A genre characterized by stories involving conflicts between science and technology, human nature, and social organization in futuristic or fantastical settings, created in cinema through distinctive iconographies, images, and sounds often produced by means of special effects technology. All the technologies of cinematic illusion are displayed at their most cutting-edge state in science-fiction films, and this has been true since the earliest years of cinema, when trick films like Le voyage dans la lune/A Trip to the Moon (Georges Méliès, France, 1902) used stop-motion animation and other effects to create what is in all probability cinema’s first-ever portrayal of space travel: in topic, techniques, and iconography, Le voyage dans la lune was a prototype for the science-fiction cinema to come. The 1920s and 1930s saw portrayals of future and imagined worlds, many of them dystopic, in feature films such as Aelita/Aelita: Queen of Mars (Yakov Protazanov, USSR, 1924); Metropolis (Fritz Lang, Germany, 1926); and Things to Come (William Cameron Menzies, UK, 1936), while many post-World War II science-fiction films offered apocalyptic imaginings of alien invasion and nuclear holocaust. The canonical 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, UK/US, 1968) began a new era in science-fiction cinema’s foregrounding of spectacle and impact in moving image and sound by creating a sublime, all-enveloping environment for the viewer. Viewed in cinemas, science-fiction extravaganzas like 2001 offer an encompassing visual, auditory, and bodily experience in which the spectator is invited to succumb to extreme sensory and bodily engulfment (see haptic visuality). Wherever cinema exhibits its own distinctive matters of expression—as it does with science fiction’s displays of state-of-the-art special effects technologies—this is invariably a highly self-conscious, even an exhibitionistic, gesture, eclipsing narrative, plot, and character.
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