The Science & Fiction Divide: Empire Cinemas Announces Most Realistic Sci-Fi Films

Science Fiction films often come under scrutiny on how possible and realistic they are. Ahead of the release of Star Trek Beyond on 22nd July, Empire Cinemas has commissioned new research which looks at which space films Brits deem to be the most realistic and which Sci-Fi inventions they wish existed today.

The poll by the UK’s largest independently-owned cinema operator reveals that the true story of the perilous Apollo 13 (1995) mission topped the list of most realistic space films by a landslide vote; convincing 29% of Brits with their realistic portrayal of space exploration. Coming in second place was Sandra Bullock’s Gravity (2013) with 8% of the vote, while the Sci-Fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) rounded off the top three with 7% of the UK vote.

Donna Scott, Chair of the British Science Fiction Association, says, “Some of the best Science Fiction films, the ones that have the power to move us, shock us and make us think, are often not the most scientifically accurate. Science Fiction stories are often explorations of ideas, pushed to an extreme. My pick for most realistic Sci-Fi film would have to be Interstellar. Although it is still a way-out, fantastical story, some of the science makes sense. I find black holes fascinating and mysterious, almost magical, and the film plays with a lot of new theories, such as how time bends in space, and the form of black holes, too. For me, this film puts a confident tick in both the science and fiction boxes.”

“Of course Apollo 13 was a realistic film. Being based on a true story, and containing original news footage, failure was not an option for this tale of adventurous astronauts and clever scientists pitching their wits against space to survive against all the odds.”

In a world of constant innovation, with futuristic gadgets being produced more and more regularly, Brits love Sci-Fi inventions. Almost half (45%) of the UK population say that the teleportation system from Star Trek (1966) is the movie invention they would most like to see in real life. While 1 in 5 Brits (21%) chose the Babel Fish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1981), a device which sits inside the ear and allows the wearer to understand any spoken language. Coming in third was a Star Trek: Next Generation (1987) invention, the Holodeck (17%), a virtual reality facility used to recreate familiar places.

Donna Scott comments, “Modern films tend to be less about unfamiliar gadgets and more about how humans use technology to survive. In Interstellar, the feel of the film is retrograde for the most part, and contemporary science has had to become secretive in the face of financially restrictive times; technology is expensive, the space vehicles are functional, grim and sweaty.

Compare that to a film like Oblivion, where the technician’s modular habitations, which have been provided by the evil aliens, are sleek and white with fitted table computers, infinity pools, and benign-seeming intelligent housing technology that hints of a lack of freedom, whilst making the technicians’ lives convenient and untroubled. It is not so far removed from what is available today; only the inverted triangles hanging in the air like some kind of corporate logo turned into a robot monster as they mine the Earth’s resources, are unfamiliar and uncanny.

In all these films, dirt and grit and lack of tech is indicative of wholesomeness, while the privileged exploiters, be they alien or human, have the best stuff: things that look like they could have been made by Apple. The invention I can envisage existing one day are the healing booths of Elysium, which remind me of the MRI scanners we have today.”

A gender divide appeared when Brits were asked their thoughts on the most realistic movie alien. The majority of women (14%) chose friendly and loveable E.T from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) as the most realistic out-of-this-world creature, while Xenomorph from Alien (1979) received the majority of the male vote (16%).

It seems Sci-Fi films aren’t just providing entertainment, the research revealed that space films actually boost Brits’ interest in science, with almost half the UK (45%) admitting they have felt inspired to learn more about space following a film viewing.

Donna Scott comments, “Science-Fiction certainly encourages an interest in science and technology, as well as space. When I got involved with building robots at school, though, I was hoping to recreate Johnny 5. Unfortunately, I failed to get my robot arm to successfully draw the requisite square, let alone make it ‘come alive’. And it was Disney’s The Black Hole that first got me interested in astronomy. But perhaps the next generation of astronaut has just seen Gravity or The Martian. It would be lovely to think so.”

While it was an old classic that won the vote, the top 10 list is largely made up off newer releases including Gravity (2013), The Martian (2015), Interstellar (2014) and Elysium (2013), all of which are highly praised for their convincing depiction of space. The top 10 list is:

Top 10 Most Realistic Sci-fi Films
1. Apollo 13 (1995) 29%
2. Gravity (2013) 8%
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) 7%
4. The Martian (2015) 6%
5. Independence Day (1996) 5%
6. Alien (1979) 3%
7. Interstellar (2014) 2%
8. Elysium (2013) 2%
9. Moon (2009) 2%
10. Prometheus (2012) 2%

Top 10 Films with the Most Realistic Aliens:
1. Alien (1979) 12%
2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) 12%
3. Independence Day (1996) 8%
4. District 9 (2009) 5%
5. Men in Black (1997) 5%
6. War of the Worlds (2005) 5%
7. The War of the Worlds (1953) 4%
8. Prometheus (2012) 3%
9. Knowing (2009) 2%
10. The Thing (2011) 2%

Jon Nutton, Marketing Director of Empire Cinemas, says, “Science fiction is a genre that inspires imagination and offers curious Brits a glance beyond the veil of time, into a future where it seems anything is possible and movies like the upcoming Star Trek Beyond are opportunities to explore both your mind and outer space”.

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