The 21st century has brought forth a lot of great and memorable science fiction movies. These include the latest Star Wars movies that have done massively well at the box office among others like Avatar and Mad Max: Fury Road who have also done well at the box office. While these movies have had much commercial and financial success, there are many others that have gone under the radar financially but not critically. Science Fiction is a genre that generally has had considerable trouble connecting to moviegoers while in movie theaters. A good amount of the time they eventually become cult classics many years after they are released. I have talked in detail about the importance of science fiction previously. Both of these embody the idea that science fiction speaks to beyond just entertaining the audience, it makes you think and that is what pure science fiction does.
- Blade Runner 2049– 2017
Let me start off by saying this is my favorite of these two films.
Like the original Blade Runner film, which bombed at the box office in 1982 but eventually became a cult classic on home video, its sequel Blade Runner 2049, did not fare well during its time in theaters also. While it did respectably for some movies, it has been reported that it could lose over $80 million for Alcon, the company that produced the movie. While it was widely accepted by the movie-going public and critics as a worthy successor to the acclaimed 1982 classic, the massive financial loss for its producers means that there will probably not be a sequel to this movie.
I will not go into detail on the plot for this movie because I think that it needs to remain a mystery and something that you need to unravel during your viewing experience. Blade Runner 2049 expands brilliantly on the world created by Ridley Scott, the director of the first film, along with Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic book, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, which inspired the original film. While the original Blade Runner took place wholly in dreary, dark Los Angeles, the 2017 sequel takes the action outside of the city, showing the devastation of the world that characters, like the legendary Roy Batty, would only mention in the first film. This world building that the people who made this movie did is probably my favorite part of this film. This along with the brilliant script, which keeps you guessing until the very end, what is going to happen.
While you do not have to see the original to see 2049, it does help you understand a lot more of the world that the director, Denis Villeneuve, has created. There are three short films that help explain to the audience what has happened in the Blade Runner universe in the intervening 30 years that takes place between the movies. Because of this and the 2 and half hour runtime, this movie feels like an experience more than a film. An experience that you can go on more than once and still get something new out of it. This movie and Mad Max: Fury Road are similar because in my opinion because of this factor.
There is no doubt in my mind that this film will eventually become a cult classic like its predecessor.
2. Predestination– 2014
While you have probably heard of Blade Runner 2049, you probably have not heard of this movie, Predestination. This movie is entirely unknown to many people, even those who are cinephiles and especially sci-fi lovers who would love this movie. Although Predestination was largely ignored in theaters, not even grossing over $100 thousand in the United States, (in comparison, the “failure” that is Blade Runner 2049 grossed just over $92 million in the United States) critically it was a success with 84% of reviewers reacting positively on Rotten Tomatoes.
Both Blade Runner 2049 and Predestination brilliantly crafted different worlds and atmospheres that make you think after you have seen both films. The world in Predestination is not explained as much as Blade Runner 2049 but it works in this film’s favor, only showing you bits and pieces of the 1950’s inspired ascetic. The story is small in stature but it conveys its story and message in this world brilliantly. In fact, the story wants to, and succeeds in, keeping the viewer in the dark so well that you never find out any of character’s names. It is not that the filmmakers do not want to keep you in the dark for the sake of mystery but instead want to show to the audience that these names are unimportant in the story. The movie may seem simplistic to the casual viewer but its ideas are something to think and ponder on long after the first viewing of the film.
While Blade Runner 2049 has elements that make you think of yourself on a larger scale, dabbling in the topic of AI and what makes us human, Predestination makes you think introspectively on the nature of identity and perspective, making you question your very existence among the cosmos. It is almost like the nameless characters are caricatures of ourselves, discovering what is it to be whatever we are. While Blade Runner 2049 is a morality lesson, Predestination is a philosophy lesson in disguise as a science fiction film on the same level as The Matrix (before its sequels destroyed it).
This film has failed to gather an audience so far but it will no doubt become a cult classic.
While I could have included other great, notable, science fiction films like Ex Machina, Dredd, or Children of Men, I had to narrow it down to these two films. This was because I truly believe that these two films are the best that science fiction has to offer with the idea that you can be entertained but also be made to think long after you walk out of the theater. While it can be said that people are becoming more receptive to Blade Runner 2049 over Predestination, neither film has not received the credit they deserve as truly groundbreaking examples of what science fiction films represent to the movie-going public.