Sci-Fi Tournament: Cult FavoritesApril 8, 2015
Yes, March is gone but the Sci-Fi Tournament madness remains! You’ve heard from our lovely staff about Game Changers and Classics, within this bracket we tackle the sleeping giants that are cult favorites, aka cult classics!
Arguably some of the most influential sci-fi movies are considered cult favorites. In a way, they’re a combination of the other categories. These films could be game changers (many in this category are) or perhaps 80s classics, but what sets a cult favorite apart? Perhaps it’s the devoted, sometimes crazy, fans that keep the film alive years later. Or maybe it’s the fact that most cult films remain unnoticed by the average moviegoer. For sanity purposes, sci-fi cult favorites are niche movies well-known by sci-fi fans but not the average passerby (thanks Triton for the definition).
What does the GCE’s sci-fi cult favorites bracket look like? It’s a mix of both Western and Japanese cinema, incorporating animation and live-action. Their reception by audiences wasn’t as dynamic as perhaps Star Wars or Bladerunner, but their influence has had profound effects on science fiction, animation, filmmaking, and storytelling. What’s great about this category is the diversity of all four films, making the match ups really difficult to decide. So without further ado, LET’S FIGHT!
Akira (1988) vs. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Akira (1988) directed by Katsuhiro Otomo
Akira is the story of youth disillusionment, revolution, and rebirth. Adapted from the manga, the film is set in dystopic Tokyo in 2019. Tetsuo Shima, after a near fatal crash, discovers he now has telekinetic powers. He begins to wreak havoc across Neo-Tokyo and his friend Kaneda must find a way to stop him before the city is destroyed.
The opening scene to Akira is probably one of my favorite openings in a film period. Seeing Neo-Tokyo from the perspective of the bikers combined with the raspy breathing of the opening song makes for an amazing visual experience. At its heart, Akira is a story of transformation from youth to adult, powerless to powerful. This metamorphosis is anything but pretty, it’s brutal and bloody. Not everyone can ascribe to the violence of Akira, but fans of the film can attest to it being an amazing dystopian tale.
Ghost in the Shell (1995) directed by Mamoru Oshii
“The Net is vast and infinite.”
Another popular manga turned film, Ghost in the Shell follows Section 9’s hunt for the mysterious hacker the Puppet Master. In the search for the Puppet Master, Major Motoko Kusanagi finds herself drawn into an increasingly complex plot all revolving around Section 6 and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Without Ghost in the Shell there probably wouldn’t be The Matrix. The themes of artificial intelligence and human consciousness that dominate the story have become so commonplace in other sci-fi films. The idea that technology and human intelligence could co-mingle in the future is something we’ve always been fascinated by, and Ghost in the Shell takes this idea to create a bleak world where we’re more machine than man. Even with human advancement corruption still exists and it’s the corruption of the characters in the film that makes for an interesting look into human nature.
It’s almost unfair to pit these two movies together. Both are animated masterpieces that pushed the boundaries of animation with their visceral brutality and mature themes. They were entirely new experiences for Western audiences and together they contributed to the Western anime craze. Their unique takes on dystopic Japan made for cool and edgy yet dangerous and psychological drama. Akira and Ghost in the Shell owe much of their popularity to mangas, but their film adaptions reached out to a sizeable Western audience and became hits.
Akira wins but only by a small margin. Ghost in the Shell is an amazing movie, but Akira’s cultural influence can’t be denied. It inspired a host of science fictions movies and opened a realm of new possibilities for Japanese animation in America. It was a tough decision, but between the unforgettable musical score and psychological themes Akira spins a more memorable science fiction experience.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) vs. The Fifth Element (1997)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) directed by Stanley Kubrick
“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
A four-part epic that tells the story of mankind’s interaction with the mysterious black monoliths, which have been influencing human evolution. It begins with the first Hominids encountering a monolith and learning the knowledge of weapon making. From there the story follows humanity’s journey to the Moon, Jupiter, and beyond.
2001: A Space Odyssey is a journey of self-discovery, much like Homer’s epic. It’s a slow build for a movie, but Kubrick’s use of music and gorgeous cinematography help to capture the scope of time the film covers. There isn’t much dialogue, but the imagery clearly articulates the themes of the movie. 2001 is often seen as long and boring, hence why it hasn’t always appealed to moviegoers, but it still stands as a visual masterpiece.
The Fifth Element (1997) directed by Luc Besson
“Negative, I am a meat popsicle.”
In the 23rd century, the Earth is about to face an impending attack. It’s up to Korben Dallas, taxi cab driver, and the mysterious woman, Leeloo, to save the Earth. Together they must fight off Gary Oldman, his army of aliens, and find the four element stones before it’s too late.
Out of all the contenders in the bracket, The Fifth Element is the most identifiable cult favorite. It has a certain quirkiness that often defines a lot of sci-fi cult classics. It’s almost too weird of a movie to watch, but its absurdity is what makes it so special to fans. It has also divided audiences for years. Some view it as the worst movie ever, others as the greatest. Either way, The Fifth Element is a film about an unlikely hero’s battle against a corrupted system, which has made a place in the hearts of many fans.
When you think about it, both movies are really weird. A giant star child, killer AI, opera-singing aliens, Gary Oldman’s haircut. It’s all pretty freaky, but I think their inherent freakiness is what made them such memorable films. It was a good mash-up and both had things the other didn’t. The humor of The Fifth Element sets it apart from all the other contenders, but 2001: A Space Odyssey is a literal monolith of science fiction.
It was a tough decision, but 2001 wins. The Fifth Element is Bruce Willis in his prime, but sweet prince Dallas doesn’t make the cut. 2001 just has one of the most iconic and unforgettable battles in cinema: HAL 9000 vs Dr. David Bowman. Dave’s fight against HAL is such an iconic science fiction confrontation and it hits at human fears and wonderment towards technology. As heavy-handed as 2001: A Space Odyssey may seem it outlasts the quirkiness of The Fifth Element, and its impact on science fiction films is insurmountable.
It’s upsetting because all of these movies deserve to make it! Nevertheless, a battle between Akira and 2001: A Space Odyssey seems fitting. Both are major sci-fi films that really pushed the boundaries of the genre and they tend to run in the same circles of all-time greats. If you haven’t seen any of these films I’d go watch them immediately! My work is done and I’ll leave the voting up to everyone else, but I look forward to seeing how this rumble turns out!
What are some of your all-time favorite sci-fi cult movies? Totally disagree with my winners and losers? Would you consider our choices actual cult favorites? Or do they perhaps belong in another bracket? Let us know in the comments below!