There’s no genre of film that consistently gets me more excited than science fiction. Sure, there’s always great action movies, you can’t beat horror for a good time, and once every blue moon there’s a comedy that isn’t terrible, but for my dollar, sci-fi can’t be beat.
Where I’m different than the average sci-fi fan is in the fact that I’ll love a movie almost purely because the premise behind the world is awesome. For example, I loved Paycheck. Yes, Paycheck, that Ben Affleck classic with a whopping 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. Sure, the execution may not have been great, but it’s based on Philip K. Dick’s thrilling short story and is just a brilliant idea for a film. I’m much more willing to set aside shortcomings in execution than I am in concept. I know, that may not be the most critically professional way to look at films, but when it comes to sci-fi, I just can’t help myself.
Because of that, I’ve decided to run through my five favorite sci-fi premises of the last 10 years. They aren’t all bad films, in fact I like all of them quite much, but I knew I was going to be sold on these long before sitting down in the theater.
While it’s probably the least critically received of the films on this list, In Time had possibly the best premise of them all.
It may sound a little cliché on the surface. Oh yes, time is money, how clever. But in reality, it’s absolutely brilliant. Using coin as money is a completely arbitrary convention. And there really is nothing more valuable than time. The fact you can tell how rich someone is by how quickly they do things transcends into more themes and questions about wage gaps than I’m ready to tackle in this article. Just know that I love the idea behind In Time.
The first thing I had to respect about Looper is the fact that it completely dismisses any prior notions of time travel theory that had come about through other filmmakers desperately grasping to the Butterfly Theory. Guess what. We don’t know how time travel works. Theorize all you want, but until someone actually does it, there’s no way to know.
Also smart in the story is Joe trying to kill himself. Watching them talk to each other, and the way that Old Joe’s brain begins to cloud as they speak, shows just how great of a grasp Rian Johnson had on the story he was trying to craft.
The Man From Earth
If someone was alive today, just as they had been for 14,000 years, that would likely have some pretty intense implications. Or, it could just lead to the guy living a casual life, leaving town when people might start to guess his path. It’s that latter approach that makes The Man From Earth just so stunningly smart.
As they run through the various things that he might have been involved with, my jaw dropped farther and farther. What makes it most impressive is every aspect is utterly believable. There’s never a notion brought to light that gave me pause, and that’s impressive when you’re dealing with all of human history.
When you know what’s going to happen before it happens, that’s the easiest way to know what to do next. Still though, even with that knowledge, the right course of action isn’t always present. In Duncan Jones’ 2009 sci-fi hit, Jake Gyllenhall plays a solider who is repeatedly placed into the body of another man, only to live out his death by bomb time and time again until he can finally stop the deaths.
I suppose the easiest way you can see that Source Code has an awesome premise is the fact that they are releasing it again this summer starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.
Plenty of movies have been made about alien invasions, but what is it that happens after the invasion has calmed down? What if the aliens don’t wipe out humanity, but rather just decide to stay and live among us? District 9 picks up with those questions, delving into to class struggles that would occur between multiple intelligent species.
Very few sci-fi films have been nominated for best picture, and while most of the reasons why District 9 was have to do with the fact it’s really, really good, the bloody brilliant premise certainly helped. Neil Blomkamp tackles philosophical issues involving heavy sci-fi concepts, and he turns that into an entertaining romp.