Volume 14, Issue 8 / August 2010

Science Fiction Special

In this issue Offscreen casts a focus on the venerable science fiction film. Right from the early days of cinema (with Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon, 1902 casting the first stone) the science fiction genre (or as coined by the late, great Forry J Ackerman, ‘Sci-Fi’) looked like a perfect match to the technologically sophisticated (and dependent) art of cinema. My opening essay, “The Vertical Topography of the Science Fiction Film,” incorporates the genre’s co-dependency on technology by exploring a trope which often showcases the technological through art design and special effects — the frequent juxtaposition of upper and lower spaces. Technology is also a concern in Daniel Garrett’s multi-review piece, which suggests that even though all art is ‘speculative’ at a certain basic level, science-fiction film is able to engage (or not) people and society in a different way, depending partly on how the extrapolation of ethics/technology represented in the film is played out (positive? negative?). Up next is Leon Saunders Calvert’s essay on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Calvert refers to the two Nolan Batman films as action films but, keeping in mind Susan Sontag’s point in her classic essay “The Imagination of Disaster” (cited in my essay) that, “Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster…” they can also be cross-referenced as science fiction because of their being heavily steeped in futuristic technology and the non-natural actions of a super being. In his essay Calvert argues that the films are a cut above the usual Hollywood action/spectacle film because of their in-depth character development and their relevance to social and ideological context (war, terrorism, crime, capitalism). Concluding the spotlight on science fiction is Jason Lindop’s close anlaysis of editing in one of the greatest science fiction films of all-time, Chris Marker’s inimitable La Jetée. The final stand alone piece comes from long-time contributor Philip Gillett, who returns with another report on the Bradford International Film Festival. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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