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic ‘Alien’, Christopher Nolan’s complex epic ‘Inception’ or very temptingly the Duncan Jones directed ‘Moon’. All three are examples of what great sci-fi can be like, but in the end I decided to go for one of my favourite films of the past year, a film I’ve written about in this blog a number of times, the low budget, Gareth Edwards aliens and romance flick ‘Monsters’.

‘Monsters’ is undoubtedly a sci-fi film, it’s set in a world where Aliens have been living in a quarantined area of Northern Mexico for 6 years, The U.S and Mexican armies are attempting to control the spread but are unable to get rid of them. There are questions about whether the aliens are aggressors or innocent herd creatures, whether the military action is making matters better or worse and whether there will be a chance for things to go back to the way they were.

What makes ‘Monsters’ a great film though is the elements that have absolutely nothing to do with science fiction. At its core ‘Monsters’ is a story of romance born out of hardship, filmed like a nature documentary and including surprisingly few glances of the aliens themselves. It’s that which makes it such an entertaining film, it’s a sci-fi where the aliens are more a narrative device than a central issue.

The best science fiction looks to question how humanity reacts to extraordinary, unnatural or futuristic scenarios, asks questions about humans as we are now by looking at how we could be in some far distant future or dramatically different present.

That’s what ‘Monsters’ does to great effect; it is in effect a testament to the idea that no matter how bad life could get, no matter how screwed up a situation might be, humans will keep falling in love with each other and keep finding the inherent good in each other regardless.

Considering how small the budget was reported to be, $800,000, the aliens are well realised; giant creatures that seem to combine the biology of elephants and octopus’, making a nice change from the grey or green humanoid options and they came to earth as spores on an asteroid not in battle ships hell bent on humanity’s destruction. Scary, animalistic and in their own bizarre way hauntingly beautiful, the aliens are dramatically different to the creatures that make up the majority of aliens in cinematic history.

It’s a film that shows just how good intelligent, subtle science fiction can be when directors are given the chance to create something more lasting and complex than sci-fi is often given credit for.

The song today is off the new Frank Turner album to celebrate it's release today.

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