Science Fiction Film Genre Term Paper

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In the background to this major plot is her relationship with Palmer Joss, a religious scholar, and the tragic story of her father's death when she was eight.

Just like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the film fits into the science fiction genre because it is not based on a current reality. The contact with aliens is the background the entire movie is based on. However, it is also much more than this.

Contact is essentially a human story. It is the story of Ellie and her battle to continue to follow her heart and her dreams, despite all the barriers that are thrown in her way. It is Ellie's story that intrigues the viewer and draws them into the film. Ellie is the independent woman who believes in her dreams so strongly that she will not let anything stand in her way. The tragic death of her father and the relationship with Palmer only add to the human story. In short, the viewer wants to see Ellie succeed. It is this aspect that makes the film an example of a good science fiction film.

The other important aspect is that it is a film with a message. The religious scholar, Palmer Joss, is added not just as a love interest but also as a way to incorporate the issues of what science has done for mankind. Ellie fights against a bureaucracy who do not see her search for alien life as worthwhile because it is not profitable. These issues add another level to the film, where it becomes more than a plot; it becomes a story that asks questions about the nature of science, religion and life itself.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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The final aspect that makes Contact a good science fiction film is that it uses special effects to help create meaning. Just like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, special effects are not added just to spice up the film, they are used to help create meaning. This is especially seen towards the end of the film where Ellie travels through a wormhole to other planets. One author describes special effects as being used to "show us things which are immediately known to be untrue, but show them to us with such conviction that we believe them to be real" (La Valley 1985, p. 144). On a logical level, the viewer knows that the journey through space could not actually happen. However, the special effects make it so real that in the context of the film, the viewer can accept what they are seeing. This is critical in ensuring that the viewer remains engaged in the film. Without the special effects, it is questionable whether the viewer would be able to accept what they are seeing. With the special effects, the viewer cannot look away, and while watching the scene, it is as if they are being given the opportunity to travel to other worlds. This is an example of special effects being used to excellent effect.


Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Solaris (2002) is another film describing a first alien contact experience. The film follows the story of Chris Kelvin, a scientist sent to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. The planet is actually the alien life form, with the planet able to take on the form of the scientist's dead relatives. This occurs as Chris's deceased wife, Rheya, returns. The story is then based on the interaction of Kris and Rheya, while also bringing up questions of life, death, and love.

Like the previous two films discussed, Solaris is science fiction because the events described are not based on current reality. Central to the story is the planet Solaris and the alien life form that exists on it. Also like the previous two films discussed, Solaris is really a story of human drama.

In this case, the human drama is based on Chris's interactions with his deceased wife and the various issues this raises. This makes the film a romantic science fiction film, though one with very deep issues at its base. Of the three films, Solaris is the one that is based on the questions it raises as much as the events it describes. This was partly true for Contact and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but not to near the extent of Solaris. Solaris raises issues such as what life is, whether a copy of a deceased one can be experienced in the same way as the deceased one, and what love is. This creates a science fiction film with a whole different purpose than most. Solaris can be described as a good science fiction film because it takes a basic genre and focuses it slightly differently than most. The basic science fiction genre is effectively used to create an unrealistic yet acceptable scene, which manages to ask questions that a realistic scene would have found hard to do. The purpose of Solaris seems to be to make you question what you know about life and love, and in this purpose the film is successful.


This concludes the analysis of these three science fiction films, each one based on a first contact experience. The interesting thing is that while each film has the first contact experience as its background, each is very different in its focus and in the meaning created. The thing that all three have in common is the focus on human drama to drive the storyline. It is this aspect that makes them all good films, since this human drama engages the viewer. They also each use special effects to create meaning, rather than just to create visually appealing images. Beyond these similarities, the films differ widely. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is essentially a human drama. Contact is a human drama with the addition of meaningful themes. Solaris is a romantic science fiction film whose main purpose is to ask questions on meaningful themes. The differences seen in these three films suggests the direction that the science fiction genre will proceed in. It is predicted that the science fiction genre is so broad that it will develop in various directions, from adventure to romance. One of the most interesting things noted in the analysis of these three films is that even though the science fiction components are the same, they are widely differing films. The implication is that the science fiction genre is capable of combining with all other genres. It is likely that the future of science fiction films will involve more and more variations as the science fiction genre combines with various other genres.


Baldick, C. (1991). Literary Terms. New York: Oxford University Press.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind. (1977). Dir. Steven Spielberg. Columbia Studios.

Contact. (1996). Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Warner Bros.

Dirks, T. (2002). Science Fiction Films. Retrieved April 21, 2003. URL:

Gross, L. (August 1995). Big and Loud. Sight and Sound 5.8: 6-10.

Harrison, H. (1978). Foreword. Future Tense. Ed. John Brosnan. New York: St. Martin's Press.

La Valley, A.J. (1985). Traditions of Trickery: the Role of Special Effects in the Science Fiction Film. Shadows of the Magic Lamp: Fantasy and Science Fiction in Film. Eds. George Slusser & Eric S. Rabkin. Carbondale, IL: South Illinois University Press.

MovieMarshal. (2003). $20 million in the U.S. In 2002. MovieMarshal.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Science Fiction Film Genre.  (2003, April 21).  Retrieved August 3, 2020, from

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"Science Fiction Film Genre."  April 21, 2003.  Accessed August 3, 2020.