Science Fiction: The Word and The Picture

4 Apr

Sensuous elaboration is an attribute that Susan Sontag gives to science fiction films as opposed to science fiction novels. The images, sounds and animation enable the audience to have a distinguishably enriched experience. The possibilities the audiovisual content of science fiction films proffer cannot be made available by the written word. This can be a disadvantage, too. Or at least a great challenge, since the advantage of sensuous elaboration may be the core of some certain problems to science fiction films. The sensory experience of the audience is constantly changing. The bet is always bid on the exciting, the thrilling, the seductive. And so, science fiction films have to always bring the audience to novel realms of sensory experience. The problem with sensory experience is that it dulls quickly in regards to time. What is fascinating at a certain point of time will not be so a couple of years later. Very soon does the audience become familiar with those experiences and take them as a reality.

Moreover, science fiction films usually follow the classic plot of films in general. They do not dare deviate from the three-act, eight-phased sequence prevailing the mainstream film industry. In that way, science fictions films are no different than romance films or even cartoon animated films. I think this is because of the marketing issue. Filmmakers want their films to be successful and reach out to the audience through the conventional channels. This would surely affect the genre and challenge the genuineness of science fiction films. Writers of science fiction novels can be, relatively speaking, immune from the marketing issue. The texts we have read so far exhibited an authentic variety approaching their themes. There are other things to be taken in consideration in science fiction films. First is the accessibility of technology. While novelists can go further in their imaginative capabilities, filmmakers can only lay the task on the skills of technicians. It is ostensible that the writers’ imagination cannot be hindered by the technical stuff. It can go very wild. Imagination has got stronger muscles than technology. It has preceded technology in the first place. Also, filmmakers are always aware of economy. The cost of the machinery implemented in science fiction is a crucial part of the film as an art form. While novelists do not have to worry about this limitation, filmmakers want to make science fiction films with the least expensive machinery. I am pretty sure that much innovation is lost in this process of lowering down the costs.

One Response to “Science Fiction: The Word and The Picture”

  1. brandongalm April 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    I think your comments that science fiction filmmaking is limited to what they can present visually, and might in some ways hinder the genre, are spot on. I just want to play devil’s advocate briefly and point out–using a line from your post (“Imagination has got stronger muscles than technology”)–that film does not have to be hindered in this way. If we use horror films as an example, some of the most effective movies of that genre work because of precisely what they do NOT show the audience. In other words, the audience’s imagination fills in the blanks.

    I can think of a few more recent “sci-fi” films that work in similar ways (_Safety Not Guaranteed_ or _Timer_ being a couple examples). Rather than fill the mise-en-scene with loads and loads of budget-sucking technology, the plot, acting, and tempo move the audience through and bring them along for the ride. The audience can fill in the blanks, which makes the film, in some ways, just as effective as its technology rich cousin.

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