Attack of the Copies

April 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Oblivion stars Tom Cruise, who does well in the action genre and whose few sci fi films (War of the Worlds, Minority Report) have been excellent. Though Oblivion isn’t any less in quality, director Joseph Kosinski, best known for his Gears of War trailers, highlights something lacking in the film that’s also lacking in nearly every sci-fi video game that’s ever been made: originality.

We never expect originality in video games. We’re satisfied as long as they’re fun. Most game designers don’t seem to make the effort, opting for another first person shooter featuring some version of the space marines in Aliens battling some sort of interstellar terror.

In contrast, fantasy games have reached (at least reached for) the level of art in the gaming world. Final Fantasy and Shadow of the Colossus are the first titles to spring to mind, titles that almost always aim to give the player a new experience. But each new sci-fi game always aim for a more entertaining experience, better graphics and gameplay.  Bringing the player something new isn’t as much of a priority as giving him or her something bigger.

Oblivion exemplifies what happens when the aesthetic goals of gaming bleed into film. The movie is visually stunning, the set pieces heart-thumping, the ideas… tired and old. [SPOILER ALERT**] We’ve seen dystopian landscapes, alien super intelligences, clones, space ships, and cryo-sleep before. Just because they’re all in one spectacular-looking movie won’t make that movie a classic.

Science fiction used to be called the “literature of ideas,” and a lot of what we get in science fiction prose is still that.  Kim Stanley Robinson is the first name to spring to mind, but there are many others writers who aren’t just churning out novels based on role-playing games; however, most of what we get in science fiction film these days have left the ideas off-screen.  Perhaps we should create a new genre to file these movies, and simply call it “special effects.”

 

Be sure to check out my horror comic MetaMorphosis! War is Hell. Home is worse.

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