The purpose of the Scifist blog is to create an extensive history of science fiction films in the form of reviews in chronological order. Science fiction is here understood in its broadest possible pop cultural sense, including genres that may be excluded from the sci-fi canon by other critics, such as space fantasy or futurism. I use Wikipedia’s and IMDb’s lists of science fiction films as a starting point for my reviews.
I try to dig up as much as possible about the background and inspiration of the films, and sometimes use up quite some space for discussing a film’s literary inspiration (see for example my review of Frankenstein). Anyone can have an opinion and the web is full of short reviews and synopses, and trying to uncover how, why and under what circumstances a film was made is sort of me creating some form of legitimacy for all the work I do. As a journalist I am also interested in the socio-political context of the films and try to give some sort of an analysis based on the era and country in which they were made, and who the filmmakers are (see for example the review of Aelita).
Clicking directly on a link in the left menu (for example 1910-1919) will get you to an overview page of the decade in question, outlining the social and cultural background for the sci-fi films, a short description of the sci-fi literature of the time, as well as the broad themes and directions in the science fiction film genre and films as a whole. Use the arrows on the right side to get a drop-down menu of all the separate years in the decade. Clicking on these years (for example 1916) will give you a list of all the reviewed films of that particular year. Please also note that at the bottom of the left-hand list there is a button called Editor’s Picks, where I list the best and worst reviewed films, as well as some oddball off-the-wall films everybody should watch.
I have tried to create a system of categories based on subgenres – note that these are wholly my own and don’t adhere to any preconceived standards. This is so that, for example, anyone looking for a list of all robot films or time travel films in history can simply find them by clicking on the category on the right-hand side. Below the left-hand menu I list the 75 most popular tags. These include directors, authors, popular book adaptations, films that have been remade several times, and in some rare cases actors or crew that have been prominent in the sci-fi genre. There is also a text search window in the upper right corner that searches both the full texts and tags.
What do I not review? First of all, films I cannot find on the internet, or don’t see as important enough contributions to the genre to order as DVD’s, are naturally left out. Children’s films and and comedies seldom bring anything new to the genre, and with some notable exceptions, these are in generally not reviewed here. Number xx in a long line of similar exploitation films are sometimes left unreviewed. This is partly to protect my own sanity, since I don’t think I could sit through 50 adaptations on the theme Cat Women from Mars.
Films in which a sci-fi element is only used as a minor plot enhancer (subtle sci-fi), or merely as a gizmo MacGuffin, mostly get the pass as well, unless it features some element in a revolutionary way or for the first time in film history. Anime (and animation) is also something that I steer away from – with some very rare exceptions – simply because I don’t know enough about the genre, and leave that to the experts who can analyse them far better than me. I generally do not include series or serials, unless they have been edited into films, or if they have had a profound influence on science fiction films, in which case I try to watch the first season or parts of it, depending on the length. I do try and watch films in languages I do not understand even without dubbing or subtitles, but the reviews might naturally be a bit vague, and if the film include lots of talking heads, I might give it a pass. Excluding early cinema, I do not review short films, and with some exceptions, I don’t watch films that haven’t gotten any sort of theatrical release.
There are some subgenres in which I make individual decisions based on the plot synopsis or my previous knowledge of the film – for example in the case of mad scientist or lost world films. If, for example, a mad scientist plot serves solely as a MacGuffin in an ordinary old dark house film, it will probably get the axe. I have reviewed The Lost World and King Kong, even though they are more closely related to adventure and fantasy than sci-fi, but since both are films that have had a huge influence on science fiction, I have chosen to include them. But as a rule, if a lost world film doesn’t include some element of time travel or exceptional means of transportation (for example into a hollow Earth or distant planet), later films in this genre are mostly left unreviewed. The same goes for Atlantis- or Mu-themed films; discovering an ancient civilisation, for example based on magic, doesn’t cut the mustard, unless there is an element of futuristic science to it.
Me, the creator and writer of the blog is Janne Wass, a Finnish journalist and culture geek. I work with political, current affairs and culture journalism in my day-time job, and the Scifist blog is a way for me to channel my love for and interest in science fiction into something substantial. I also blog about music (in Swedish) on ZXC Music.
I hope you enjoy the reviews.