A little over a year ago, I had the sudden urge to watch every science fiction feature film starting from 1970 to now in order. Being already a sci-fi nerd, I wanted to see which era had the most interesting and imaginative sci-fi stories, and I was also intrigued by the changing and developing special effects throughout each decade. I, now, have finally reached the millennium era, but it’s not over yet! As I had gone throughout the years, I know that I had missed some. Sooner or later, I will go back to the years and cover the ones I missed.
I will keep my reviews in order by year and will include a brief analysis on story, special effects, acting, and direction.
–Beneath the Planet of the Apes
Director, Ted Post
Intriguing plotline, though it goes a little cooky with the futuristic, mind reading, evolved humans. It would have been more interesting if the story continued with Taylor’s journey to find the last remnants of human civilization. Lacks the strong direction of the first movie, Planet of the Apes. The general feel of the film is claustrophobic and not in a purposeful way. It feels stagnant and has plenty of room to grow. Special effects lack any purpose and the acting is dead. I rate it a D+.
Director, Robert Wise
Fantastic story! Keeps you engulfed all the way from beginning to end. Little special effects, but wisely used. Doesn’t need too much of it to keep you into the story. Acting is strong and direction is solid. I rate it a B+.
Director, Boris Sagal; Starring Charlton Heston
Oh, please! Watching this drunk might have made this sadly serious film into a comedy. The story is interesting only because it’s the film version of the novel I Am Legend. The new movie with Will Smith was a remake of Omega Man, a remake that was smartly chosen. The disco-ish style of the music adds to the horribleness of the film. The direction is weak, and although Charlton Heston’s acting is his usual style, it doesn’t help the movie at all! All in all, I grade it a D.
Director, George Lucas; Starring, Robert Duvall
Though the story is a little slow, it has a great concept. It is ahead of its time, definitely unlike the typical 70s film style. This is one of Lucas’ first films and is really well-done. The direction is very good and the film is filled with very well-known actors. The action picks up near the middle of the film and continues to keep you hooked. The story itself is very complex and deep, and when the film ends, you’re left a little lost in your own thoughts and assumptions. I give it a B+.
Director, Douglas Trumbull
Awful special effects, which is interesting because a number of people who worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey also worked on this film. The story could have been improved upon, the direction was poor, and the acting was way too 70s-cheesy to make it believable that it was far into the future. The main character was like a hippy-in-space type of guy who’s best friends were little robot units (very R2-D2-like) and talked to plants. Boring and dull and a waste of film. Grade D.
Director, Richard Fleischer; Starring Charlton Heston
Cult film with imaginative storyline. Acting is well-done and direction is strong. However, as much as I respect the concept of this film, I vote for this being one of the chosen to be remade. It needs a lot of help in the futuristic-concept department and music score department. It reeks of 70s and isn’t believable that this kind of a world would be what the future would look like. Grade C+.
Director, John Carpenter
This might have been Carpenter’s first attempt at science fiction, but, boy, does it suck. I could barely get through the movie without skipping forward in hopes that there was anything interesting. It was so bad that I barely remember the plot, being that the plot was also so vague and directionless I found myself wondering what the point of it all was. Another horribly, pointless claustrophobic film. It had the potential to be a good story—oh wait, I take it back. Not really. Grade F.
Director, Michael Benveniste and Howard Ziehm
A soft-porn spoof off of the classic Flash Gordon serials. Of course, I’m gonna say it had a great storyline if only because it was based off the original Flash Gordon. However, the acting, directing, and special effects (very reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion style) was all bad, bad, bad. Then again, if you’re in the mood for a comedic porno that’s more interesting than your typical vagina flick, I suggest this movie. It’ll get the job done and keep you interested in the plot at the same time! Science fiction grade F; porno grade A.
Director, Norman Jewison; Starring James Caan
Though there were yawn-moments in this film, the story is very smart and original that you stay loyal until the end. The acting, especially with James Caan (your early 1970s Harrison Ford) leading the way, was very strong and believable. The direction was good and even the cinematography was creatively artistic. You do have to push through those lagging moments, however, but in the end, you feel satisfied with the film. Grade B-.
Director, Michael Anderson; Starring Michael York
Fabulous film! Very long, but very engaging. The story is topnotch original and entertaining. This movie starts off on a league of its own and hooks you to the end. The recent film The Island has a lot of parallels with Logan’s Run and I wouldn’t be surprised if the writer for The Island got most of his ideas from this movie. Acting and directing is great. The only problem I have with the film is the special effects. Even for a 70s film, it could have had way better graphics. I would like to see this movie remade, but only if the concept team was topnotch. Grade A.
–Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Director, Steven Spielburg; Starring Richard Dreyfuss
Enter Spielburg! Coming right behind Lucas with his first science fiction film that was to compete against Lucas’ Star Wars. This story makes aliens the nice guys and keeps you engaged till the end. Not a boring moment! Music by John Williams, so you have a fabulous score. Acting is topnotch, led by Richard Dreyfuss. And direction is, of course, flawless. Grade A.
Director, George Lucas
So Lucas takes the spotlight in 1977 by blowing away billions in the theater. The story captivates audiences and continues to do so throughout generations. Though the story, direction and acting are not without it subtle flaws, it remains legendary. The special effects are first-rate and started the CGI growing trend. This movie gets an A+.
Director, Luigi Cozzi; Starring David Hasselhoff and Christopher Plummer
Though this movie seems to have an all-star cast, it’s as bad as a rotten egg. The special effects was like watching cartoon animation around live-action. That worked in the famous film Roger Rabbit, but please, spare us of Starcrash! Grade F.
Director, Ridley Scott
Another phenomenal film, story rich with elegance and space horror. Acting at its best, of course it should be with an all-star cast. Direction is flawless. Cinematography and music is so masterfully coordinated, you feel what the characters feel. Special effects is also at its best. There isn’t one flaw with this film as it takes the top of science fiction films of the 70s. Grade A++.
Director, George Miller; Starring Mel Gibson
A fantastic movie based in the post-apocalyptic era. Though it is an independent film, it escalated a whole franchise and cult-following with Gibson as the lead. The story is original and well-crafted. There isn’t really any special effects, if you don’t count the action-packed sequences between cars and motorcycles riding each other off. Tremendous film without a boring moment. Grade A-.
Director, Gary Nelson
Uh, oh. Here comes Disney with their own science fiction film. Look out! This movie is riddled with awfulness. Grade D.
Director, Lewis Gilbert; Starring Roger Moore
Sci-fi being the top competitor! Well, James Bond can go to space too! Pretty self-explanatory…Grade C.
–Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Director, Robert Wise
Since Star Wars came out, Paramount wanted to bring back Star Trek. Though the film inspired a massive franchise including continuous television series and decades of other films, the first of the first wasn’t so great. The loyalest of fans could barely get through this film without yawning. The movie focused most of its attention special effects rather than the story, which is, in my opinion, a huge mistake! Scene after scene, you have to sit through slow panning of visual effects and the showing of the Enterprise to the point where you wanna say “I get it already!”. Grade C+.
Out of all the science fiction films of the 70s, Ridley Scott’s Alien was the most creative, emotionally engaging, and artistically enhanced film of that decade. It stands out with its original story and concept, accompanied by the superb acting and talented directing, along with its top-of-the-line special effects.