Monday, 4 November 2013

Giant Space Chicken

Here’s a billboard poster for the new sf film, ‘Gravity’. I spotted it leaving Piccadilly station one day and misread it, first of all.

My misreading got me thinking about a couple of issues I’ve got with contemporary sf in all media, and perhaps with other genres as well.

And it’s all to do with things that take themselves way too seriously.

‘Gravity’ seems like rather serious film, from the few bits I’ve seen about it. And, a very expensive one to make. They must have poured untold sums into the special effects and the marketing and publicity.

No way would they want it to look as if their poster depicts a giant robot chicken flying through space.

But that’s precisely what I thought it was.

Two things struck me about this. Firstly, films like this don’t have a sense of humour. Not in the way that would allow an audience to entertain the idea that they might see a great big silly chicken flapping about the place. Even a split second’s suspicion that one might appear would be enough to undermine the carefully constructed illusion that this is real space and real drama in space. We live in an era of very literal verisimilitude, and a very earnest approach to science fiction, and an almost superstitious dread of silliness and frivolity. Everything must be grim and earnest in order for the magic to work, it seems.

The other thing that struck me was that I would love there to be a film about a giant space chicken, presented in deadpan fashion, undermining that sententious pseudo-realism. But that seems impossible in this terribly serious age.


  1. Giant space chicken you say?

    Have you seen the GREATEST FILM I HAVE EVER SEEN?

  2. You HAVE to see it. It's absolutely crazily brilliant. Used to watch it with a group of mates every month or so. The dialogue is utter joy!


  3. Blog post got me thinking too. Think of all those great sci-fi B-movies of the 50s and 60s. Most of which were very firmly tongue in cheek, but were actually smashing films that have now become classics. Films such as Forbidden Planet or Fantastic Voyage, or for that matter the early TV Star Trek episodes. Because they weren't taking themselves too seriously, they could experiment and go where other writing hadn't gone before. And I too would like a Chickens in Space film - go on Paul, you know you want to do it :-) (Did once see an Invasion of the Killer Rabbits film, but that was a B-movie too far...)

  4. You've seen Sleeper, Woody Allen's sf movie? I guess that's not a space chicken, but it's giant. :)

  5. Have you seen it? I guess not. This is surmise, right? "‘Gravity’ seems like rather serious film ... films like this don’t have a sense of humour." Not in a way that would involve a giant space chicken. So, even if this wasn't one of those humourless films and did in fact have a sense of humour, if it didn't actually incorporate the giant space chicken aspect, there would be something wrong with it?? I am sure there is some middle ground here you are conveniently ignoring because you just want to have a moan.

  6. Undoubtedly some of it is. I found Gravity pretty amusing, actually, but I don't think that was its intention. Although I do have a sneaking suspicion that the snowballing ridiculousness was a lot of fun for the people who made it.

  7. My misreading got me thinking about a couple of issues I’ve got with contemporary sf in all media, and perhaps with other genres as well.

    I don't think that Gravity *is* a science fiction film, in the normally recognised sense. Rather, it's something we haven't really seen before; a drama about working astronauts today, about space travel as it actually exists. It's not Star Wars, it's The Wages of Fear (in space). That seems like a new and an interesting thing.