When we think of science fiction, we often think of outer space. But there’s some good science fiction out there that takes place on Earth as well, exploring the “what-if” questions of science and technology. So for Sci-Fi Month, I wanted to focus on my top three films that were set on Earth and discuss what they’re all about. (Warning: there will be spoilers about the plot devices of these movies.)
1. Source Code
Synopsis (stolen from IMDB): An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.
This story deals with alternate timelines. While Colter Stephens is playing the role of Sean Fentress through this tech known as “Source Code,” he decides he wants to do more than find the bomber on the train, but also try to change the demise the train faced by stopping the bomber altogether. He believes doing this will not only give new life to everyone on the train, but himself as well.
The concept of this movie is really interesting, and I love to see all the different things Colter tries out to get answers. This is the alternate timeline concept done right, in my opinion. I also absolutely love the characters in the movie, Colter and Christina especially (and really, they’re the main focus).
2. The Island
Synopsis (from IMDB): A man goes on the run after he discovers that he is actually a “harvestable being”, and is being kept as a source of replacement parts, along with others, in a Utopian facility.
The Island deals with clones in an interesting way. The clones are led to believe they are survivors from a cataclysmic event and are being kept safe in a facility, but through a lottery system, they can be chosen to go to “the island,” the last safe natural resource. The reality, however, is that these clones were paid for by their wealthy counterparts, who have them as a sort of insurance policy for their organs (or even to be used to produce a child for them). Lincoln and Jordan are the two main characters who leave the facility and learn the truth of their identity.
I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of clones: do they have souls, do they feel as we feel, would they make all the same decisions as we do, etc. And I think the concept behind The Island is certainly feasible once human cloning is possible, and which is scary to think about.
Synopsis (from IMDB): A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.
Gattaca is the one that seems the most realistic to me from this list, and the movie even begins with “the not-too-distant future” as the time identification. Vincent has always dreamed of going to space, but since he was created naturally and not with the science of eugenics, he is considered “invalid” instead of “valid,” and is thus unable to pursue his dream of going into space. But Vincent is determined and disciplined, and pursues the chance to assume the identity of an athletic valid, Jerome Morrow, who was paralyzed in an accident so that he can go after his dream.
I grew incredibly interested in genetic engineering in college, and I’m not sure what sparked it, but it was during that time I sought out this movie (after vaguely recalling my dad telling me its storyline several years before). It definitely challenges the questions of eugenics, of how far would we go with it if we were to implement it into society.
(BTW, if you’re interested in genetic engineering and ever have the chance to visit Chicago, do yourself a favor and go to the Museum of Science and Industry there. They have a fabulous exhibit there on genetic engineering that I thoroughly enjoyed. And also if you’re in Chicago and catch a commuter train to or from a suburb in the area, you’ll feel like you’re in the movie Source Code, for real!)
I feel weird putting Inception as a bonus because it’s my favorite movie of all time, but when I first decided to do this list I wasn’t thinking of it as a science fiction film. After seeing a couple of posts from other people who do it as such though, I can see why they’d see it that way. What if we could share dreams and manipulate them from within? What if we could organically plant an idea in someone’s mind? I’m sure most of you have seen Inception already but if you haven’t then seriously, what are you waiting for?! It’s AMAZING!
What would you consider your favorite “Earthbound” science fiction film? And what elements of science fiction do you like to see explored in stories that take place on Earth?
This is my last official post for Sci-Fi Month, and I just want to thank Rinn Reads for hosting this awesome event!
Great list! I love all those movies–especially inception! I could watch that movie over and over.
I know some people probably wouldn’t think of this movie as science fiction, and maybe it isn’t, but I think my favorite Earthbound sci-fi is Back To The Future. I just love everything about that movie–Michael J. Fox is awesome, and I’m a sucker for time travel.
My other favorite Earthbound sci-fi is probably Children of Men. I feel as if that is a story that, sadly, could come close to being a reality. I love that movie because the world was so fully realized, and at the heart of it, it wasn’t so much about children as it was about what happens to people when they lose hope, which I think is a pretty powerful theme.
Great post, Amy! I’ve enjoyed reading all your sci-fi posts this month!
Sci-fi might be a loose term for Back to the Future, but who says sci-fi can’t be fun?! We’ll count it!
I haven’t seen Children of Men yet; sounds like I need to check it out!
BTTF definitely counts. It’s a nice blend of comedy and sci-fi. As for my top 3, give me a minute to think.
I haven’t seen Source Code yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s on Lovefilm so I’ll get round to it at some point.
And I agree with The Island, as I’m sure you know after I listed my top sci-fi films! Now I want to re-watch it, haha.
Elements I like to see… time travel is the main one I think. As someone who absolutely loves history, and studied it at university, I would like to be able to visit some favourite historical periods – although I’d be terrified of accidentally changing something!
I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on Source Code once you see it; I think you’ll like it!
And yes, the prospect of changing history while time traveling is definitely frightening!
Inception is an awesome movie..for self-professed Sci Fi fan I haven’t seen either of those movies need to check them out!!
The original idea for this list was for them to be underrated films, which they largely are, so don’t worry, but definitely check them out!
Alas, the only one of these I’ve seen is Inception! Well, I feel like I’ve seen Gattaca, but I don’t remember anything about it, so I don’t think that really counts, lol. I’m trying to think of what my favorite sci-fi movies would be and I’m having trouble. Well, maybe because I just don’t watch many moves in general. Hmm.
You should check these out, Kelley! I think you’d like them!
I LOVED Source Code but most people I know don’t seem to have ever heard of it!
Such a shame; it’s so good!
The only movie I’ve seen on your list is Inception. I’ve been meaning to see Source Code and Gattaca though. My top 3 Earth-bound sci-fi movies are The Matrix, Jurassic Park, and Inception.
I’ve only seen parts of Jurassic Park, and I’m probably overdue for a Matrix rewatch. I think I would appreciate more now than when I last saw it.
Gattaca is beyond brilliant and Source Code is really good. Inception is kind of genius but missing a key emotional component for me. The first Matrix (which I only thought of from the comments) would definitely make my list, though. Real Steel is also surprisingly good because it’s got such a great emotional core and just really solid story-telling in a big, fun, flashy device. I also kind of really love Push. i don’t know why, maybe it’s the great special effects for the Movers but I rewatch it more often than not.
Can I have a top 5 instead of top 3? 😉
Of course you can have a top 5! I probably need to rewatch The Matrix… I think I would appreciate it much more now than I did the last time I saw it. I haven’t seen Real Steel. I definitely get the emotional component from Inception, with the struggles Dom has with letting go of his wife and what he did to her, and how Ariadne helps him through it.