Editorial – Dec 2017: The message not the picture.

December 3, 2017 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone

Something that came out of Ridley Scott’s commentary for the ‘Alien: Covenant’ film and other film commentaries recently is the directors’ feelings that viewers need something ‘spectacular’ in their SF films. The problem is this goes against what makes a Science Fiction film a Science Fiction film. This isn’t a matter of stereotyping but going back to the prose version. Where there is a solution to a problem, you look at what’s available first rather than create something previously unseen in the reality and use that as the solution.

Amateur writers do this if they don’t plot properly and get themselves into a jam. They think SF is a licence to do anything and confuse it with fantasy or science fantasy. Smoke and mirrors and hope no one misses, although eventually they will. You don’t expect to see this kind of thing happening in SF films and with people who should be conversant with the subject. Appealing to the lowest denomination to ensure bottoms on seats might seem a good idea but, for the long term, we’re going to reduce the expectation from SF films and their revalue of re-watching them forever more. What might appeal to the masses will give the wrong interpretation what SF is all about and it isn’t all ‘spectacle’ but thought-provoking.

What makes SF films different to other genres apart from the wide range of subjects is their need for some intellectual thought as to what is going on. The ability to misdirect or show a different solution with the same information shows an element of cleverness. It shows a plot being smart and, if you didn’t get it the first time, the desire to watch again and look at the clues and to savour how it was done.

If anything, CGI has raised the level of special effects, even in non-genre films, that it’s over-whelming to the point people are forgetting the plot. The problem here is how often can directors out-do each other before it becomes monotonous? There has to be a limit on ‘spectacular’ when that is all that is holding a plot together. With SF, unlike other genres, we expect unearthly things to be not real but not to the point that regular science logistics is ignored.

We need to remind the studios and directors of the importance of story quality and stop me being able to pick holes that shouldn’t be there in the first place. If a plot, such as that of say ‘Passengers’, can be easily translated into another genre like using a desert island setting, then you do have to question its value as SF.

In the past few decades, we’ve seen an incredible rise in Science Fiction film that even film critics take notice but it doesn’t necessarily follow that they understand our genre in the way that we do. Traditionally, they are there for image and culture far more than for public taste, hence their generations long ignoring of our genre. If another genre suddenly got as much prominence then they would move on. I doubt if it will sink in for long about the unique quality that makes Science Fiction Science Fiction. There should always be a reminder of that or else all they will remember it for is the special effects. Do I need to tell you that SF is more than that?

Just because we are fans of our genre doesn’t mean we aren’t its best critics as well. We don’t treat things lightly when it comes to our pet subject but with so many SF films out there now, it’s getting to the stage of getting punch-drunk when we should be discussing their quality and that’s a mistake.

Wherever you can, bring home that message that the quality of Science Fiction is for the ideas they provoke and image is only the means to an end not the end itself. If that sinks in with directors then maybe they will see SF as less of a fantasy that they can do what they please with. ‘Spectacular’ has its place but it’s empty unless it’s done with meaning and being smart with Science Fiction.


Thank you, take care, good night and am I still the first person to wish you a happy and safe new year or is that wishful thinking?


Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.info


A Zen thought: Rooms are spaces surrounded by walls.


What Qualities Does A Geek Have: Objectivity not swayed by emotion.


What Qualities Does A Geek Have: When reading non-fiction to check out books that were referenced for additional knowledge. I do that a lot myself.


Hint: If you ever alphabet your Internet Favourites and find you moved an easy position for a place you visit regularly, rename the important ones with the prefix ‘A-‘ or ‘0-‘ and re-alphabet them and they’ll rise to the top


Observation: Did you know that if you use Ctrl ‘F’ in Windows 10 Explorer you can quickly search out file names.


Observation: If you find your computer monitor a bit dark after recent W10 updates, right button press on your screen and choose ‘Display Settings’ and raise your ‘Brightness’ setting slider to something like 15 or higher. The change is instant on the screen and doesn’t need much to make a difference in brightness.


Observation: There is a major flaw with the xenomorph impregnation. The egg is implanted into the stomach but then grows in the body cavity. So why don’t they die of a stomach rupture although I suspect it might slowly seep through the stomach lining which would explain why the likes of Kane had an appetite. He was eating for two.


Feeling Stressed: Well, there’s always 2018 to look forward to. I mean, what else can go wrong with the world?




Category: Offworld Report

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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