Science Fiction Film

English 386.01

From the beginning of cinema in the 1890s, film-makers have been entranced by the possibility of seeing the future. The science fiction film envisions both worlds in which our deepest longings and highest aspirations are fulfilled and nightmarish realms that evoke our worst fears and deepest anxieties.  Beginning with Stanley Kubrick’s ground-breaking epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey(1968), we will watch and explore more than a dozen of the most influential, creative, controversial, and successful science fiction films made from around the world in the last two generations.  Where might go? What might we see? Perhaps we’ll venture into space and to alien worlds, where the post-terrestrial fate of the human species is played out in Andrei Tarkovsky and Stephen Soderbergh’s Solaris (1972/2002), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise, Joss Whedon’s Serenity (2005), and Duncan Jones’s Moon (2009).  Or we’ll consider the post-apocalyptic future of humankind on earth in Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979), Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys (1995), and John Hillcoat’s The Road (2009).  We’ll surely glimpse a future transformed for better and worse by the power of human science and technology in R. Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and its sequel Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days(1995), the Wachowskis’ The Matrix (1999), Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006), Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca (1997), Stephen Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993), Minority Report (2002), and Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010). We’ll definitely consider the perils the future holds for human love and desire in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin (2013), Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color(2013), and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2014).  And we may well explore a planet visited or invaded by alien life-forms in Spielberg’s E.T. (1982), War of the Worlds (2005), and Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009). 

Students will be required to watch and discuss one film per week (on rare occasions two films), write two medium length essays of between eight and ten pages, and participate actively in class discussion.

Grades will be based on attendance, the two essays, class participation, and weekly one-page journal submissions.