Written by Daniel Corey
The good folks at Multiverse asked me to create a list of seven sci-fi/fantasy films or books that rank among my favorites/most influential. Without further ado…
Superman: The Movie
I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but this movie, for better or worse, has a lot to do with who I am today. I was recently on Audrey Kearns’ Kneel Before Aud podcast, and she asked me to tell my “geek origin story.” I’ll recap it here: basically, when I was 4 years old and saw Christopher Reeve as Superman, it reinforced all the things that I was learning in Sunday school at the time. Treating people with kindness, doing what’s right…it’s not easy. People won’t like you. It can be lonely. But this is our calling in life. It’s hard, but when you live right, there are moments when you can fly above the clouds. The movie’s tagline “You will believe a man can fly” then becomes “You will believe that we all can fly.”
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Adventure films are difficult. They’re very expensive to make, involve exotic locales, lots of extras, with impossible logistics. We only get one or two standouts per generation, at best. Raiders is the adventure film of all time. There are other greats such as The Man Who Would Be King, which earns honorable mention, but if you ask any person to name the first adventure movie that comes to mind, it’s always Raiders. Indiana Jones isn’t just a person, isn’t just a character: he is adventure. So important. We’ll look at Raiders for the next 100 years and be reminded of how amazing life can be.
Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? / Blade Runner
When I was in college, I had a period (a party, really) in which I dove into Philip K. Dick’s world of Deckard and the replicants. I read Electronic Sheep and watched the theatrical and director’s cut versions of Blade Runner, all for the first time, all in quick succession. The novel is very different from the movie (the words “Blade Runner” don’t even appear—but you knew that), and the two versions of the movie differ in many ways (yes, VO versus no VO, all that.) I once heard Martin Scorsese say that 2001: A Space Odyssey was a sci-fi film that made people think about their relationship with God. Electronic Sheep and Blade Runner do the same.
The Empire Strikes Back
Of all the Star Wars movies, most fans cite Empire as the best. We can go on and on about why: it’s dark, has a difficult ending, the various worlds are amazing. All of that factors into my love of the movie. But the main reason was the timing: I was born in 1975. I have trace memories of seeing Star Wars in the theater at 3 years of age. My mom tells me I stood up on the seat the entire time, transfixed. But Empire is the one that I really remember as being my first and total experience with the Star Wars universe. The movie, the toys, coloring books, story records (this is pre-internet, people) made the worlds of Empire so real to me. I wanted to drop through a magical portal and land on Hoth. I really liked Hoth, for some reason. Perhaps growing up in Florida had something do to with that.
Star Trek: TOS / Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Surprise! Star Trek made the list. So, TOS was a TV show, and not entirely in compliance with the rules of this list. So, I’m lumping in Wrath of Khan, which is the best feature film of the Star Trek franchise. The most important thing about Star Trek: TOS is that every episode involved a mystery, and there was always a fantastic reveal at the end. I’ve often said that the double-barreled influence of Star Trek and Magnum, P.I. (I’ll fight you if you laugh) is the reason that I primarily write mystery stories. As far as Wrath of Khan is concerned, it was similar to my experience with Empire. It was Star Trek, but it was new, and gloriously projected on the big screen for me. The Genesis Project was an amazing concept, Ricardo Montalban was a villain for the ages, and (spoiler alert) the death of Spock was a very moving moment. A side note: I’ve always thought that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was Mr. Shatner’s best performance as Kirk, but in the closing scenes of Wrath of Khan, he also brings his A-game. “Of all the souls I’ve encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”
Have I no respect for the rules? This isn’t science fiction or fantasy! OK, I’m going to stretch a bit, here: it’s a genre film. We good? Now, as I was saying… Heat is the greatest heist film ever made, the greatest neo-noir film ever made, the greatest cops-and-robbers film ever made. A complex storyline, a mammoth cast led by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro (scroll down the cast list on IMDB: you’re 18 characters in before you hit the bit-parts,) all led by master filmmaker Michael Mann. I could write 20 pages on this movie, but I won’t. I’ll just say that, like Blade Runner (which is also noir, just fused with science fiction—you knew that,) this movie makes the viewer consider the spiritual condition of the characters and of themselves—their relationship with God. Pacino as the cop, De Niro as the thief, these are two guys that basically have the same mission statement in life, and they just ended up on opposite sides of the law. Heat examines who these men are, why they do what they do, and in the end, leaves us to ponder the meaning of their journey; a trek that starts under an overpass by the L.A. Convention Center, ends in a backlot of LAX, and examines all the amazing locales of Los Angeles in between.
The Chronicles of Narnia
Yes, I’m a faith person. You’ve probably gathered that. I was first exposed to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe via the Bill Melendez-directed animated film that was released in 1979. (Between Lion and Superman, ’79 was a big year for me.) Seeing Aslan murdered by the evil White Witch, only to come back from the dead and save the world, well, that made an impression. I read the books when I was in the sixth grade, and it was the first time that I immersed myself in a literary universe. And the end of The Silver Chair made me cry, which was the first time a book would ever have that effect. The only time, now that I think about it. My personal favorite of the series is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: just like The Empire Strikes Back, it took us to a variety of amazing worlds. I quite like the film adaptation of Dawn Treader, as well, which was directed by Michael Apted. Primarily, Narnia illuminates an idea that you have seen consistently throughout this list: life is full of meaning, and adventure can happen at any moment. That’s that I want out of art, what I want to create in my stories, and how I want to live my life.