A Wretched Hive: Those Dire and Despicable Trends of Modern Sci-Fi

Posted: 2 June 2014


No, Mr Cruise, that cap-n-boots combo does NOT work...
No, Mr Cruise, that cap-n-boots combo does NOT work…

“Now you see eighty people listed doing the same things I was doing by myself” – Ray Harryhausen.

Having already produced a reasonably light and mildly frothy Post about personal sci-fi faves, many of you have been wondering what annoys Bradscribe the most about the modern manifestation of the genre. Only too happy to oblige, friends!

Time to let rip and rant against those spurious and slovenly aspects that have stained and shamed SF’s good name in recent years. So, what is deterring this bunny from hopping down to his local picture-house?

Well, the first problem that springs to mind (actually it strikes me like a well-aimed Katniss arrow to the head), is Tom Cruise. No seriously, how can this inanely-grinning couch-hopping imp be allowed to inflict so many BIG yet bland movies upon us poor working people?   

For every Days of Future Past it seems we have to be inflicted with an Edge of Tomorrow… or two of them. Looking at stills from the latter, a strange sense of deja vu took hold. It seemed like this particular brand of tedium had been unleashed upon us just months before. It had, only then it masqueraded as the unfortunately-monickered Oblivion, a “solemn” & “lugubrious” late -21st century dystopian dirge. Bombarded by the double-whammy of Mr. Top Gun and a slew of unfavourable reviews, this blogger chose not to sit through it. 

A quich glance (or in this case: wince) at current & forthcoming titles suggests that the sci-fi movie outlook seems just as sparse, harsh and uninviting as the glum terrain depicted in Oblivion.  


Barsoom Blues: Nice aliens, shame about the humans...
Barsoom Blues: Nice aliens, shame about the humans…

“We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now” – Ray Bradbury.

There can be no more secrets in the world of movie project development; with the proliferation of the worldwide web, and all the news.com and entertainment.com sites we can eat, it is impossible, alas, to get excited by a Forthcoming Attraction anymore.

One factor which illustrates the paucity of quality in present sci-fi is the lack of decent movie stars with the charisma to pull off ambitious popcorn-fodder. A particularly damning reason why the recent John Carter fared so underwhelmingly lay in the lame non-entity chosen to play the titular protagonist; for the moment his name escapes me – not surprisingly, this bunny ain’t gonna hopalong to Google and look it up…

It does seem slightly disturbing that weak sci-fi produced around 30 years ago looks more technically adroit – certainly more entertaining – than some of the bilge churned out nowadays with notably less flair but a heckuvalot-more dollars.

There was always something more appealing about the stop-motion animation, models and visual effects of that period. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) held the SFX monopoly, offering the thrill-factor, oodles of awe and that irresistible “how-did-they-do-that?!” quality. None of the CGI currently (over)used can offer any of that appeal ‘cos we know it’s all computer-generated.

There is nothing special about these effects…


Don't get caught behind...
Don’t get caught behind…

“…Ever since the movies began, film makers have not been left alone by the corporations who provide the cash to make them. Film making is an art and craft – leave it to the artists and craftsmen” – Phil Edwards (1982).

Last, and by all means least, it now comes down to… this.

To make movies from comicbooks is one thing (luckily you can count me as a fan), but to derive a blockbuster franchise from… a range of toys?! Come on! That’s just nuts…

Transformers – and all its wretched sequels – must stand as the most blatant and nauseating representation of the all-important teenage boy demographic, with its copious dollops of hi-def SFX, dizzying action, and Shiz Le Beef (or whatever he’s called) – great, sci-fi’s been lumbered with yet another charmless nerk…

Hang on: Issur Danielovitch had to change his name to Kirk Douglas to get ahead, but Shia doesn’t need to? What gives? State of the movie industry today, eh? Sheesh…

In the end, of course, we are left with this cynical fact: chuck quality out the window – it’s all about putting bums on seats by offering larger & louder (flaccid & forgettable?) extravaganzas. More bang fer yer buck as it were; business is business.

…and that’s it.

What chance will my cerebral and engaging scripts get to reach the big screen? Maybe that uncomfortable compromise has to be made: better get crackin’ on that draft for Transformers VI…*


* No worries: Brad ain’t gonna sell out that easily, bud!


2 thoughts on “A Wretched Hive: Those Dire and Despicable Trends of Modern Sci-Fi

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