Saturday, March 21, 2009

Some Sci-fi love

Sci-fi and fantasy as a genre have few patrons, the rest however are non-appreciative, or just downright insulting.

I not only love the out worldly experience that can only be communicated by these genres, but also the profound depth and messages these deliver. Yes, it's not real and yes it can never happen, but when has that stopped it from being communicative of human values.

I'm making a case for sci-fi movies like The Matrix trilogy, The Watchmen and television shows like Battlestar Galactica. Let me tell you by saying that I'm a big.. I mean really big fan of these shows, so it really grind my gears when people just go and watch these for special effects or just dismiss them as "kids category". The beauty of these genres is that they are the only ones successful in mixing socially relevant messages with entertainment. Others don't even come close..

Today BattleStar Galactica aired its final episode and I was in tears (yes geeks do cry, you just need to know how to make them cry). On the cover it deals with a race of humans (preceding our own, but somewhat still futuristic) in conflict with cylons (androids, which are almost humans), but at it's crux it spotlights human nature, both its dark and bright side, and tries to stretch the morally grey area in the middle to include everyone of its audience. The show was carefully engineered to instill hate against the cylons into the audience, the show then had the "good guys" commit justifiable crimes against the cylons, like torturing/suicide bombing (socially relevant ones at present), which although as I said, were justifiable but unethical, thus making its audience a part of the show. Its shows like these that make you introspect and helps you discover yourself.

BSG presented me with same moral dilema as The Fountainhead, and hands down, has been the best thing I ever saw on the tube. If you can look past the FTL drives, the dilithium crystal, the mental projection of cylons, i.e. all the jargons that alienate some people (mostly non-geeks), the message conveyed is pretty strong, you just need an eye to spot it out. This message is ofcourse hidden, if it wasn't, it would be a documentary. At some level, sci-fi/fantasy movies are documentaries after you peel the onion. Plot in these movies/tv shows is so thick, that it almost pains me to find people talking about it at a totally superficial level.

Take Matrix: The Revolution, the last fight sequence, when Neo is walking amidst darkness, rain and hundreds of Smith copies, and fights one of them at the end. The fight ends with Neo fighting Agent Smith and ending the war between the man and the machines, but how many of you noticed what the director wanted you to see? The song in the background was ancient Vedic hymn "Asatoma Sadgamaya", which signifies the victory of good over evil, the multiple copies and the darkness signified multiple faces of evil in dark times and the song itself points to the fact that Neo had already won the war by making his choice and knew the outcome. The choice, that architect was advocating in most of second sequel. The movie worked on so many levels, and each time I see it, I discover a previously uncoverd hidden meaning in the movie.
Coming back to BSG, well, that is the only sci-fi piece I know of that married belief, faith and science. It talked about angels & daemons, about gods, about prophecy, while still being mostly a sci-fi show.This show made some startling plot twists by projecting one of its main protagonist as a real angel, while couple of others as some sort of agents of "God", who play major role in turn of events. It tried to perpetrate the existence of destiny, of hope, of human values.. kudos to the BSG team, when they could have just got about same TRP ratings, had they shown a nonsensical, visual effects loaded series.

Watchmen, is another such movie. I read the book about two years ago, and I must say that although I don't really like the casting (except Silk Spectre ofcourse), it conveys the real essence of the book (not what Harry Potter movies did to the books). The book is more detailed, of course, but movie comes quite close. It makes you see the world from the eyes of the demented comedian, the omniscient Dr Manhattan, the genius..yet human Veidt, the idealist Rorschach, the observer Night Owl. I really love how the actions of each superhero is justified by their portrayed viewpoints, and forces the reader/viewer to agree with writer.

Sci-fi has come a long way from "Attack of Mars" to BSG/Matrix, it deserves prime time... definitely more than the mind numbing reality shows and soaps. Isn't it time the kirks, spocks, jon shephards, adamas, starbucks,trips, gaetas,McCays etc got more attention than "gossip girl" or Simon Cowell?