There are two kinds of science fiction: the kind that’s really just an excuse to shoot laser guns and fly spaceships and fight exotic alien monsters, and the kind that uses imaginary advances in technology to explore the human condition. Astronaut: The Last Push, new this week on Blockbuster On Demand, fits firmly into the latter category, which got us to thinking about some of the other sci-fi movies with a little more on their mind.
Astronaut: The Last Push
When a mission to the moons of Jupiter is canceled by the accidental death of one of the two men on the vessel, the other is forced to make the three-year trip back to Earth in total solitude.
2001: A Space Odyssey
In Stanley Kubrick’s enormously celebrated 1968 film, each major advance in human evolution is accompanied by a big black monolith, so when one of them appears on Saturn and astronauts are sent to investigate it, can it really be a surprise when their ship’s computer goes crazy? (I don’t really know, I’ve never really understood this movie.)
Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) arrived as a major Hollywood talent with the very understated story of a man living alone on a lunar colony who, after an accident, comes to realize that he may not be alone. One of the best sci-fi movies of recent years.
Jake Gyllenhaal takes the lead role in Duncan Jones’ inventive follow-up to Moon, as a man trying to solve and prevent the bombing of a train by somehow inhabiting the consciousnesses of various passengers for the last eight minutes before the train blows up.
One of the more complex movies of recent years concerns a man, haunted by his wife’s death, who specializes in the theft of ideas from people’s minds, hired to plant an idea within someone as an act of corporate espionage.
Before the massive success of Star Wars, George Lucas’ first sci-fi story was about a dystopian future where people are kept docile by outlawing sex, dulling the senses with drugs, and of course an android police force.
Another dystopian future has Keanu Reeves as a computer hacker who learns that “reality” is nothing but a computer simulation, and that all of humanity has been enslaved and put to use as energy sources for the machines that have taken over. Good times!
Children of Men
Twenty years since the last human child was born, Clive Owen finds a pregnant woman and tried to get her to safety in the midst of a brewing war. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, this film was a critical smash and has everyone eagerly anticipating Cuaron’s next cerebral sci-fi picture, Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.