fiction is easily the most expensive film genre to produce.
stories come with all the expenses of any other genre plus all
costs associated with special effects, otherworldly sets,
make-up applications, and an entirely new set of costumes and props.
Quality movies in
any genre cost money, and making a good sci-fi film costs that much
The best way to get a movie made in this genre is to cut your costs at
the outset. This makes for bad movies and are backdoors to plain
old intellectual apathy (i.e., you don't have to think something up if
you're not going to show it on screen), but you got your movie made,
Time Travel... back to the present
If you want to have
a story about the future but don't want all the expensive trappings of
having to build futuristic locales and costumes, then just have your
travel back in time... to the present day. That way you can just
film on location anywhere in Southern California... and it's still a
series... - Each film takes place in the year
was made. You know what would make a better movie? The one
based in the future that the Terminator always travels back in time
to star in the lame shoot-em-up films in this series.
Matrix - It's the post-apocalyptic future,
is a giant city beneath the earth with magnetically power
Humanity is waging war against swarms of flying robots. So where
does this movie take place? In a virtual reality "simulating"
Huh? Not time travel per se, but still a cop-out.
the sequels had the budget to rectify this cop-out.)
- Remember the cartoon? All the monsters and castles and the
other world? Then they made a live action movie where a mere
of characters travel back to (where else?) Hollywood, California.
The original took us across a land of magic and myth right out of a
E. Howard novel. The sequel takes our aging protagonist across
Monkeys - Terry Gilliam has a genius for
pure insanity on film. The worlds depicted in Brazil, Time
Bandits, and the Adventures of Baron Munchausen are
So why did he spend all the set design budget on Bruce Willis' salary
so much screen time in a modern-day insane asylum?
- A forgettable sci-fi film in which people from the year 3000 AD
back to our present to steal people who are destined to die in plane
in order to repopulate the future. The whole movie takes place in
the the 1980s,so if you rent it today, you will be traveling
You probably never even heard of this one, but Jean Reno travels
from the 13th century to present day, where the producers don't have to
spring for period costumes.
and Leopold -
as the above only with Meg Ryan, who the tabloids have reported has
done some time traveling herself (of a sort)... with a plastic surgeon.
D'Onofrio travels back to the present day to woo Marisa Tomei.
Admittedly, I like this one in spite of the cop-out.
- Cult sci-fi cop flick (or series thereof)
in which Jack
Deth travels back to 20th century LA to chase a killer.
Trek: First Contact - After the success of Star
Trek IV, the producers obviously hoped to replicate the magic
another trip back in time to our near-future. Why? Who
This doesn't do anything for the story which works just as fine without
this device. All anyone remembers are the Borg and all the plot
this theme: Travel to an alternate universe that is merely based on
something else already familiar (i.e., the props already on hand at the
Trek television series in the Nazi
the planet that looks exactly like ancient Rome and so on...
they visited every period in history that yielded the artifacts and
that fill prop departments of television studios.
|Movies that get
Time Machine -
As flawed as they may be in other respects, both the 1960
versions delivered the goods when it came to seeing the far future.
to the Future II - Flying cars, flying
It wasn't Blade Runner, but I can't complain. Even
versions of both the present and future are explored.
Reloaded & Revolutions
- Sure, we spent a little time in the virtual world, but this time
the audience got to see the "real" world. Revolutions
- Emilio Estevez is pulled forward 20 years into the future so aging
Hopkins can steal his body. If anything, the movie could be
for exaggerating the vision of the future beyond the stated 20 span.
Trek IV -
Here's a great series set a couple centuries in the future.
tons of space battles, phasers, and transporters. Then we make
movie on a shoestring budget by filming about 90% of the picture on
in San Francisco. However, they do bookend the film with grand
in the 23rd century, and the humor is all there, so I can forgive them
this time around.
The Human Condition ...or just as human as human
Once again the aliens
and robots the audience came to see are disguised as humans. Not
much work for the make-up department when you do it like that, is
Typically there is a scene in which some aspect of the true nature of
character is revealed (e.g., a patch of skin is cut off, etc.), but
is a mere hint.
- In this semi-autobiographical series, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a
covered with a fleshy facade. Aside from the premise established
in dialogue and the judicial use of a few effects shots, the first film
in this series as much science fiction as Kindergarten Cop.
is to say, this is the Citizen Kane of this genre.
Arrival - While we do occasionally get to see
aliens, as usual they're disguised as bad actors for most of the
And to make things even worse, Charlie Sheen plays against type as the
Lizards invade the Earth disguised as humans. Early on, they're
as reptiles, but they still feel compelled to don latex to appear human
for the rest of the series, even when it's just aliens meeting with
in the privacy of the own, um, giant flying saucer.
this is so the humans who play them don't have to wear prosthetics
(If you're dyslexic, please have someone explain this with a diagram.)
- I hate to admit that one of my all-time favorite movies falls into
category, but it does. Granted, the story justifies this point of
the plot (and it was written this way in the novel long before it was
consideration as a film), but in the end it has the same effect.
Or as South Park's Mr. Garrison put it, "Waited through that
movie to see the alien, and it was her god damned father!"
- There is some blue light that supposedly qualifies this film as
fiction, but I honestly don't see much difference between this movie
There is so little sci-fi in this movie that I have to remind myself
aliens were in it. Admittedly, I liked it best when Tahnee Welch
kept her skin (and nothing else) on.
of the Damned -
Interesting premise, but these kids are supposed to be part
Sure, they're creepy, but no more alien than Christina Ricci.
|Movies that get
Wars - Just hum the theme from the cantina and
the music take you back.
- Well, the first flick played it a bit coy, but that was part of the
Generally, this series put H.R. Giger's creations prominently on the
Live - An interesting John Carpenter film
Man, these things were weird! It's like the Joan Rivers' version
of The Picture of Dorian Gray!
Blob - Hardly the most imaginative movie
but effective on screen.
|Turning a cop-out
into a plot device
Thing (From Another World) - Having the
human form works here. The film actually does show some freaky
besides, but it mostly relies on the premise of mimicry. The John
is pretty good as well.
Invisible Monsters ...or show me the mummy
While it is a good
plot device to keep your ace in the hole and build dramatic tension,
your star attraction off the screen is also a good cop-out when you
to cut costs or otherwise allocate resources.
The fantastic sets more than compensate in this case, but a truly
monster is fairly insulting to the audience's intelligence.
of the Corn -
a sci-fi film per se, but didn't you think of Bugs Bunny when those
things were burrowing beneath the ground?
- This movie is unspeakably awful in too many ways to catalog.
- Oh, just skip this one.
|Movies that get
- Rather than being employed as a cop-out, the literal invisibility is
actually the stand-out plot device of the film. In fact,
it was more expensive to make the title character invisible.
my friends, means this is the opposite of a cop-out. Whatever
- The concept of "hidden in plain sight" really works here. The
is very atmospheric besides, if a bit short in other areas.
- The creatures are shown in due course, but the suspense is built by
keeping them underground. I mean, they could be anywhere...
this theme: Aliens that look like us
Trek - The only requirement to be an alien is
have a single distinguishing characteristic. Pointy ears or a bad
haircut typically satisfy this prerequisite.
Aliens visit present-day Earth
Yet another cop-out
has aliens visiting present-day Earth. And while there are
themes to be examined here, it is absolutely a cop-out for the reasons
cited above: budget, budget, budget. In most cases, the story
be more challenging, humorous, and/or otherwise interesting if the
were moved into the past (e.g., aliens last in the Wild West) or in the
distant future where they could take a story to a higher level.
all depends on what the film attempts to achieve... but, no, they're
to land in Hollywood, just down the block from the studio financing
Encounters of the Third Kind -
Given the fashions of the 1970s and the flashbacks from the rampant
drug use from a decade earlier, it's no wonder aliens could visit Earth
virtually unnoticed by anyone but the government and a few kooks like
- The funniest bit was when E.T. hides in the closet and blends in with
all the toys. Within six months, the merchandising geniuses
that everyone under 12 had the same scene in their closet.
not included -
By visiting present-day Earth, the producers ensured that I would
absolutely nothing about this film.
- Sure, it's a cute movie, but the only thing futuristic about this is
the fact that its cast are practically from another century.
- The worst movie every made. Ever! Clearly this was released for
only one purpose: To ensure that aliens will never, ever visit this
This movie should have been set in the 1950s where every other aspect
it originated. There's no reason why a movie this bad should have
been made in this day and age.
series (including AVP) -
A more interesting idea might have been that these creatures are the
of many of our ancient myths (e.g., Grendel), but, no. We're
to set it in the present like every other movie not made by Woody Allen.
This technology is
so ubiquitous in the sci-fi realm that it is taken for granted.
take it for granted because we don't typically imagine zero-G
Of course, most of the universe is essentially zero-G, but so this
a cop-out in most movies. Why do they do it? Well, for the
time being, pretty much 100% of all sci-fi films are filmed right here
- Sure they have artificial gravity in the middle of the ship (via
force in the rotating section), but somehow they overlook the fact that
there shouldn't be any in the hanger or elsewhere.
Everything on the ship manages to break except the artificial
Isn't that interesting? No, wait. It's a cop-out.
|Movies that get
- Yeah, I know. Even though this is an offender, it's also the
movie for acknowledging this pitfall (no pun intended) of space travel.
- The crew filmed aboard the "Vomit Comet" in order to recreate zero-G
conditions, but the rest of the Hollywood is literally grounded.