Monday, April 26, 2010

#5 Top Five Stand Alone Sci-Fi Movies

On this Top Five Stand Alone Sci-Fi Movies Countdown I worked in collaboration with fellow blogger Shaun Anderson from the excellent blog The Celluloid Highway. We decided to do this countdown and include our top five choices for best stand alone sci-fi movie. What this means is, we left out all sci-fi films that are part of a saga (like Star Wars or Star Trek) and we left out all those that have sequels, which is the ONLY reason why I left out my favorite science fiction film ever: 2001: A Space Odyssey

It was really tough for me to come up with a top five best stand alone sci-fi's because there are a lot of good ones. It would have been easier to do a top 10, but that would take forever so we stuck with a top five. What we will do with this countdown is Shaun and I will give our choices for top five, one every day of the week starting today, so today we will present you guys with our #5, tomorrow our #4 until we reach our #1 choices on Friday. So stick around, follow our countdown and comment! 

Dont forget to visit Shaun's blog The Celluloid Highway, its one of the best written blogs on the blogosphere, according to me. So without further ado, I present to you my dear readers our #5 starting with: 

The Celluloid Highway's pick for #5 is: DUNE (David Lynch, USA, 1984)

Cult director David Lynch suddenly found himself legitimized with Oscar nominations after his weird Victorian fable of acceptance and tolerance The Elephant Man (1980). Few would have predicted that three years later he would be helming a science-fiction monstrosity filmed on several continents with a team of hundreds of technicians, actors and studio representatives. Frank Herbert’s novel Dune (the first book in a long series) had proved too challenging a task for Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky, and despite his failure to get the project off the ground (which should have been a warning to anyone else) Italian super producer Dino De Laurentis and his daughter Raffaella were still willing to raise the $45,000,000 the film would cost. The result was a film doomed to commercial failure (few films would have recouped such a huge budget) and critical indifference bordering on utter confusion. Years later without the baggage of its production, promotion and eventual reception Dune emerges as a daring and thoughtful film that regularly drifts into the dark avant-garde territory explored in Lynch’s excellent debut feature Eraserhead (1977). Lynch still manages to convey a sense of urban and industrial alienation through the weirdly organic production designs of Anthony Masters and shows he is also adept at handling the conventions and expectations of the generic structure he found himself within. With a cast that includes Francesca Annis, Brad Dourif, Freddie Jones, Kyle MacLachlan (making his film debut and looking quite nervous), Virginia Madsen, Jurgen Prochnow, Max Von Sydow and a semi naked Sting, with a soundtrack by Toto (remember the hit song ‘Africa’?) and Brian Eno Dune is a truly trans-global production that has suffered continual misinterpretation. The film abounds with political allegories, thematic depth, and obscure symbolism. But ultimately it was unable to live up to the rich tapestry of imagery and epic breadth of Herbert’s source novel.

The Film Connoisseurs pick for #5 is - A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (Steven Spielberg, USA, 2001)

This Spielberg film was one that Stanley Kubrick had been wanting to make for the longest time. Kubrick had been planning it and planning it for years and years, at times getting close to filming the thing, but then not. Other projects seem to always get in the way. Sadly, time went by and Kubrick passed away. As a way to honor this legendary director, Steven Spielberg decided to take all of Kubricks pre-production plans for A.I. and finally direct Kubrick's dream project. I think Kubrick would have been proud! This movie is epic. It plays with many of the themes that Kubrick loved to play with in his movies, like for example the dynamics between humans and computers. Will technology ever replace or outlive human beings? This film presents us with a world populated with androids. They pretty much look and act as human beings would. The world is divided between those humans that welcome artificial intelligence into their lives, and those who condemn it. Some see artificial intelligence as a threat to humanity and everything humans stand for. Haley Joel Osment plays David, a boy android that is brought into a family of humans to fill the void made by the hospitalization of their human son Martin, who is in a coma and looks as if he will stay that way for a while. David looks and acts like a real little boy, and the parents are happy. Problem comes when their real son suddenly wakes up from the coma and ends up returning home. Martin cannot get along with David. After a series of problems between the two boys, the mother decides to set David free into the world, so she abandons him in the middle of nowhere. From here on in, the movie is all about David searching for his creator, searching for the truth of it all. I love the symbolisms in this movie. A.I. is one of those movies that covers the life span of a character from birth to death, the only thing is that David doesn’t die. He is a robot, and as long as his battery lasts, he will continue functioning for eons. I like the fact that he is always on the search for his creator, symbolizing that search for God that we all end up going through at one point or another in our lives. In this sense, the film has elements from another one of my all time favorite science fiction films: Blade Runner. A.I. also has elements from Pinocchio, because David is looking for a way to become a real boy. Will David ever meet his God? What is the truth behind it all? Visually, this film is stunning! It has some gloriously beautiful moments and it is also touching and emotional journey, thanks to Spielberg who has always loved dwelling on the emotional resonance of things.

  Well, thats it for today. Dont forget to check back tomorrow for our #4 choice for Stand Alone Sci-Fi films. Hope you are enjoying the countdown!

Dune (Extended Edition)Dune (Widescreen)A.I. - Artificial Intelligence (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition)


Unknown said...

Good call on DUNE! I love this film even though, narratively, it's a mess but Lynch's bizarro imagery still leaks through. It's such a visually stunning and interesting film to watch. The longer cut that came out on DVD a few years ago, does flesh things out a bit more, though. Still, I'd love to have seen Jodorowsky's version, esp. seeing as how he was going to get Pink Floyd to compose the score!

Franco Macabro said...

Jodorowsky's version of Dune would have been special, I have seen some pre-production art work for it, and it would have been very unique, very Jodorowsky!

He wanted Salvador Dahli (the famous surrealist painter) to play Shaddam the IV, Emperor of the known Universe.

Theres one thing I love about Lynch's version. Actor Jose Ferrer plays the emperor of the universe, and he is a Puerto Rican actor! A Puerto Rican is the emperor of the universe! Im from Puerto Rico, which is why I find that kind of cool.

Seriously happy to see so much love for Dune because it has always been one of my favorites, its just so epic.

odenat said...

I hated the movie Dune. I read the book and that was one of the best sci-fi ever written and they completely wasted it.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Odenat, you know, I read the first three Dune novels (Ill soon start up with the other remaining ones) and I wasnt that dissapointed with Lynchs movie.

Im a huge Dune fan, but my first step into the Dune universe was through Lynch's film. When I compare the two, Lynch's film feels like a fast forwarded version of the novel, and even in this way, the film ended up being epic in scale.

I think it did a good job, considering all the cuts you normally have to do when translating a book into a film, I think Lynch's film retained the essence of Frank Herberts novels.

Actually, the film was a lot longer, but the producers took the film from Lynch and edited whatever they wanted to edit out of it, which is the reason why Lynch hates it so much.

For a more complete version of the novel, theres always that series that came out a while back which was more complete in terms of story, but less impressive when it came down to its art direction and production values.

I really enjoyed that series though. It brought the Dune universe to life in a more complete fashion. At least as far as story goes.

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

I think a lot of films based on pre-existing works unduly suffer because of the temptation to draw comaparisons between the two. It seems to me that people often forget or choose to ignore the key word - which is adaptation. The word implies that it isnt going to be the same. I personally dont want and have never wanted films to be exact cinematic replicas of that which they are based upon. The means of representation and expression are different in both forms and as such each work has to be approached within the rules of its form. In short to compare a novel to a film is totally pointless.

Franco Macabro said...

Totally agree with you there Shaun, both mediums are different. They both tell stories, but one can be more detailed then the other, books can linger on the smallest of details and thoughts...while movies have to get to the point quicker.

There are very few films that are exactly the same as the book. I think I only remember one: Silence of the Lambs.

But examples of films being vastly different then the source material they are based on are more numerous. Blade Runner is a good example.

Like I stated before, Lynch got the essence and the most dramatic moments from the book, I think he got an incredible film, considering how dense the novel is.

I hope, in the upcoming film they are planning that they go with an epic take on it, Lord of the RIngs style in lenght. I want a three hour long Dune movie, with two sequels being filmed back to back...

Simon said...

Haven't seen Dune, but I loved AI.

odenat said...

i read every Dune book available (11 of them with the last 2 still not printed here), it seems that's why i hated the movie, when you are a huge fan, the only thing that satisfies you is perfection. Perhaps the version i watched is uber-edited because it was completely incoherrent.

A book like Dune deserved another big budgeted, well-done movie like Lord of the Rings.

venoms5 said...

While I never bothered with seeing A.I., I remember bugging my mother to take me to see DUNE in the theater. I didn't really know what was going on, I only knew it was loaded with lots of cool and bizarre imagery, monsters and a good score.

I remember leaving the theater and my mom buying me a DUNE pop up book which I don't have anymore. I did manage to get the soundtrack some years later.

I actually hated the longer cut that played on television. I much prefer the theatrical. Despite the confusing nature of the theatrical version, it's a structurally simplistic story told with an amazing eye for the visually fantastic.

Franco Macabro said...

@Hey, one for A.I.! I think some people underestimate that movie just because its Spielberg. Some people dont even bother with his films because they might think they are too sentimental, but you gotta remember that the film has some Spielberg in it, but its also got a lot of Kubrick in it too.

@Odenat: You should give that ultimate edition that came out a couple of years ago a chance, I have a link to it on Amazon at the end of the post if you are interested.

@Venom5: I remember when it hit theaters in 1984! You got a Dune pop up book? It shows the target audience for this movie were kids. Apparently, they were aiming to make the next sci-fi saga, something similar to Star Wars which was extremely popular at the time.

By the way, the Star Wars movies (or George Lucas to be precise) takes a lot from the Dune Saga.

I was a kid at the time, I remember buying the Paul Atreides action figure!

By the way man, if your into sci-fi movies, you should give A.I. a chance, its a masterpiece of Spielberg's in my humble opinion.

venoms5 said...

I like Spielberg, I just have thing against Hollywood movies these days. I will definitely give A.I. a viewing.

That DUNE pop up book came with a bunch of cardboard cut outs of the characters. You could make these little dioramas with the various painted backdrops that would stand up when you opened the book. That same day, my mom got me a KRULL coloring book, too. That's a huge fave of mine that I got to see in a theater, too. It was a great time to be a kid then.

I also have an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland where they mention that Jodorowsky is/was working on his DUNE production. For years I wondered what happened to it.

Franco Macabro said...

I will do a blog post on that Jodorowsky version of Dune Venom5, thats a promise! I will include pics of Jodorowskys pre-production work for it.

I know what you mean about hatred towards anything Hollywood. Nowadays its kind of hard to swollow some of the superficial, commercial bull crap thats made these days. But A.I. is a very philosophical movie, its got themes up the wazoo. Its all about that eternal surch for the "truth about it all". Is what we believe to be true just an illusion, and a deeper meaner is really hidden behind it all?

Highly recommend it. Plus the effects work is superb on it too.

Richard of DM said...

I've tried to watch Dune and I've tried to read the books. I failed at both. But you can count me as one for A.I. as well. It is awesome. My only problem with the film is that it feels like it has three endings. It wasn't until I rented the film later that everything clicked. Totally mind-blowing, heart-wrenching, and just beautiful. While I've grown to appreciate the ending(s) and wouldn't change a thing, this was agony in theaters the first time around.

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

I agree Richard - I had problems with AI the first time around. I only went to see it because of the Kubrick influence, and whilst watching it you certainly get a sense of the imprint of both filmmakers on certain scenes. I think because of this it was slightly uneven in tone. The ending was particularly saccaharine and typical Spielberg, but enough of the darkness of Kubrick's original conception crept through to keep me just about interested.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I have somehow managed to go 26yrs without seeing DUNE, I need to get my ass in to gear! Still just not interested i AI at all though..

Franco Macabro said...

@Richard: True, the Dune books are not easy to get into, they are dense, and have all these characters, planets, royal families, but I took as a special challenge to finish it, and I did, and it was a rewarding read! AS for A.I. same thing happened to me, first time I saw it, I found it hard to follow, but repeat viewings have made me appreciate it more and more.

@Carl: Dune's a masterpiece of sci-fi, highly recommend it man. Plus its Lynch you know. Its sic-fi with that special lynch ominous feeling.


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