Hollywood SF movies divide into two camps; the crowd-pleasingly awful and the nice tries. ‘Battle:Los Angeles’ is probably the worst of the bunch lately, but ‘Skyline’ is a close second, with its astonishingly unpleasant cast of selfish, dim, spiteful, whining, homophobic Los Angelenos, poor production design, derivative set pieces and embarrassing plot holes.
The paranoid subtext of such films doesn’t help, either. The US is under attack from sinister foreigners who must be killed – but if the aliens are intent on destroying America why on earth do they attack LA? Do they know something we don’t? The rest of the world is usually represented in a montage that consists of the Eiffel Tower, the London Eye and the Taj Mahal.
But hey, it’s just a movie, right? Except that SF can be so much more, as ‘Brazil’ and ‘Gattacca’ showed. The UK has lately developed a pleasing taste for SF with ‘Moon’ and ‘Monsters’, but both directors have now gone to Hollywood.
The obvious question is why no-one films the most lauded novels of the fantastic. Where is Ray Bradbury’s work on film? Why isn’t someone filming the wonderful Harlan Ellison’s work more? Why not Michael Moorcock, Iain Banks, JG Ballard, Brian Aldiss? Why is Philip K Dick the only SF writer Hollywood seems to have heard of?
It seems Hollywood wants a finite moral universe in simple black and white absolutes, but a more prosaic answer would be that a big-budget SF film needs family-friendly certification. Which should make Bradbury an ideal choice. Don’t hold your breath.