Sci-Fi Tournament: New SchoolApril 20, 2015
Our continuing series continues, with our Sci-Fi Tournament building steam. So far we have taken a look at Game Changers, Classics, and Cult Classics. This time out we are looking at the New School of Science Fiction film.
The New School takes the foundation that was built by prior generations and take it to new heights, new plot points or use new technology that can really take the overall viewing experience to all new levels. Three of these films are big brash box office bashing monsters that took special effects to another level, and one film that you may not have heard of, but is one of the most worthwhile viewing experiences of 2014. So let’s take a good look at our combatants in this bracket, and get down to business. Gentlemen, take your corners and LET’S DO THIS!
District 9 vs Avatar
Avatar was one of the boldest new science fiction films in terms of the technology it employed and ushered in a new age of filmmaking, and thanks to the technology James Cameron used on the film, more and more movies are being made in 3D though not necessarily quite as vividly as Avatar. The effects used in the film were equally impressive, garnering the attention of the Oscars, taking home three.
Cameron has proven over the years that he is a master of technology and can create big beautiful worlds like he has in Aliens, Terminator 2, and of course Titanic, but above all of those, the science fiction world he created in Avatar is his masterpiece.
The overall plot following Jake Sully as he went from broken soldier to being reborn as a Na’vi Avatar to integrate into their culture seemed like a plot that had been used before most similarly in Pocahontas. The plot is well worn but the over-arching effects and the immediate beauty of the film won over audiences and the box office, becoming one of the highest grossing films of all time.
District 9 also from 2009 was Neill Blomkamp’s first major motion picture and also was the first film to introduce a brilliant actor by the name of Sharlto Copley to audiences. This film explored a race of aliens living on earth in a slum like conditions, when an unlikely source becomes the focus of their possible salvation. The film was unlike other science fiction films; it was not laced with CGi and it had a great many practical effects. The plot was brilliant with humans being very inhospitable to the unfortunate aliens who are marooned on our planet, and are forced to live in squalor.
The film provides spectacle just as much as it provides the viewer something to think about after the credits roll. Much like Avatar that showed what you can do with a near inexhaustible budget, District 9 does the opposite and proves what is possible to do with science fiction on a budget of a meager 30 million dollars, and produces something incredibly original and beautiful.
So who wins this showdown of opposites?
The easy answer is District 9, putting effects aside and looking at which movie will stick with you longer and will be something you would come back to, District 9 is certainly that film. It’s just as good the second, third, or fourth time around, and has such rich characters and a deep, well thought out plot. Avatar while big, beautiful and at times badass, has been done before and the actual plot will be lost shortly after seeing the movie.
Pacific Rim vs Snowpiercer
Pacific Rim was an over the top science fiction movie in which you could see what Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to the monster movies of old using high end Hollywood effects looked like. The monsters versus robots theme is fantastic, and scales the action sequences right up to the very top. It isn’t very rich in storyline, but it is rich in robot fighting action.
The fight sequences are split between classic filmmaking and a blurrier, more chaotic style that blends incredibly well, with each fight using something different that you didn’t see with the last one: a tactic, or a power that you didn’t know about, or complications that you didn’t see coming. Having several robots also provided different use of skill; Stryker Eureka, for example, wielded a giant, collapsible sword, for example, and Gipsy Danger had a rocket punch.
For all the chaos and mayhem, Pacific Rim is filled with emotion, as characters deal with issues outside their Jaegers. The main character Raleigh deals with the loss of his brother, and the pilots need to also deal with being able to control their thoughts as well as being in perfect sync with each other to control their Jaegers. Not only does it contain incredible fights, but at its core has quite the human element.
In what was one of the surprise films of 2014, Snowpiercer takes place in a world where an attempt to fix global warming plunges Earth into another ice age, and the only survivors are aboard a train in perpetual motion making laps around the world.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg though; there is so much going on underneath and it gets deeper the further you progress through the film. The train is divided into classes, with the poor confined in the tail and the richer spread throughout the train with their benevolent leader Wilford staying in the front, maintaining the engine.
What sets this film in motion is when the rear of the train decides that they will rebel and revolt to seize control of the train. They are led by Chris Evans (Captain America) in one of his finest performances.
This film is from Joon-ho Bong, that has this unique style that will have you guessing right until the end where it will end up with each car of the train adding further wrinkles to the plot. The journey is made to be worthwhile and interesting, while often chilling like something out of an Orwellian nightmare, a wonderfully twisted bit of post apocalyptic disorder.
So which film takes it here?
Chris Evans and his minimally budgeted science fiction thriller is a credit to incredible filmmaking and relies more on the actors performances and awesome set pieces rather than over the top CGI. Not to mention the twisted ending will have you needing to rewatch this film over and over as you discover new bits and pieces you didn’t see the first time around.
All four films were difficult to choose from in each case. Unfortunately only one could win, and now its time for you to decide who wins between District 9 and Snowpiercer in a true battle of thrilling minimally budgeted science fiction epics.