I guess the Hollywood geniuses that keep giving us dun-tinted crap-pile futures because imagination is too risky - and shamelessly corrupting optimistic ones like Star Trek into stupid, nihilistic action movies - are still hard at "work" doing what they do. I talked at length about this kind of cultural degradation last year in Fantasy and Dystopic Sci-fi Are Pissing Me Off, but this time I will be relatively brief because this is more of an expression of disgust than a critical analysis.
First, a particularly appropriate snippet from that earlier commentary:
But what has happened to science fiction? In the increasingly rare instances where it can even be distinguished from fantasy, we are offered not hope, not ideas, not a thorough examination of possibilities, but Monster Mash clown shtick and/or Mad Max redux.So, here comes the Merry-Go-Round again. "In a post-apocalyptic future..."
- Tom Cruise is a soldier patrolling the ruins of Earth destroyed by an alien invasion in Oblivion. He shoots stuff amid the rubble. The high-tech consists of Minority Report stock CGI.
- Matt Damon is a terminally ill working stiff barely surviving in the ruins of Earth patrolled by futuristic soldiers in Elysium. He shoots stuff amid the rubble. The high-tech consists of Halo screencaps, Terminator 2 stock, and exterior shots of Bel Air, with the clothes and houses of the rich a century and a half in the future looking literally identical to the present.
- Will Smith is an errant member of surviving humanity who escaped a planetwide cataclysm, but now returns to an Earth gone fallow and spends the entire movie fighting for mere survival against CGI creatures apparently left over from Avatar stock. The incredibly creative title of this M. Night Shyamalan gem is After Earth.
This is of course radically different from last year, when "In a post-apocalyptic future..."
- Starving adolescents are forced to fight to the death against each other in The Hunger Games.
- Time-traveling gangsters have shootouts amid general poverty, and explore ESP pseudo-science in Looper.
- Zombies ravage the world and destroy governments in World War Z.
And who can forget the towering cinematic classic Dredd 3D?
And that's just the explicitly grim stuff - we still have the new Farce Trek movie to look forward to, where the filmmakers are bragging about turning a fundamentally optimistic, inspiring, humanist universe into a violently bleak and nihilistic shitpile to please the NASCAR and mayonnaise-sandwich crowd.
I have an idea: How about a science fiction movie set in a grim, post-apocalyptic future where the only science fiction movies are about grim, post-apocalyptic futures? The hero can go around in a fascist-looking black X-Men unisuit shooting zombie screenwriter hacks and studio executives who throw scripts at him that all begin with the phrase "In a post-apocalyptic future..."
The only science fiction movies that are permitted to be optimistic are ones with severely limited ambition, like the endearing but hardly mind-expanding treatise on aging and friendship, Robot and Frank. Frank is a senile former criminal who makes friends with the intelligent personal-care robot his kids forced on him to avoid sending him to a nursing home. Cute hijinks ensue. It is actually pretty good and entertaining. There's just not much science fiction involved - it's Driving Miss Daisy if Miss Daisy were a retired gangster and Hoke is a humanoid robot. Fun, sure, but the awesomely insightful predictions it makes are (1)personal care robots for the elderly, (2)digitization of libraries, and...well...that's kind of it. Everything else is the same.
So the rule is, optimism is permissible if you don't change anything significant or have any particularly challenging ideas, but if you go more than a generation ahead everything must be shit, science must be evil, and terrorists / survivalists / vigilantes are heroes. You get the impression the whole industry would implode into its own Apocalypse if an original thought managed to draw breath.
As it is, the only thoroughly optimistic, true science fiction thing I've seen isn't even a full movie, but a low-budget indie short called C: 299, 792 km/s that I can only futilely hope will some day be made into a full-length film. Here's the whole thing:
But...where's the black X-Men suit? Where's the blue tint to signify sterile oppression and the brown tint to signify that everything sucks? How will we know how to feel without the suggestive tinting? Where's the Monster Mash horror-creature porn? Clearly the people who made this were not told the basics of science fiction in visual media. The fact is it's not possible to make progress in the real world if people aren't even allowed to imagine it, and that's what Hollywood has done to the genre of imaginative exploration - turned into nothing but a bunch of disaster porn and fearmongering to make people not want to explore. We need more stuff like C: 299,792 km/s (preferably with better titles, obviously) and less stupid shitpile "worldwide Somalia" movies.