I've been milling this thought around in my head for sometime, and I've come up with my opinion, but I was curious what other enthusiasts might think.
First off, I am well aware that fans of SF who got there from reading differ greatly from fans of SF who only know it from movies and television. They are completely different SF fans who want different things from the experience.
Being an avid reader of SF literature, it was pretty apparent that when it came to SF on the big screen Hollywood was always a bit behind the literature when it came to adaptations. Also when compared Europe, Hollywood SF leaned toward spectacle, while Europe took the genre more as a legitimate means to express ideas; i.e. Metropolis. It could be said that Hollywood has never really respected the genre of SF, but because they didn't take it seriously you always had a few gems, such as "Forbidden Planet", "Invasion of the Body Snatchers", or even "I Married A Monster From Outer Space" (actually a very good film). During the experimental 70's Hollywood looked like it might be finally growing up with Kubrick's 2001, and my personal favorite "Silent Running". It seemed that Hollywood was on the verge of changing it's mind about that "Buck Rogers" stuff and recognize it for the art form that it could be.
One of the reasons that George Lucas was able to get the tremendous deal he got with Star Wars was because SF movies were considered B films that didn't make a lot of money. SW; however came at just the right time. Right out of Watergate and the war, after a whole avalanche of depressing, pessimistic cinema, SW caught the public imagination and caught everyone by surprise. Hollywood had never seen anything like it.
Of course they started to think "There's something to this Sci Fi stuff." So they set about trying to duplicate SW's success. To no avail. Television fared far better in that respect, but Hollywood couldn't figure out the real reason SW was so popular, they were only looking at the surface. The robots, the spaceships etc. It was because of this flux of trying to figure it out that a film like "BladeRunner ", 1982 was able to slip through. Hollywood would probably have consider SW a fluke if not for one other movie that would give them the piece of the puzzle that they were missing.
That would be Cameron's "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" in 1991. With the success of this film Hollywood got the idea that a SF film was actual a sub-genre of the Action film and Hollywood certainly knew how to make action films.
After T2. It was virtually impossible to get a "serious" SF film greenlit in Hollywood, and we got lots of explosions, chases, more intergalactic battles, and a lot less science and speculation. The stories got a lot less about human dealing with technology, or even what the future might have in store, and more about . . . nothing. SF movie budgets started to skyrocket, and the higher the budget the less risk your willing to take. As a result SF movies today almost have to be as generally mundane as possible, and a lot of potentially great movies have been ruined by this mentality.
Now because we have directors who have become so huge, that they can do what they want, we have movies like "Inception", "Hugo", or "District 9", if you keep the budgets minimum you can get a gem like "Moon". And what does Hollywood do? It treats these films like they are anomalies, and continue to promote stuff like "Cowboys and Aliens" and "Super 8", and of course the SW prequels in glorious 3D!
So while I don't blame either Lucas, or Cameron, (it wasn't their fault afterall) the legacy of bad SF films that followed their movies is pretty substantial. What do you think?
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