Science fiction is, in most cases, the realm of the impossible. A place where things that could happen – but not right now – do happen. Teleporters, space ships, politics with aliens, interstellar warfare, all that cool stuff that may or may not be on the horizon for mankind: that is what makes sci-fi movies so fun to watch.
Because, frankly speaking, so-called ‘normal’ science seems a bit drab. Ho-hum. Everyday. And why? It’s not for lack of actual novelty. Indeed, most people who got a chance to see atoms in action, or to watch the results of a physics experiment, would probably be rather astounded. Science is cool – it’s just wrapped in a package that’s not terribly hip, and thus not given a chance most of the time.
But Hollywood, ah, Hollywood grants us a glimpse, via sci-fi, of science in action. To see what might be a hundred, or two hundred, or twelve thousand years in the future, thanks to the advances made by science, and seen through a veneer of human emotion and awesome explosions. Sci-fi films are a peek at technology that’s so far beyond our comprehension that it needs to be rendered in CGI. (Though, amusingly enough, science isn’t that far behind movies like Star Wars or Star Trek when it comes to certain concepts.)
What makes for really neat sci-fi films, though, are stories or plot devices that may never come into fruition. Such forms of speculative fiction can include brighter aspects – stubby aliens cavorting with young children, teens becoming galaxy-renowned space shooters, science fiction actors turning into the actual crew of a spaceship – as well as the darker stuff, like potential forms of apocalypse, evil horrors from the dark abyss and robotic AIs gone mad. Sci-fi is just as often about the ‘What can go wrong?’ as it is about the ‘What can go right?’, giving form to imaginings and hypothetical questions that we’ve all had at some point.
Perhaps the best element of a sci-fi flick, however, is the capacity for learning. You almost always learn something scientific when watching a sci-fi film. Take Jurassic Park as an example: before it came out, few people knew anything about genetics. After watching the movie, however – a movie that may have flubbed certain things, admittedly – those same people can suddenly engage in intelligent discourse regarding the ramifications of genetics used for the wrong purposes. While it’s true that sci-fi films typically feature a stunted view of science, they’re nevertheless educational in ways that other movies aren’t.
Science fiction, as a genre, is smart. It can churn out some rather stupid movies, true, but in its own way sci-fi is a cut above. And, whether it’s considered ‘geeky’ or not, sci-fi can encompass pretty much every other filmmaking genre – drama, comedy, fantasy, mystery, suspense and what have you – while still making you feel a bit smarter by the end of the film. How many other movies can say the same about their viewers?