Sci-fi was for many years something of a niche film market. While there were the odd mainstream exceptions such as Alien, The Thing or Terminator, the more science-heavy end of the spectrum was often too complicated for Hollywood to bother with. That has changed a lot over the last 10 years.
Keep the Science to a Minimum
Some films like Terminator certainly dealt with science-fiction, but the emphasis was always on the action side of things. Sure, it had robots from the future and time travel, but not a lot was ever really explained about how these things actually worked. The “science” aspects were simply an easy plot device to allow for cool things to happen. To appeal to mainstream film audiences, the film-makers tried to avoid bogging the story down with heavy science and tech talk. You can’t really blame them, as explosions, car chases and shoot-outs are solid and dependable ways to sell a film to the masses. Number crunching, computer hacking and program-writing are not.
Enter the “Big Concept”
Two films helped to change the landscape of Hollywood’s treatment of Sci-fi – The Matrix from 1999 and 2010’s Inception. While over 10 years apart, both films dealt with a very science-heavy concept that intrigued audiences and also allowed for some amazing action sequences. Both films did tremendously well worldwide at the cinema and made a lot of money. The Matrix had a run of successful sequels that ran until 2004 and really helped to open up the larger movie companies to the idea of huge budget Sci-fi as a viable Hollywood Blockbuster film. The huge popularity of Inception simply re-enforced this new confidence for a new wave of Sci-fi and fantasy movies at the cinema.
Games & Movies
The gaming world has long been a fan of the Sci-fi genre but now more than ever there are games that really push the boundaries for Sci-fi in popular media. Many of the better Sci-fi PC games have incredibly well thought-through plots featuring far more “hard science” than many of the films and TV shows from year ago. Without ever having the need to appeal to absolutely everybody (as Hollywood often has to) the gaming industry has put out some clever, niche Sci-fi heavy games and they have turned out to be some of the most popular of all time. Games such as Halo and Half-Life are arguably better Sci-fi dramas than most of the films in the same genre released these days. In Amazon’s current “most popular” list of the top 10 PC games at the moment, two on the list are “Mass Effect” games, a hugely popular series of games that is due to be turned into a huge Hollywood Blockbuster next year.
Hollywood is once again seeing the popularity of Sci-fi and is backing the biggest names in the gaming world to cash in. The popular online game “Warcraft” is also due to get the Hollywood treatment very soon, so watch out for it.