Friday, April 8, 2011
Battle of the Sci Fi Flicks: the 80s
Karen: This is it, sci fi fans: my last entry on the best, most influential sci fi films from decades past. Today we look at the 80s, the post-Star Wars decade, which ushered in a lot of big budget science fiction extravaganzas. But that doesn't mean that many of them weren't pretty good films. Again, in no particular order, are my picks for the top contenders:
1. Robocop (1987): A high tech Frankenstein story, with cartoonish, over the top violence, satirical humor, and an excellent performance by Peter Weller. Set in a dystopian near-future, where crime is running rampant, police officer Alex Murphy is killed and brought back to life as a law enforcing cyborg. Gradually he begins to rediscover his past and become more human. A fun movie. The sequels were far below the original in every way.
2. Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan (1982): I may have left Star Trek the Motion Picture off our 70s list, but I would never dream of leaving this film off. Not only the best Trek film of all, but a great movie, period. Captain-excuse me, Admiral Kirk struggles with growing older, and reconciling with the choices of his past. Ricardo Montalban creates an unforgettable villain in Khan. We finally get some terrific space battle scenes. And of course, we see Spock make the ultimate sacrifice. That was the first time I ever cried watching a film. An all around classic.
3. Aliens (1986): If Alien was a horror film in space, its sequel was a war film in space. Instead of just one incredibly lethal alien to deal with, Ripley and a group of marines are faced with perhaps hundreds of aliens. An exciting, action-packed film, which still had its share of thrills and chills. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley is probably still the greatest female action hero of the cinema. Stan Winston and crew gave us not only the humanoid alien like we had seen in the first film, but a gigantic queen alien that was a live effect -no CGI or animation! Truly an impressive sight.
4. Blade Runner (1982): A film noir with a science fiction setting. There's now several versions of the film floating around, but the essential look and feel of the film -probably the most significant qualities of the movie -remain unchanged. This is a bleak vision of the future, with people detached from their emotions, and only the androids seem truly human. All the themes we saw from the 70s are echoed here -the Los Angeles of Blade Runner is ecologically and socially devastated, despite all the shiny technological marvels. Definitely Rutger Hauer's best film, and he delivers one of my favorite lines of all time: "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain."
5. The Terminator (1984): Arnold's greatest role without a doubt. This film felt fresh and exciting when it came out. It crossed over science fiction, action, even horror boundaries, as the unstoppable cyborg carried out a relentless pursuit of young Sarah Conner. The Terminator itself (the exoskeleton) was a simple yet perfect design. Arnold is excellent as the emotionless machine sent from the future. I think I prefer him in a role with minimal talking!
6. The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Widely considered to be the best-made of the Star Wars films, and I won't argue with that. As a kid I left the theater stunned -what would happen to Han? How could Vader be Luke's father? What did it all mean?! There were so many great sequences -the search over Hoth, the battle on Hoth, the asteroid chase, training with Yoda, the duel between Vader and Luke, "I love you!" -"I know." It was agony to wait for the next film. But in retrospect, a perfect middle part to our story, as our heroes meet their darkest hours. A classic -big time.
7. The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2) (1981): I must have seen this about 6 times at the theater -often with only three or four other people sitting there in the dark -and maybe a couple of dozen times on video. This film just blew my mind; I had never seen anything like it. The sheer ferocity, and mayhem - it felt like something I shouldn't be watching. So of course I loved it. Set in yet another dystopian future, Road Warrior reset the bar for car chases - their amp went past 11 and up to 20! Of course, it was also appealing due to its young star, the pre-maniac Mel Gibson, who was beautiful even in all his dinged-up leather glory. Unfortunately it bred a multitude of poorly done imitations; but the original still holds up well -just forget about Thunderdome, though.
8. Predator (1987): Another action/sci fi film, where Arnold gets to be the hero this time, as a soldier taking on a deadly and cunning alien hunter. This movie might be the flimsiest of the lot here, but it succeeds at what it sets out to do: be an exciting action film. It also has a fun cast, with not only Arnold but Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke, and crazy-looking Sonny Landham. The Predator itself was a unique creation, another beauty from effects man Stan Winston. I re-watched this a few weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
9. The Thing (1982): One of the few remakes that acquits itself very well. John Carpenter's version of the Thing is radically different from Howard Hawks' version (also on our 1950s list), as it goes back more to the John Campbell story, "Who Goes There?" The invading creature is capable of actually taking over and assuming the form of any biological entity. The film overwhelms with both the sense of paranoia and the horrific,almost nauseating forms the thing takes on. Rob Bottin created some of the most bizarre creatures ever seen in this movie. This is a film that will stick with you once you've seen it.
Honorable mentions: Star Trek IV, Return of the Jedi, The Abyss.
OK: let the debate begin!