The great themes in Science Fiction.

Science fiction has several themes that dominate texts. These themes appear to be popular in particular time periods. Our study requires us to consider the social and historical events that may be reflected in the films. The links on these pages will provide readings on the themes and the historical background.amazing.jpg
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The themes:
The Barbarian superman: Refer to Huxley - Brave New World (novel), Island (novel) and Borman's film Zardoz (film). You can identify aspects of this theme in Gattaca.
Dystopias: A world that fails to provide hope or possible redemption for its residents.This is seen in such films as: Brazil, V for Vendetta, 1984, Fahrenheit 451. Bladerunner. see also this page


******Cataclysm & Catastrophe:****** These films explore the possibility of man or nature destroying Earth and its civilisations. The War Game provides an example of this genre in its exploration of the destruction of society in a nuclear war. An American attempt at exploring this theme was the less successful - **The Day After.** Other films that explore this theme are: The Day The World Ended and The Day the Earth Caught Fire. A New Zealand film that explores this theme is The Quiet Earth.
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Alien Invasion: This concern was evident at the height of the cold war - particularly during the decade 1950-60. These films reflect the USA concern that invasion would come from the USSR. The films portrayed the aliens as parallels of the Russians - and carried the USA paranoia about spies and possible nuclear annihilation. Examples: The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The 1957 War of the Worlds carries a similar message. In more modern times the theme is reworked to portray the USA as the bastion that will protect and defend the Earth against overwhelming odds. Independence Day being a classic example of this.
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Mans' Odyssey: The opitimism that developed from the space race and the 1969 moon landing produced a different view of humanity and futures. 2001 Space Odyssey and 2010 The year we made contact offered scientific advance and spiritual fulfilment with the exploration of new worlds and benign contact with alien civilisation. The sense of odyssey was also captured in the TV series and, later, films, of Star Trek. Solaris provides a different view of the odyssey - a more nightmarish view.
These films produced an iconography of highly technical space craft, dangerous, self aware computers (HAL) and the use of inter-linked images and music to enhance the granduer of space. Ironically the cynicism to the space race of the 1990s saw these films parodied in Galaxy Quest.
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Impact of Technology:
This has been a recurrent theme in Science Fiction since the nineteenth century. The films examine the question how do we know or tell the difference between man and machine if the the distinction is blurred in some way. e.g. Blade Runner. , eXistenZ , Matrix and S1m0ne. Questions are raised about the ethics of cyborgs, robots (I,Robot ) and interfrence with human intelligence or abilities. (Minority Report, Total Recall, )
This post-modern view raises the question, albeit an old one, "what is the role of man in the new scientific age and what are the dangers inherent in acting as God? This the old Frankenstein theme from Mary Shelley's novel. This recent article in the N.Z.Herald examines the issue in a discussion of Science Fiction films.
To discussion pages: