This book is a companion-piece to editor Mark Morrisí 2005 anthology CINEMA MACABRE, a collection of essays by a variety of popular authors, each contributing a 2-4 page write-up on a favored horror movie. The similarly formatted CINEMA FUTURAíS essays are focused on the cinema of science fiction--nominally at least: Iím not sure Iíd classify THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (in a piece that also works in references to ZULU DAWN, THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX and UP), TIME BANDITS or THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO as science fiction, while in his essay about THE WONDERFUL ICE-CREAM SUIT Mike Resnick admits heís actually writing about his favorite fantasy film--and, in touting THE MIST, Steven Erickson apparently thought he was contributing to the previous book.
CINEMA FUTURA overall is a fun and endlessly provocative read. Most of the classics of the genre are covered, from METROPOLIS, 2001: A SPACE OSYSSEY, BRAZIL, ROBOCOP, THE MATRIX and AVATAR. James Cameron and Terry Gilliam both receive extremely generous coverage with three films apiece, while Steven Spielberg, shockingly enough, is represented by just one entry, 2002ís MINORITY REPORT. Clearly, this is a hip crowd.
True, thereís much youíll have to forgive, particularly if you, like me, arenít partial to lengthy personal anecdotes. Joe Lansdale admits his choice of the original INVADERS FROM THE MARS is based on the fact that it scared him as a kid but ďseen as an adult, the first twenty minutes or so of the film still packs a punch, but the latter part of it waversÖ,Ē while Guy Adams all-but trashes BLADE RUNNER, a film he loved as a teenager but upon viewing it as an adult ďspent most of the time cringing.Ē Nostalgia, it seems, is the primary reason for the inclusion of the likes of I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE and THE WASP WOMAN over genuine science fiction classics like FORBIDDEN PLANET and JE TíAIME, JE TíAIME.
On the other hand, some of the recollections are quite interesting, and actually serve to enhance the movies under discussion. Such is the case with Nate Kenyonís essay on STAR WARS, which he saw as a kid shortly before his father was killed in a car accident and his mother contracted cancer. Thus the filmís brand of heroic fantasy was therapeutic in a way its makers couldnít possibly have foreseen.
Ian R. MacLeodís piece on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE succeeded in doing something Iíd never expect: it actually made me view the film, which Iíve seen approximately a thousand times, in an entirely new light. I also appreciated Adam Robertsí highly learned take on Andrei Tarkovskyís STALKER, another favorite, although I think Roberts misses the point of the apparently ambiguous coda with the protagonistís telekinetic daughter (the train, contrary to what Roberts claims, passes by after the girl has moved the glasses, being a reprise from an earlier moment in the film). Lucius Shepardís piece on Jean-Luc Godardís ALPHAVILLE is among the very few analyses Iíve read of that film that actually comprehends it as the freewheeling goof it is (in contrast to the more academic reviews, which tend to take it far too seriously). Christopher Priestís observations about Chris Markerís LA JETEE are equally resonant, and thereís also a perceptive Michael Cobley penned piece on TWELVE MONEKYS, the Terry Gilliam directed remake of Markerís masterpiece.
In short, this book contains something for everyone, even if it is frequently infuriating and/or unconvincing (Iím sorry, but I will never be persuaded that the deadly QUINTET, which even its own makers canít stand, is a good movie, nor LILO & STICH, which Tony Ballantyne intimates he selected largely because his kids have made him view it over and over). If nothing else, it will certainly get you thinking, whether youíre a science fiction fan or not.