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Violence in Science-Fiction Films

Overview of violence in science fiction films from the 1950's to present times.
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Daniel Cohen

on 26 April 2010

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Transcript of Violence in Science-Fiction Films


On Terminator 2: Judgment day pushed computer
generated visual effects to new levels with a lliquefying Terminator.
Research indicates that media violence has not just increased in quantity; it has also become much more graphic, much more sexual, and much more sadistic. Eplicit pictures of slow-motion bullets exploding from people's chests, and dead bodies surrounded by pools of blood, are now commonplace fare. The following youtube clip is a tribute to the T-1000, the liquefying Terminator. The clip shows the digital morphing, dissolving, and warping effects of his character. The software effects of this time were untainnable in comparison to those of the Terminator. Towards the end of the clip we see the morphing of the terminators finger and the grotesque death of the police officer. "1950s sci-fi is noted for its remarkable lack of, shall we say, sophistication. These films attempted to present serious dramas, or at least thoughtful stories, amid a genre flooded with the absurd. " (10 Great serious Sci-FI movies from the 1950's, 2008) "In the year 1973, a Martian stows away on a rescue rocket back to Earth after the rescue personnel retrieved the sole survivor of a failed mission on Mars. While most of the astronauts are busy suspecting that survivor, Carruthers of murdering his former shi (10 Great serious Sci-FI movies from the 1950's, 2008)pmates, the Martian begins killing everyone. The crew eventually becomes aware of the beast, and attempt to kill it with grenades, bazookas, gas, and handguns, before deciding to simply evacuate all the air from the ship" (IT! Terror from beyond space, 2009). It! Terror from Beyond Space is an example of one of the wacky SCI-FI films from this era. The film uses preposterous circumstances along with a plausible scientific background to carry it through. The science depicted in this film was completely foreign to real scientists and therefore just a projection of the directors creativity. The creatures intelligence, superstrength, and invincibility capture the audiences attention and provide some laughs to the more modern day viewers.
Violence is something that we all learn about early in life. We know of fighting and hurting people. Throughout our lives we see tremendous acts of violence occur every day. Sometimes this is on the news, but most of us get our fill of violence from Hollywood. Violence in movies is not new. The way that it violence happens and is portrayed in the movies happens to be new almost every year. What will be shown in this project will be the evolution of the many forms of violence in cinema. Whether that be in the graphics, set design, or even sound. Why focus on violence in movies?
“…there is nothing wrong with pure escapism, if that is what healthy people want to watch…” (Goldman)
Direct Evolution From Early Sci-Fi Violence A perfect topic for violence in early sci-fi films would be “It, The Terror From Beyond Space”. This film has two distinct examples; one being the effects used and the second being the creature from space. First a little back ground... Effects
Not much could be done in comparison to today’s standards. Models were used to show the space craft as it traveled through space. One must remember that this film was released before anyone or anything made the trip into space. The audience was given sense of space travel, even though it was still considered an impossibility, and was put into a dark mysterious place. This was achieved by using a model spaceship suspended with wires. This can be seen in the following clip.
Special Effects
One of the more horrific violent scene in film history involves the chest burster. For the filming of the chestburster scene the cast members knew that the creature would be bursting out of Hurt, and had seen the chestburster puppet, but they had not been told that fake blood would also be bursting out in every direction from high-pressure pumps and squibs. The scene was shoot in one take with an artificial torso filled with blood and viscera. When the chestburster finally explodes out of the abdomen, a stream of blood is shoot on one of the actors. Not knowing it was fake she fainted and went into hysteria. The real-life surprise of the actors gave the scene an intense sense of realism and made it one of the film's most memorable moments. (Magid 2)
Set Design

A crew of over 200 workmen and technicians constructed the 3 principal sets. The surface of the Alienoid Planet and the interiors of the Nostromo and the derelict spaceship. Tons of sand, plaster, fiberglass, rocks, and gravel were used to create a realistic environment. Space suits were also built to add to the realism. The three decks of Nostromo were created in one giant piece with each deck taking up a separate stage. The actors had to travel through hallways of the ship, which adds to the film’s sense of claustrophobia and realism. (Magrid) Creature
The adult alien is also very famous and gruesomely made. The body included vertebrates from snakes, real human skulls, and copious amounts of KY jelly. (Magid 1)
Alien uses a tricky device to keep the alien fresh throughout the movie: It evolves the nature and appearance of the creature, so we never know quite what it looks like or what it can do...
It has been noted as sharing thematic similarities with earlier science fiction films such as The Thing from Another World and It! The Terror from Beyond Space as well as a kinship with other 1970s horror films such as Jaws and Halloween. Alien has continued to receive critical praise over the years, particularly for its realism and unique horror environment. (Magid 1)
The main focus in these facts is that this film was a milestone for violence in sci-fi. It shared many of the same elements as the film It! The Terror from Beyond Space but the creators of this film used superior technology to enhance the creature and violence to produce a drastically more terrifying alien. With these two films it is easy to see that certain aspects of horror and suspense never change (ex: claustrophobia and hopelessness), but with innovations in technology the ways that these are achieved are always changing. (Magid 2) The matrix is a dark, sleek, and gritty movie. All of the colors are dull and in the “real world” it is an inhabitable wasteland which adds a sense of uneasiness as we travel the thin line between the real world and the virtual world. The idea that sentient machines have overthrown humans is not to far fetch especially with our technological innovations that are evolving. (Adams) Robot Dominance
One of the most memorable scenes is when Neo is awakened from the virtual world. He emerges from a sticky covering attached t many different electrical cords. The machines are cultivating human warmth for their growth. This idea is obviously sick and twisted but not in our control. This is the epitome of Technological dominance and feeds on our fears of advancing too fast and losing what little control we think we have. This can then work back to human nature and our desire to create increasingly powerful weapons to work for us. (Greenberg)
The digital effects also add to this horrible dystopia. One of the most famous effects in the sci-fi genre is ‘Bullet time.” This allows the audience to explore a single moment in slow motion as the camera orbits the environment. Taking the extremely quick use of bullets and almost stopping them completely creates a different kind of violence. Normally the violence we see with bullets is when they penetrate a person’s flesh. In this case we focus on the movement through the air and the ripples in makes. It is a whole new world to perceive. (Goldman; Matrix) Music can also add to the atmosphere and establish a movie as being dark and violent. Mirrors appear frequently as a motif throughout the movie. The musical score focuses on this theme of reflections to add to the atmosphere. Different sections of the orchestra alternate between each other like reflections and contrapuntal ideas are incorporated; showing that this movie encompasses several of the aspects of violence already mentioned. (Bottomore) Now those two movies [The Matrix and Terminator] are extremely violent in an obvious way while still having a underlying theme that is violent in itself. But there is a film that deals with humans fighting machines that is not full of the shape shifting, bullet dodging violence that those previous films have. In 2001: a Space Odyssey there is violence but what should be focused on is sublime element. Theme
Violence is portrayed in this film with its Overarching theme. This is of the violence that is human nature, mainly our primal instincts. We have used weapons since the beginning of our species. In the beginning of this film we are shown explicitly what we are meant to take as a direct comparison. See for yourself in the following clip. At the end of the clip, it is not a space station but actually an orbiting nuclear weapon. Shows that even now we continue to develop new devices to kill. (Greenberg)
Sound
In the film there is a controlling machine, and in this case its name is HAL. Well in the end of the film when HAL is finally destroyed the antagonist computer sings a dying song. The song is calming and welcoming, yet it is sung during the climatic victory. The song tends to cause an unsettling feeling in the audience. Song Starts at 3:35. (Tuck)
The terminator represented something to people. A dark side of the human psyche. People wanted to have that fantasy of being totally stripped of all moral constraints and being able to do exactly what they want (25 Years of Terminator, 2009). Creature
The creature in this film was just a man in a costume. What made this creature terrifying for the 1950’s audience that watched it was that it was an unstoppable force which created a sense of helplessness. The creature was shown to be unstoppable by the crew’s pathetic attempts to kill it. All of these attempts fail including gas, grenades, electricity, fire, bullets, and an RPG. Also the slow and steady destruction of the ship helped to rid any last vestiges of hope. The creature also caused a kind of claustrophobic feeling as he progressed level by level through the ship. As he did this the crew was being backed into a corner.
Now those two movies [The Matrix and Terminator] are extremely violent in an obvious way while still having a underlying theme that is violent in itself. But there is a film that deals with humans fighting machines that is not full of the shape shifting, bullet dodging violence that those previous films have. In 2001: a Space Odyssey there is violence but what should be focused on is sublime element. Theme
Violence is portrayed in this film with its Overarching theme. This is of the violence that is human nature, mainly our primal instincts. We have used weapons since the beginning of our species. In the beginning of this film we are shown explicitly what we are meant to take as a direct comparison. See for yourself in the following clip. At the end of the clip, it is not a space station but actually an orbiting nuclear weapon. Shows that even now we continue to develop new devices to kill. (Greenberg)
Now it is the twenty first century and more can be done in film than ever before. Special effects are the best they have ever been and there is over 100 years of precedence to look to for inspiration. It is not hard to find all of the aspects of violence mentioned here in one film, and the film Watchmen fills this role quite nicely. Watchmen is an adaptation of the graphic novel with the same name. The novel was written in 1990; a full 19 years before the film was released. Why the long wait? One of the main reasons was because the technology required to make it just did not exist, there were over 1000 CGI shots in the film for some perspective.(Goldman; Manhattan) The technology is here now and was perfect for the violence in this film. Effects
The special effects in this film relied heavily on computer generation. The CGI in the film was not new by any “Avatar” standards, but the way it was used helped to enhance the scenes in which it is seen. Take the scene of Dr. Manhattan walking through Vietnam utterly destroying anything in his path. This was almost entirely CGI and the violence of bodies exploding speaks for itself. Also the scene shows The Comedian not in CGI and that violence in this film was not all created with computers. (The song here is significant but that will be touched on later.) (Seabrook)
Themes
By now you should realize that violent themes are prevalent in movies. This film is no exception. There are many smaller ideals touched on in the story, since all characters portray a specific one. But the main 2 that will be discussed here are The Comedian, and the central theme of the story. When it comes to The Comedian it is not hard to hate the guy. The character takes pleasure in hurting people; only his excuse is that they are bad people. As the story progresses the audience slowly begins to realize what his belief is about humanity. He believes that there is no helping people, no matter what happens we (as a species) continue to kill each other. Unfortunately instead of working to change that he gives up. This mentality is overly pessimistic as well as violent. (Hewitt) The central theme of the film is not a happy one either. What happens in the film is that it is set during an alternate reality cold war, and there is eminent doom for the world. Well one man decides that he knows how to save humanity. Does he plan on using diplomacy? Nope, he ends up killing millions of people and blaming Dr. Manhattan. Most people would cry out against such a thing, but the movie has it that the Russians are so fearful of Manhattan that they unite with America against their common foe. The point being that sometimes bad things happen for the greater good. Whether or not this is true does not matter. All that needs to be acknowledged is that this is one of the most violent themes you will ever know. (Davidson)
Sound
For sound we focus on music. As previously mentioned the song that plays while Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian slaughter the Vietnamese has an important meaning. The song is The Ride of the Valkyries from a german opera. The song has been used since the beginning of film. An example of this would be that it was used in the original score of Birth of a Nation (1915). The scene and the song together are an homage to an almost identical scene from Apocalypse Now. From just one song it is possible to drawn connections to two very violent films from two completely different eras. (Hewitt)
Violence in film will never go away, and will always continue to evolve. Whether it be through special effects, themes, set design, or sound there will always be the pure escapist rush from violence at the movies. Works Cited

10 Great serious Sci-FI movies from the 1950's. (2008, december 28). Retrieved april 23, 2010, from Full Halloween: http://www.fullhalloween.com/blog/4660/10-great-serious-sci-fi-movies-from-the-1950s/

25 Years of Terminator: James Cameron on the Cyborg That Defined His Career
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Adams, Doug. "The Matrix Conclusions." Film Score Monthly (2003): 16-20. Off-Campus Access | FSU Libraries. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. http://gateway.proquest.com.proxy.lib.fsu.edu/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:iipa:&rft_dat=xri:iipa:article:fulltext:iipa00464485.
Bottomore, Stephen An International Survey of Sound Effects in Early Cinema
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Davidson, Rjurik Graphic Novels: Fighting the Good Fight: Watching "Watchmen" Screen Education 54 (Winter 2009) p. 18-23 Durable URL: http://gateway.proquest.com.proxy.lib.fsu.edu/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:iipa:&rft_dat=xri:iipa:article:citation:iipa00527960

Goldman, Michael Making Mega "Matrix": Massive Effects Pipeline Evolves for Sequels
Millimeter - The Magazine of Motion Picture and Television Production 31:5 (May 2003) p. 18-20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30-33 Durable URL: http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:iipa:&rft_dat=xri:iipa:article:citation:iipa00220145

Goldman, Michael Dr. Manhattan Project Millimeter - The Magazine of Motion Picture and Television Production 37:1 (January-February 2009) p. 18 Durable URL: http://gateway.proquest.com.proxy.lib.fsu.edu/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:iipa:&rft_dat=xri:iipa:article:citation:iipa00502494
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Hewitt, Chris "Watchmen": Under the Hood Empire 237 (March 2009) p. 76-80, 82 Durable URL: http://gateway.proquest.com.proxy.lib.fsu.edu/openurl?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&res_dat=xri:iipa:&rft_dat=xri:iipa:article:citation:iipa00518687

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Violence in Media Entertainment. (n.d.). Retrieved april 2010, from Media Awareness Network: http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/violence/violence_entertainment.cfm
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