Review: Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies

Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of Sci-Fi Movies by Andrew Maynard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Any science-fiction film worth its genre label is going to offer up a good depiction of the tension between humanity and technology. A tension that is mindful enough of the present time in which the film is produced that years later, it can still be meaningfully discussed in its historical context. Even if this tension is a bit of a straw-person, it's something all science-fiction storytelling tends to hinge upon. Therefore, Maynard's exploration of twelve sci-fi films that run from the established ("Jurassic Park") to the mostly unknown (The Man In The White Suit) captures and draws out so much of that tension in long-winding essays that consider the film, the film's historical context, and how the technologies and concepts at the center of the film are still being grappled with today. After an introduction where he lays both the conceptual framework of science-fiction as a genre to understand humanity's ceaseless tension with the things that we create as well as his background and reasoning for tackling this book at this time in our society when we grappled so much with our relationships with technologies. Each chapter then takes on a different movie; first offering up a detailed discussion of what happens in the film and then the extended dissection of what issues the film is grappling with and how they relate to the present. His selection of film stems less from how representative they are of science-fiction (since some of them would barely fit into the genre (e.g. Inferno), but from how representative the issues are at the center of the film. Thus, Jurassic Park opens up a discussion of chaos theory and gene cloning while Limitless introduces questions of drug-enhancements and Elysium focuses on cutting-edge healthcare that will inevitably be unfairly distributed. That's where Maynard's work is really enjoyable and useful. From these wide discussions across different films, it can help the reader better understand both how such topics are tackled and more readily make connections in other films well after they have finished the book. It's a good read for anyone wanting to get more out of their film-watching or curious to think more critically about how technology and society interact.

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