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Modern Science Fiction Film

ENGL 292.402
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

 

Science Fiction has been a cinematic genre for as long as there has been cinema—at least since Georges Melies’s visionary “Trip to the Moon” in 1902.  However, though science fiction films have long been reliable box office earners and cult phenomena, critical acknowledgement and analysis was slow to develop.  Still, few genres reflect the sensibility of their age so transparently—if often unconsciously—or provide so many opportunities for filmmakers to simultaneously address social issues and expand the lexicon with the new technologies.  Given budgetary considerations and the appetite for franchises, science fiction auteurs face a difficult negotiation between artistic expression and lowest common denominator imperatives, the controversy over Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) being perhaps the most infamous example.  Nevertheless, many notable filmmakers have done their most perceptive and influential work in the scifi realm, including Gilliam, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, David Cronenberg, James Cameron and Paul Verhoeven.  This course will survey the scope of modern science fiction cinema, beginning with two films that inspired a rare wave of academic discourse, Scott’s Alien (1979) and The Blade Runner (1982), which attracted postmodernists, feminists, and film historians interested in how the works both drew from earlier movements (German Expressionism, Noir), and inspired new ones (cyberpunk).  We will look at smaller, more independent-minded projects, such as Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and Duncan Jones’ Moon (2009) as well as risky, massively budgeted epics such as Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) and Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010).  We will also acknowledge highly cinematic television series that influenced the scope of modern scifi, including The X-Files (1993-2002) and the rebooted Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009).  Requirements for the course will include attendance at weekly screenings, two critical papers, active classroom participation and leading one film discussion.  The course will meet in Gregory College House.