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1990s sci-fi movie bonanza

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader


There was an explosion of sci-fi movies all released in the late 1990s because Jurassic Park and Independence Day had come out earlier in the decade and were colossal hits. The movie studios, wanting a piece of the sci-fi money pie ó like how now they all want a slice of the superhero one ó started putting money behind sci-fi films. And because of this money and since computer 3D special effects could now make sci-fi things like aliens and spaceships look real meant that not only could sci-fi movies have interesting stories, they could look really cool too.

Unfortunately, none of these lateĖ1990 sci-fi movies were successful ó until one huge film in 1999 that would change the sci-fi landscape even to this day.

Letís start with my favorite sci-fi film of this period that turns 20 this fall, Starship Troopers. This movie about a team of teen military troopers doing battle with giant bugs on far off planets never got the attention it deserved. Or really, it got attention but the bad kind. I think the reason this movie was so derided was that audiences didnít know what to make of it at back then.

Hereís my secret for watching Starship Troopers ó donít think of it as a movie from 1997, think of it as a movie from 2197 that accidentally got transported to present day. To me, Starship Troopers is this propaganda film from the future trying to get the population behind this costly, unending war with the bugs and I think watching the movie in that light makes for a more enjoyable experience.

Event Horizon, also from 1997, is another movie that was derided by the critics back then but is seen in a better light today. This R-Rated horror movie about the crew of a ship sent to Neptune to rescue the survivors of the ďEvent HorizonĒ that disappeared years ago and but finds the ship possessed by some evil force is a lot of fun to watch.
Another film from 1997 that didnít do well at the time though now is seen in a better light is The Fifth Element. This one doesnít fit with any other US based sci-fi movies and feels totally different, but in a good way. Here, forces are trying to unleash a great evil upon the universe and itís up to Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) and Leeloo (Milla Jovovich) to stop them. At times The Fifth Element is a bit goofy and weird but thatís not necessarily a bad thing.

Lost in Space from 1998 on the other hand, hasnít aged very well and isnít a good movie. This big-screen remake of the 1960s TV classic starts off interestingly enough with a family of explorers blasting off into an unknown part of space and after an accident must find their way home. But the second half of the movie never quite fully gels and feels underdone. Worst of all some of the special effects of Lost in Space today look clunky and stand out in a bad way.

Like with Lost in Space I thought the movie Soldier was a bad movie back in 1998 and I think itís still a bad movie in 2017. Soldier is about an old solider from the future played by Kurt Russell whoís replaced by a newer model and is dumped on a world of trash where he finds a new calling of protecting families marooned there. Soldier is a movie that looks cheap and flimsy with a story to match. Letís put it this way, the best part of the trailer for Solider features scenes of a giant battle and a skeleton floating in space ó none of which appears in the finished film.

In fact, it wasnít until the stealth sci-fi film The Matrix would come along in 1999 to both critical acclaim and find a box office bonanza that would change the sci-fi game for the next decade. Gone would be the spaceships and far-off planets of previous decades instead replaced with a more dark and run-down aesthetic with films like Pitch Black, Minority Report and many of the early superhero films of the early 2000s borrowing the style of The Matrix.

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