Friday, January 7

Posted by Laurel Garver on Friday, January 07, 2011 14 comments
If, like me, you prefer to curl up on the couch rather than trek through the snow on a winter weekend, chances are some movie recommendations might be welcome. This week, my theme is SciFi suspense films that examine the ethical use of technology (no goofy aliens in these, I promise).

Moon (2009)
Description from IMDB: "Sam Bell has a three year contract to work for Lunar Industries. For the contract's entire duration, he is the sole employee based at their lunar station. His primary job responsibility is to harvest and periodically rocket back to Earth supplies of helium-3, the current clean and abundant fuel used on Earth. There is no direct communication link available between the lunar station and Earth, so his only direct real-time interaction is with GERTY, the intelligent computer whose function is to attend to his day to day needs. With such little human contact and all of it indirect, he feels that three years is far too long to be so isolated; he knows he is beginning to hallucinate as the end of his three years approaches. All he wants is to return to Earth to be with his wife Tess and their infant daughter Eve, who was born just prior to his leaving for this job. With two weeks to go, he gets into an accident at one of the mechanical harvesters and is rendered unconscious..."

The synopsis trails off there to protect folks from spoilers. All I can tell you is that after the accident, things get weird and Sam begins to question what's really going on at this station and why. If you've seen the space classics 2001 and Solaris (either the original Russian or the American remake with George Clooney), you'll definitely feel resonances.

Gattaca (1997)
Description from IMDB: "In the not-too-distant future, a less-than-perfect man wants to travel to the stars. Society has categorized Vincent Freeman as less than suitable given his genetic make-up and he has become one of the underclass of humans that are only useful for menial jobs. To move ahead, he assumes the identity of Jerome Morrow, a perfect genetic specimen who is a paraplegic as a result of a car accident. With professional advice, Vincent learns to deceive DNA and urine sample testing. Just when he is finally scheduled for a space mission, his program director is killed and the police begin an investigation, jeopardizing his secret. "

This film features A-list stars including Jude Law, Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, but I know few people who've seen it. It's visually stunning and tightly plotted, with amazing visual motifs running through, such as a spiral staircase gesturing toward the DNA that determines fates in this world. My husband wrote a wonderful article examining themes and motifs in the film. You can read it HERE.

Cordwainer Smith stories
If you're in more of a reading mood, I recommend The Rediscovery of Man: Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith. Smith was a pioneer in writing SciFi about bioethics, especially how cyber enhancements and assisted evolution of animals might effect a society.

Here's what Amazon says:
"These are futuristic tales told as myth, as legend, as a history of a distant and decayed past. Written in an unadorned voice reminiscent of James Tiptree Jr., Smith's visions are dark and pessimistic, clearly a contrast from the mood of SF in his time; in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s it was still thought that science would cure the ills of humanity. In Smith's tales, space travel takes a horrendous toll on those who pilot the ships through the void. After reaching perfection, the lack of strife stifles humanity to a point of decay and stagnation; the Instrumentality of Mankind arises in order to stir things up. Many stories describe moral dilemmas involving the humanity of the Underpeople, beings evolved from animals into humanlike forms."

Have a great weekend!

Any other SciFi films on this theme you can recommend? Seen any good films that made you think?


  1. I love Gattaca. I'll have to put Moon on the Netflix queue.

    Unfortunately, I'm not a huge movie buff, so my answer is always no. I'm sure my husband could come up with a list, though.

  2. I liked Gattaca. At the moment, no other movies come to mind. I'm still waking up. Sorry.
    Have a great weekend!

  3. Like Summer, I LOVED Gattaca and had not heard of Moon. LOL Thanks for the tip! I'll have to order it. The two I can think of are Carl Sagan's "Contact" and Jackson's "District 9." Contact is more of a journey into what you believe and is a bit slow, but pretty good. Peter Jackson's "District 9" raises some disturbing questions, but I don't recall what they WERE now. ;D

  4. I wish I'd seen much as far as movies lately. I see a movie about once a year.

  5. I feel so out of it. I haven't heard of any of these. But I don't watch a lot of movies. I'll let you know if I see any!

  6. Thanks for the list! I love Science Fiction.

  7. Never seen these ones but I'll check them out. Thanks Laurel!

  8. Moon made me sad, but it did make me think, too. Fascinating, really.

  9. saw Gattica a long time ago... I think it was pretty good. I watched Close Encounters for the first time the other night, and it was so interesting. It predated Raiders and Poltergeist, and you could see all of those elements in it... Also, it was so quiet and a bit slow. Hubs said "this is a very 70s film." And I got that. It's an interesting study~ :D

  10. Summer: Hope you enjoy Moon. If you do, also check out Solaris. It's another mind games in space kind of film and quite fascinating.

    Christine: You too!

    Victoria: Moon was a low-budget indie film featured at Sundance--my favorite kind of thing. I'm a bit of a movie snob, I'm told. Don't have much patience with blockbusters. I'll check out you recommendations. Thanks!

  11. Lois: It's not terribly action-packed but quite suspenseful nonetheless.

    Angela: I rely on Netflix and my local library's vast collection of DVDs in lieu of TV, which I pretty much never watch. We usually only see two or three movies in the theater per year, though.

    Laura: Well, I know squat about TV shows. I've never seen Survivor, for example. :-D

  12. GE: SciFi movies are great, especially ones that tackle some ethical dilemma. You might also enjoy Solaris. It's awesome too.

    Melissa: You're welcome. I'm always on the prowl for the wonderful and obscure.

    Tricia: I agree. I think the most powerful art makes you feel viscerally about an ethical dilemma rather than preach about it. Moon definitely did that.

    Leigh: I'm dating myself here, but Close Encounters was the most frightening film of my childhood. That little kid being abducted by aliens completely freaked me out and gave me nightmares for years.

  13. Loved Gattaca! And I echo District 9. It's a bit hard to watch at times from a gross-out factor, but very well made.