Some Sci-fi Flicks You Might Have Missed

Sci-fi as a genre is easily confused with high budgets and futuristic gadgematics. But sci fi is really more about ideas and concepts. And even about philosophy and ethics. Where would Rendezvous with Rama be without the sense of mystery it invokes into the biosphere of the great unknown universe? Where would the Culture series be if it wasn’t really exploring a post scarcity, post labor, post mortality, post everything-that-makes-being-human-stressful society? Good sci-fi can take place in a single room inside a single nondescript box as in JG Ballard’s Last World of Mr. Goddard .

A few months ago my scouring of Rotten Tomatoes found me some cool science fiction flicks I’d missed over the years. Most of them don’t appear to have outstanding budgets. One of them only used a corner of Berlin and about five or six actors. But all of them without exception are richer in concept than your average big budget summer blockbuster.

12 Monkeys (trailer). Bruce Willis is from a future where humans have almost been wiped out by a fatal disease. They’ve all retreated underground and a new political order uses its criminals as gunea pigs. Every now and then a prisoner disappears and never comes back. The regime has discovered time travel and they’re sending people back into the nineties in order to seek out the virus before it was released and try and understand what it is. Since the grandfather paradox makes it impossible to be stopped. Bruce Willis is their latest hope, but as he discovers he had an all too special role to play in events that culminated in the release of the virus. Special mention. Brad Pitt in a killer role as a insane idealistic spoilt rich kid.

Run Lola Run (trailer). Lola and her boyfriend are small time criminals. A deal is going down and Lola fails to make it on time, and so her boyfriend must bring the money back to their boss alone. On the way he loses the cash in the metro and tells Lola that he has no choice but to rob a department store since without the money he will be killed. Lola must run the twenty minutes distance in order to stop him and save him. Doesn’t sound like science fiction? You’d be surprised what this German flick does with an obscure corner of Berlin and a few talented actors. I’ll give you a hint; time warp, permutations and combinations. Special mention: Lola redeems the sensual potential of the German language.

Gattaca (trailer). Jude Law and Ethan Hawke partner up in a future where a human’s culpability to disease is calculated with exact probability as soon as he/she is born. The new elite are the physically fit. Doors open to you based on how low your susceptibility to disease is. Hawke is an intelligent man but has only a 30 percent chance of making it past thirty. He is condemned to spend a lifetime as a janitor while he wants to literally become a rocket scientist, dreaming of space travel and of joining the corpus of Gattaca, which only absorbs the fittest of the fittest, the hyper elite. Jude Law is one such hyper elite but has lost his legs in an accident. The two start cooking up a mutually beneficial scheme. Special mention: this film doubles as a murder mystery.

Pi (trailer). A young mathematical genius is convinced that he can see the hidden numerical code of the universe. Concealed within the golden ratio which he espies everywhere; he realizes that everything around him has an underlying numerical pattern. His knowledge causes him to be chased by the creepy Jewish kabalah, cutthroat investment banks and his own paranoid demons. A recluse and suffering from a unique condition that gives him searing headaches, he must figure our of these patterns form a part of the real world or simply a part of his overworked brain. Special mention: movie is shot entirely in grainy black and white, so your copy is fine. And btw, killer soundtrack.

Equilibrium (trailer): Is yet another take on Orwell’s 1984. The government is authoritarian and ruled by ‘Father’ not much different in character to Orwell’s Big Brother. All forms of art are banned and having emotions is a crime. Christian Bale is a primary state agent who begins to have doubts about his government’s legitimacy. Chaos ensues. Special mention: the arcane art of Gun Kata featured in ‘Euilibrium’ is said to have inspired some of the ideas in The Matrix.
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