8/23/08

Death Race and the definition of Sci-Fi

I went into the new movie Death Race because it was billed as a sci-fi movie and, as such, would qualify it for a geek movie review.  Unfortunately, what I found when I watched it (as I expected from the previews) was that it was missing a quintessential part of sci-fi... the "sci" part.

I don't mean to split hairs here, really I don't, but it's just that... it's in the freaking name!  Just because something is set in the future does not make it science fiction.  Death Race is set in the 2020's where corporations run the prisons.  There's nothing scientific about it.  All the technology they use can be used today, there are no androids, no space ships, no Mars colonies, not even any deep-sea civilizations.  There is absolutely nothing that defies known science while explaining it scientifically.

See, that's what sci-fi is about.  Just like fiction defies reality, but explains it realistically, sci-fi defies science while being explained scientifically.  Then there's the whole realm of fantasy which defies both reality and science and doesn't bother to explain it at all.  But that's another rant.

This rant is about sci-fi and how people like the producers of Death Race seem to think that they can get away with labeling their movie sci-fi just because it's set in the future.  And the near future, at that!  I would be happy if it was several centuries off and they were racing space ships, but, no - it's just a normal race with armor-plated cars fit with powerful machine guns and missiles.  ::shrug:: That's it.  Not even a hover-car.  Just normal, rubber-meets-the-road cars!

The movie itself wasn't all bad, if action is something you're into.  As a matter of fact, the action was brilliant.  Kept me on the edge of my seat for nearly the entire movie.  Jason Statham was good for the part, except for the part where he's lived in America for nearly twenty years and still retains a perfect British accent...  The story held up pretty well.  The only complaint I have there is that there really wasn't much of a surprise until the end where it kind of felt like the writers thought to themselves "Oh, hey... remember those surprises that work so great in those other movies?  I think maybe we should throw some in here."  So there's my review - give it three stars and move along.  But since it wasn't sci-fi it wasn't really a geek movie.  That was the only thing it was holding on to.  Everything else is just your average action/thriller.

I just have one request for the doofuses who claim that these types of movies are sci-fi: don't.  Just don't.  No, really, don't.  It's fiction and nothing more.  Science isn't remotely a part of the equation.  There is no equation.  Just don't.