Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Fusion

I love it when genres collide. Well, I love it when different genres combine with fantasy or sci-fi. When I think of films that combine fantasy elements with more a more traditional film style I think of movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I grew up on Bruce Lee films (3 brothers...) so I tend to think of martial arts films as being about flying fists rather than flying seemingly weightless among the tree branches. Though from what I've read, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon does fit into a sub-genre of films called Wuxia, which often (though not always) incorporates fantasy elements. Whatever the description, I love the movie. There is a languid beauty to it and I like seeing Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat in a movie that seem tailor made for them. But my favorite scenes are the fights that have the characters flying through the trees and virtually walking on water. I wish I could do that. But it's not only movies that are using the audience's love of fantasy. I've mentioned many times the newest craze in publishing; the paranormal romance. But romance isn't the only genre to get a boost from the supernatural. I remember a series that came out years ago (the first one published in 1990) called The Vampire Files about a private investigator who is unwittingly turned into a vampire. There's no doubt in my mind this series' success has had a lot to do with the current craze of the paranormal genre, but it was unique at the time. The author, P.N. Elrod has gone to write several books about vampires and according to Wikipedia co-authored the vampire-themed TV show Forever Knight, though my favorite creation of hers will always be her vampire detective Jack Flemming. But I am a sucker (no pun intended) for a good detective story. And how could I write this post without mentioning one of my all time favorite TV shows, Firefly? The first thing I noticed about the show was it's apparent combination of TV western and sci-fi. I mean, what's not to love? Call it Cowboys in Space, I don't care as long as I get to watch it. Believe it or not, I haven't had anything to drink. Anyway, what other movies, TV shows etc. can you guys think of that combine sci-fi/fantasy with other genre's? Do you like this trend or do you wish for a return of more traditional sword and sorcery fantasy and straightforward sci-fi?

26 comments:

S.M.D. said...

I really don't care much about trends so long as the show is entertaining to me. I loved Firefly not because of its blend but because of the cast. I love the characters so much. Unfortunately Firefly was far too ahead of its time and few scifi shows in any form have been remotely successful on any of the big networks. I mean few, not all.

The only blending I can think of is with scifi or fantasy mixed with drama or real life. The Secret World of Alex Mack comes to mind. I'm sure there are others I am not thinking of right now too...

Peter P said...

Firefly is my favorite TV show too, although I did not use to like western.

Sci-fi suspense/thriller is a good combination.

Quick question: is metaphysical considered sci-fi or fantasy?

DonkeyBlog said...

Another goodie of the Crouching Tiger ilk is Hero - with lots of flying martial arts and spectacular scenery etc.

Cross genres? - well Red Dwarf was about the greatest TV sci-fi comedy fun of all time.

In books, Louis de Bernieres and Gabriel Garcia Marquez do that historical-mystical stuff really well.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Before Firefly there was the Galaxy Rangers.

It only lasted two years and it was cowboys in space. They had a lot of goofy episodes and comedy relief robots, but they also had some drama stuff thrown in that wasn't usual for a cartoon.

My avatar is one of the characters, though I did change his hat.

DesLily said...

A show called Threshold comes to mind..but it wasn't even on long enough to get situated.

SQT said...

S.M.D.

Yeah, the movie or book or whatever has to be good. I've read lots of paranormal crap, but I stick to the genre because I like it and once in awhile something really good comes along. Firefly's biggest strength was it's cast, but I liked the feel of it too.

Peter

I think metaphysical topics can absolutely fit into fantasy and sci-fi. the write up in Wikipedia connect metaphysics to the occult, spirits, faith healing and pretty much anything both spiritual and undefined. Great topics to tackle in a fantasy or sci-fi setting.

Donkeyblog

I can't believe I haven't seen Hero yet. I keep meaning to...

Jon

I'm not familiar with Galaxy Rangers, but cowboys...space...I'm all over it.

Deslily

I watched Threshold when it came out, but you're right, it didn't last long enough.

Peter P said...

I loved Firefly not because of its blend but because of the cast.

The cast was amazing.

SQT, SMD, who are your favorite characters in Firefly?

jedimerc said...

I did like Firefly, though not as much as other series, but I do find the art of fusing genres intriguing. I used to play (and sometimes still do) an rpg called Rifts that fused fantasy and sci fi in a neat way... others still play Shadowrun, which fuses the modern (or near modern cyberpunk) with fantasy.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

CTHD ia a wonderful fantasy/martial arts epic. A delight to watch.

Red Dwarf was the best sci fi comedy.

SQT said...

Peter

I like them all pretty much. Wash and Kaylee were impossible not to like IMO, but Jane used to crack me up with the stuff he would say. River was definitely intriguing though at times her character annoyed me for some reason (though I loved the fight scene in Serenity). Oh and Zoe of course, though I like Gena Torres in general.

That isn't to say I didn't like Mal, Inara, Book or Simon.... Jeeez, I sound wishy washy.

Peter P said...

My wife immediately identifies with Kaylee, which also happens to be my favorite character.

Of course, all characters are very lovable, even Jayne.

Did you think Mal was a bit out-of-character in Serenity the movie?

Lee said...

Oh you gotta see Hero...visually stunning.

SQT said...

Did you think Mal was a bit out-of-character in Serenity the movie?

Was he? I'd have to go back and watch it again. Actually, I love having the excuse to go back and watch the whole series again.

Peter P said...

Actually, I love having the excuse to go back and watch the whole series again.

Fortunately (unfortunately?), it is a short series.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I am curious, SMD, when you say Firefly was ahead of its time, what do you mean? Ahead how?

As for blending genres, it happens all the time. Look at "Cast A Deadly Spell", an HBO film which combined fantasy and film noir, of course the same can be said for "Night Stalker". Or maybe "Dark Shadows", which combined daytime drama with Gothic horror. Want more? Star Trek? Originally designed as "Wagon Train" in space.
What about "Bewitched", fantasy and situational or domestic comedy. How about "Dr No" and several other Bond films: science fiction and spy thriller.

You'll notice that cross genre has been going on for a long long time. It is hardly a startling development.

"Ahead of its time"....the most frightening thing about fans of a genre is when those fans start taking themselves too seriously.

SQT said...

Star Trek was meant as a "Wagon Train" in space? Seems to me BSG would fit that description better.

I know the blending of fantasy with other styles has been around a long time. I just meant to say that I've come to like it quite a bit. I never used to be into books that were "urban fantasy" but they've grown on me.

Situational comedies combined with fantasy have been around a looong time. Look at My Favorite Martian, I Dream of Genie, My Mother the Car etc. etc.

Peter P said...

Captain Harlock (Japanese anime, 1978) was rather similar in theme to Firefly (piracy, outlaw in space).

I guess Leiji Matsumoto (also creator of Starblazer) was really ahead of his time.

SQT said...

"Ahead of its time"....the most frightening thing about fans of a genre is when those fans start taking themselves too seriously.

I think Stewart needs a candy bar. ;)

Stewart Sternberg said...

Yeah, I'm cranky. But that aside...I was more addressing SMD's comment than commenting on the post in general, although I suppose I was doing both.

I think I would like to do a future posting about history in genre. People, especially young uns...don't have sense of the evolution of a body of work. They lack cultural literacy if you will.

SQT...could I have a Three Musketeers Bar.

S.M.D. said...

(peter p)
My favorite is either Mal or Jane, but then it's impossible for me to exclude anyone. I loved the Preacher, Zoe (sp?), etc etc etc. I mean, they were all amazingly cast and acted. I watched the show after I saw Serenity and didn't buy it because of the hype. It blew me away.

As for Mal being out of character in the film, I would say generally speaking no. We always knew Mal had a soft spot for his crew, even though he was incapable of showing it as you or I would. But when you think about it, everything that happens in Serenity, all the actions he takes, all go along with his inner desires and emotions.

(Sternberg)
What I meant by ahead of its time was that stylistically speaking it employed some things that most people would find annoying. The way Whedon (sp?) use camera angles and zooming both in and out of CG was something that hadn't been successfully used, as far as I know. So stylistically speaking, Firefly was ahead of its time. Not to mention if you look at the type of characters present. How many series on regular programming (meaning like FOX, CBS, and other non-cable, non-satellite, channels) deal with a group of criminals? Now we have a couple, but back then? Firefly had an ex-soldier and his former underling stealing, smuggling, etc. with a seemingly innocent female engineer, a ruffian who would turn on anyone at any point for the right amount of money, a preacher, a psycho wacked out child and her doctor brother, etc. From my standpoint, this is something that is seldom done successfully, although I think now that is changing. Criminals are hard to really feel for in a lot of cases, but Whedon managed it and that is why it was so strong. I think a lot of more obsessive die-hard fans could come up with a better explanation, as I hear the same sort of 'ahead of its time' comment from fans too. So, yeah, that's my opinion.

DonkeyBlog said...

I forgot about another one - actually, t'was pretty easy to forget, but The League of Extraordinary Gentleman was such a great idea but was just done so, so badly. I think it had potential to be a fantastic story ... it came around about the same time as Van helsing and Sky Captain, which were all blends of sci-fi, history and horror ... and all united in that they were all BAD!

DonkeyBlog said...

Mr Sternberg - I love the way Phantom comics are so well researched and penned to display historical events accurately ... well, up until the point that a big guy in purple tights comes along!

Stewart Sternberg said...

Donkey, always liked the Phantom. Good examples there.

SMD..interesting perspective. I'm not sure I agree with it, but you put your point forward well.

When I think of shows which fit the accolade "ahead of their time", I think of shows that reference something which history will later confirm. I won't go into detail here, I've already commented in a previous posting on "ahead of its time"

Don't get me wrong, I love Firefly and wish to god it had been on another network where it might have had a better chance.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

This is not science fiction or fantasy, but another great blending of two genres is Brick. This is a noir detective movie set in a high school. I highly recommend it for some of the great lines that sound just like something Humphrey Bogart or Edward G, Robinson might say were they in a present day high school.

jedimerc said...

Firefly didn't get the second chance that Babylon 5 got... TNT picked it up when all was lost (and I wonder if JMS regretted that considering how much TNT gave him the shaft...). I wish too they got that second chance that so many good series never did... Alas, our world is more akin to give American Dancing With White Rapper Survivors while being Punk'd. Did I mention I hate reality Tv? :) But then I've already had this talk about this being the sign of the Apocalypse... Jericho, anyone? (good show, btw, very underrated)

SolShine7 said...

I'm all about hybrid genres, the about my blog post spells it all out.

But I really like it when Sci-Fi and Christian themed stories collide, with a creative and gritty tone.