by Keith Phipps
After Star Wars’ success, the gold rush was on for cheap space adventures from around the world, from a laser-blasting American kid to a Japanese movie with Sonny Chiba and Vic Morrow to an Italian production starring a young David Hasselhoff.
After the doors opened for effects-driven science fiction, Superman, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Flash Gordon all looked to the past for inspiration. But not all get the balance between storytelling and effects right.
In the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, the public’s disaffection and distrust for the government found its way into conspiracy- and secret-fueled movies like The Parallax View, Capricorn One, and even Disney’s The Cat From Outer Space.
Steven Spielberg’s UFO film contrasts the humble stuff of 1970s American life with the possibility of otherworldly wonder.
On its way toward becoming a cultural phenomenon—and altering the direction of big-screen science fiction in the process—George Lucas’ space opera went through some surprising iterations that reflected its era more closely.
Only a few years out from the moon landing, 1970s science fiction was already contemplating the tedium and dehumanization of space travel, technological advances, and the future in general.
Nicolas Roeg’s trippy David Bowie vehicle is the fullest flowering of the experimental, thoughtful science fiction that sprouted after 2001, but it arrived too close to the end of its season to thrive.
Some of the most arresting takes on science fiction in the late 1960s and early 1970s came from people who were just briefly visiting the genre, including such disparate figures as Alain Resnais and Sun Ra.
Day Of The Dolphin, A Boy And His Dog, and Phase IV turned to the relationship between man and super-intelligent animals to comment on politics, men and women, and civilization at large.
What does it mean when machines and humans look the same? A handful of films in the 1960 and 1970s offered strikingly different takes on the notion.
In the years before computers became commonplace, films like Alphaville, Colossus: The Forbin Project, and Demon Seed projected our worst fears on them.
Long before Jurassic Park restored Michael Crichton to ascendancy, he dominated the 1970s with films like The Andromeda Strain, Westworld, and The Terminal Man, which considered the human cost of progress.
After Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, filmmakers redefined the Apes franchise with each successive entry, while maintaining its daring central premise.
A string of films, including Rollerball and Logan’s Run, portray frightening visions of paradise, illustrating the danger of getting what we want without considering what we give up to get it.
Two 1971 science-fiction films build horrific futures from the materials of the present: one overrun by the violent ids of a barbaric younger generation, the other locked down tight enough to squeeze the humanity from its citizens.
Early-1970s concerns about overpopulation, environmental damage, and resource-depletion bled into the science-fiction films of the time, which considered the desperate measures people might take when faced with an unlivable planet.
After Planet Of The Apes blew it up, science-fiction films of the early 1970s looked past The End to imagine an even grimmer future.
Two films from 1968, Planet Of The Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey, sparked a new era of ambitious, mind-expanding science fiction. And they have a lot in common.