District 9 did a ton of things right that more than compensate for the shortcomings. I think science fiction, because of the leaps it wants to take and asks viewers to take, is not going to stand up against a critical taste test most times unless it stays in a mode that is only 5 years into the future with no alien technology making an appearance. If it is alien technology that we can easily explain by our standards, how alien is it really?
A pretty good science fiction movie takes science we know and tries to blend it with the unknown. By its nature, Sci-Fi is making stuff up that we have to accept as fact. Then, in the afterglow, we have two, maybe three choices.
Accept that there are going to be holes, afterall, some stuff is just made up and how fun would it be if we could explain every point and connect every dot? I think the films would turn out much more formulaic and predictable. That is the one thing I like about sci-fi…it keeps me guessing. We could (and many do) pick Lost apart, but it is so much more fun to just go with it most of the time. There is so much shite in film and TV that we have to let ourselves enjoy things that are trying to be different and showing us something new.
Require that the plots adhere better to guidlines and justifications that would appear most plausible. Well, I kind of covered this. I think the films would lose some of their originality if they did this. I am not saying that there are not great science fiction films that do this well. I believe it does make it much harder to surprise folks with the unexpected and cool stuff. If it is all easily explainable with what we know, it becomes almost all science and little fiction other than the drama/thriller covering that is laid over it.
- Cry foul because there is just too much they are asking us to swallow and none of it really flows like we would want it to. This really only goes for the really bad sci-fi. If you are not prepared to bridge some of your own gaps and take those leaps of faith that the makers of decent sci-fi films are asking of you at various plot points, don’t go see science fiction.
Books in the sci-fi genre and especially the Hard science sub-genre, have more of an advantage because of the hundreds of pages with which facets of technology can be described. Plus, the written word can oftentimes do a better job of describing as it is literally spelling things out. In addition, the reader can go back immediately to iron out any perceived wrinkles or misunderstandings. Of course, that does mean authors have to be more thorough. For my taste, the Hard science books many times fall into choice number two above. Not always predictable, but it becomes less surprising and more like a very engaging, high-level college science class. Still enjoy it, but not quite as much. Asking a film to attempt to do something similar while entertaining and not go over 2 and 1/2 hours is a tall order.
I am not here to suggest any as I thought District 9, The Matrix, Sunshine, and plenty of others did a good enough job for me in showing me things that were different without asking me to believe, “Rainwater falls upward in this movie…accept it!”. Maybe I simply have a much shorter stick by which I measure the need for strict believability. I also have the handicap of not being quite the student of film some of you guys are as my movie-a-week days are long gone. (I mean, even though I had a good guess, I had to Dictionary.com “Cineaste”. Imagine my embarassment) Also, I have forgotten more about movies than I will most likely learn between now and when I keel over in front of a roguelike the second before I finally beat one. These factors explain why I cannot point to a laundry list off my top films off of the top of my head without doing some lame reasearch and IMDB list. I thought there was a time when everyone loved The Matrix, but because of the subsequent two films (and Speed Racer), now lots of folks consider it mediocre.
So, what you guys/gals got? Bare in mind, I understand that your approach and expectations from movies in this genre may be completely different and my handy 3-choice breakdown and descriptions above may apply only in part or not at all to you.
EDIT: Furthermore, that post became entirely too long, so feel free to turn this into a lame list thread. ;)