20 SF Movies

There’s a “25 Things About Me” meme going around Facebook. Rather than just re-post it here, I was inspired by John Scalzi’s column to write “20 Memories of Sci-Fi Movies of My Youth”. Agreed, it’s not quite a catchy a title, but I can live with that.

1) The first SF movie I saw in the theaters was “Star Wars”, when I was seven. I remember seeing the commercials and thinking, “Meh, might be okay.” Yeah, underestimated that one a bit. I do not remember “Episode 4” atop the opening crawl. The John Williams soundtrack spent long hours in the following months accompanying my pretending to blast TIE fighters from a laser gun turret.

2) The next one I recall seeing in the theaters was “Starcrash”. This would only have been a good movie had I been old enough to enjoy Caroline Munro’s outfit. I can’t remember too much about it now, which may be a good thing, but I’m tempted to find a copy and enjoy the badness from a whole new perspective.

3) “Close Encounters” confused and frightened me, especially the part where Richard Dreyfuss starts losing his sanity. I didn’t understand the ending at that age, either. In fact, to this day, there’s a lot of unexplained bits having to do with the aliens, which is just as well; I suspect that any explanation from Spielberg would have been far lamer than the mystery.

4) While we’re on such movies, I was mildly traumatized by the laser surgery and ‘cannibal’ robot in “Logan’s Run”, and I didn’t understand the whole “Carousel” thing at all. That’s another movie which is probably unwise to watch before puberty, especially in a midnight showing in a darkened house.

5) “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”: Wow, new Klingon ships. Whoa whoa, new Klingons! Triple whoa: I am in love with the new Enterprise model! Okay, excellent, what’s going to happen for the next ninety minutes? Oh. Not much. I’m glad I never took it in to my head to get myself one of that movie’s uniforms.

6) “The Empire Strikes Back” taught me to never again read the novelization before I’ve had a chance to see the movie. The reason why should be fairly obvious. Still, the AT-AT battle was an even better rollercoaster ride than the trench battle, and not really matched by any of the later films.

7) “The Wrath of Khan” just blew me away. I could go on for paragraphs on the subject of why this was the Trek movie I’d been waiting for, but I’ll just mention that I automatically assumed the “Remember” scene meant Spock was coming back, even though it’s unclear whether I was originally supposed to.

8) “Tron” is a gorgeous movie, visually and musically. The plot ain’t much, although the acting is exactly what it ought to be for the movie. Jerry and I gave the film a shout-out by sneaking an MCP Recognizer into the ‘decking’ sequence of “Gentleman’s Agreement“. It’s the only “sucked-into-the-computer” movie in which the concept makes even a lick of internal sense, as an early scene is all about the new machine designed to do exactly that.

9) I’ve always found it interesting that it’s Luke ability to draw upon his anger, and then abandon it before he crosses his own internal line, that saves the day in “Return of the Jedi”. This is not what either Obi-Wan or Yoda taught him, and it’s certainly more than his father could do. Also, I don’t mind the Ewoks at all. I see them an excellent illustration of the Empire’s hubris leading to its fall.

10) “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” is made of pure awesome. Should I ever grow up, I want to be either Buckaroo Banzai or the Doctor. The world consists of people who get this movie and those who don’t – thankfully, most of my friends are in the first group. (I loved watching Starr’s parents dismiss the film at first, then get completely sucked in by the end.)

11) I want Robert Preston’s car from “The Last Starfighter”, very badly. Also, every fighter plane model kit I’ve built since that movie came out has a “Death Blossom” control panel hidden somewhere in the cockpit.

12) “The Search for Spock”: To misquote a later line of Kirk’s, “I can never forgive ILM… for blowing up the Enterprise.” Seriously, I think the movie got better as I got older, but when it came out I was pretty ambivalent about it. I do remember having to ride my bike to the theater and watch it alone, as none of my friends were available at the time.

13) Around this time, I finally got to see the legendary “2001: A Space Odyssey” I’d heard about for so many years. The movie had a one-day run in the refurbished Grandin Theater, the same place I saw “Yellow Submarine”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, and “RoboCop”. Beautiful, beautiful movie, with extremely realistic space travel, a computer character who’s more interesting than the human ones, and That Ending. I told Starr, when we watched it, to assume there was no Official Explanation for the ending and to try interpreting it herself; she kind of took to the idea.

14) Luckily, I saw that movie before I saw “2010: The Year We Make Contact”. Far less thought provoking, but honestly more fun. I’m ashamed to admit that I fully believed Helen Mirren was a Russian actor until I caught her on some BBC production years later. I’ve always tried to imagine what it would be like to live on an Earth with a second, distant sun.

15) “RoboCop” is the most ultraviolent movie I can stand to watch, and only for the great character arc in the storyline. Murphy’s line “Thank you” near the very end, after “Jones, you’re fired!!” is a Crowning Moment of Awesome. The lead terrorist in the movie would later be Federation President in Trek VI.

16) The 1986, cel-animated “Transformers: The Movie”, intended mainly to introduce kids to the new toyline coming from Hasbro, is more fun and has a more interesting plot than the recent CGI film. Plus, it has Orson Welles’ last performance (as a planet-eater), Leonard Nimoy as a crazed despotic ruler, Monty Python’s Eric Idle as a hyperactive junk mechanic, and a “Weird Al” song in the soundtrack. Superior in nearly every way.

17) Speaking of animated features, I was already a fan of the “Macross” TV anime when I saw the “Macross: Do You Remember Love?” movie. I wasn’t prepared for the way the movie completely jumbled and abbreviated the TV storyline, and was horribly confused upon my first viewing; but I had to admit that the art was much prettier, and Minmei a much more sympathetic character. The last part alone was worth the price of admission.

18) Shortly thereafter, I saw an anime that inspired me to write novella-length fanfic: “Megazone 23 pts. 1 & 2”. The idea that humanity has been living in a virtual reality for hundreds of years aboard a spacecraft caught my imagination much as the “Matrix” movies would for fandom years later. Plus it had a nearly practical transforming motorcycle/battlesuit that was pretty keen. I’m still tempted to pick up the recent DVD release.

19) My favorite line from “The Voyage Home” isn’t “Too much LDS,” or “Where are the nuclear wessels?” but Spock’s “You must wait one damn minute, Admiral.” I’d been waiting years for him to say that to Kirk. I was the only one of my group to notice that the Enterprise-A bridge included the 1968 main screen sound effect.

20) I can’t say that “Spaceballs” compares to “Blazing Saddles” in terms of laughs, but either Brooks is a fan or got a few to advise him, because several of the jokes are directed right at us. And while I didn’t guffaw often, the movie’s fairly quotable among those who’ve seen it: just last month at MarsCon, I heard “You idiots – you’ve captured their stunt doubles!” (I’ll let my readers guess the context.)

So, that’s a snapshot of my first 20 years of SF movie watching, and I am already remembering a bunch I left out. Maybe I’ll hit this meme again if I remember anything interesting about the next bunch.

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  • madwriter says:

    >>’m ashamed to admit that I fully believed Helen Mirren was a Russian actor until I caught her on some BBC production years later.<<

    Don’t feel bad–I thought Sam Neill was a Russian actor when I first saw him in Amerika and didn’t realize “Sam Neill” was the one playing the Soviet officer.

  • madwriter says:

    P.S. The Hunt For Red October didn’t help this perception either.

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