Modern cinema is at an important breaking point. Tentpole summer sequels are turning into massive failures, original films are being obliterated at the box office, and even seemingly successful film categories have their deterrents ("superhero fatigue," anyone?). However, there is one subsection of movies that looks primed for a massive breakout: science fiction.
The upcoming lineup of science fiction movies for the fall/winter of 2016 is looking incredibly promising. Included in that list are films such as Denis Villeneuve's Arrival, the Chris Pratt-Jennifer Lawrence romance Passengers, and, of course, the first Star Wars spin-off film, Rogue One. Among these wider releases, we'll also be seeing smaller independent films, and a variety of movies that contain elements of science fiction, even if they wouldn't necessarily be classified as part of the genre. A new dawn of science fiction films is coming.
We've always had excellent sci-fi movies though. Why is science fiction suddenly primed for a breakout? The biggest reason why is timing. Where humanity stands now, both technologically and culturally, provides the perfect scenario to elicit a science fiction explosion. Sci-fi is more relevant than ever thanks to our ongoing scientific progress, and the rise of "nerd culture." Couple these things with the wildly impressive upcoming slate of movies, and we might just be on the verge of a new phenomenon.
The Realities Of Science Fiction Are On Their Way
In terms of technological progress, we are closer than we have ever been to seeing elements of science fiction become a reality (though I suppose we are literally always closer than we ever have been. Time does keep going forward, after all). A film like Ex Machina was a hit, not just because it was a phenomenal movie, but because it gave us a peek at what the near future could look like when/if artificial intelligence becomes a reality. Similarly, a movie like Arrival will show us what could happen if we really did come into contact with extraterrestrials, an event that's possibility has been in the news lately. More and more often we're hearing stories about things that were once only conceivable in our wildest dreams. Now, they are becoming more realistic and more intriguing to see depicted on screen with each passing moment.
So while aliens, AI, and space travel might not be on our doorstep, we can at least see them in the distance now, instead of simply leaving everything entirely to our imagination. Because science fiction is becoming more of a potential reality, people might feel more inclined to go see a sci-fi movie. The more often scientific news stories pique our interests, the more likely we may be to go and check out a movie related to that potential future.
'Nerd Culture' Is Stronger Than Ever
On top of science fiction being closer to our reality, liking science fiction is also cooler than it ever has been before. Whereas young nerds everywhere were once mocked for their adoration of Lord of the Rings, now fandom for Star Trek, or Game of Thrones, or Spider-Man actually makes you cool. Liking science fiction used to mean that you were probably accused of living in your mother's basement, but now, openly discussing the latest Star Wars movie is more likely to get people to excitedly declare their opinions rather than bring about frowns and wedgies.
Science fiction movies have been some of the coolest movies around for a long time, but now you don't have to feel like an outsider for thinking so. Liking sci-fi has become more mainstream, so if the quality product is there, the people will turn out for it.
Amazing Films Are Coming
Now, in terms of the quality of the films, my estimation of them being good is based primarily on who's involved with the projects (and probably a bit of my own hopefulness), so seeing movies with names like Michael Fassbender (Assassin's Creed), Forest Whitaker (Arrival, Rogue One), and Morten Tyldum (Passengers) attached to them only increases my level of anticipation. Talented people tend to make better movies, and there are unquestionably talented people involved in the genre. At the very least, we're starting to get a ton of positive buzz on at least one of those movies (Arrival), making the successful season of science fiction look that much more plausible.
The boom of science fiction movies doesn't stop with this season though. 2016 is only the start of what is looking like a bigger trend. It's evident that many of our present-day filmmakers are also clued into where humanity is today, either because they are interested in examining relevant topics in science or because they are part of our nerd zeitgeist. All you have to do to confirm their interest in science fiction is to take a look at the movies coming out after this year. Just to name a few, we have the long-awaited return of older sci-fi franchises with films such as Alien: Covenant and Blade Runner 2, the arrivals of new stories such as God Particle, #Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, or Ready Player One, and the massive ongoing franchises of Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avatar. It's truly a struggle to look at this list and not see the potential for a rise in the popularity of science fiction stories.
The genre is primed for a breakout of epic proportions. With the events of science fiction films feeling more real than ever, the breakthrough of "nerd culture," and the potential for so many excellent science fiction films in the near future, this fall could mark the beginning of a turning point for the genre. Sometime in the near future, we might be talking about science fiction in the way that we talk about superhero movies. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to hear internet pundits complain about "science fiction fatigue."
Check out the trailer for the hotly anticipated Arrival below:
What do you think about science fiction's potential breakout this fall? Are these upcoming films going to be as good as we hope? Is the genre already doing so well that this can't be called a breakout in the first place? Let us know what you think in the comments!