On smart science fiction

Never Let Me Go shows promise as a slow-burning, intelligent piece of SF cinema.

Picture 1Allow me to preface this column by saying that I’m as much a fan of junk entertainment as the next person. Personally, I’m of the opinion that John Carpenter’s Vampires is one of the most enjoyable films ever made, if not the most artistically sound, I enjoy the first Transformers film and I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Ooh.

That being said, I’m a far greater fan of thought provoking science fiction. It’s maybe due to my overriding interest in literature over any other form of entertainment, but I genuinely enjoy lengthy, slow-moving films such as Gattaca, 2001, Primer, Contact, Alphaville, Solaris and Je T’Aime Je T’Aime. They’re not to everyone’s taste, but for me, they hit the sweet spot between passing the time and actively engaging with a title.

I do often wonder, on occasion, if the explosion of science fiction television has ruined science fiction film, or to sound less grandiloquent, at least damaged it. Effects are so good that Battlestar Galactica, for instance, easily surpasses films made as recently as ten years ago for sixty times the budget, and given their hour-long slots, we’re used to short, sharp bursts of adrenaline and excitement. Shows that do not fit the mould and try for something a little more slow burning are generally shown the door. Journeyman, Charlie Jade and others spring to mind.

In among the Iron Men, Watchmen, Transformers and other similar films there isn’t much room for something a little more brooding and thoughtful. I was quite surprised, pleasantly so, when I saw this trailer today for Never Let Me Go, based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker-shortlisted novel. It stars a host of big names such as Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan, and is directed by Mark Romanek. The trailer is embedded below.

What did you think? I liked it, the tone seems to match what I remember from the book, and although I’m sure that Alex Garland may have spiced up the screenplay a little, I’m hoping that this will prove to be an excellent example of science fiction that’s food for thought. They’ve done an Atwood and heavily played down the SF aspects, of course, but they’re still present.

Exciting stuff, if like me, you’re a bit of a geek for the arty type of film.

Never Let Me Go is on limited release from 1 October 2010, through Fox Searchlight Pictures.