When you think of science fiction in film, it is difficult to not have at least one James Cameron film pop into your head. The man has given the world the best Terminator films, Aliens, and, for better or worse, that cultural phenomenon known as Avatar. He is obsessed with the big concepts that are entrenched in deep science fiction. When you are someone with the amount of clout he has in Hollywood, what do you do with this obsession? You round up your famous friends and make a television show, of course! In James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction, the acclaimed director tackles overarching sci-fi concepts such as “Alien Life”, “Space Exploration”, “Monsters”, “Dark Futures”, “Intelligent Machines”, and “Time Travel” with a bevy of high-profile Hollywood icons, as well as some very knowledgeable academics and media personalities. The resulting show is a fun and informative look at how we got to science fiction as we know it today.
The structure of any given episode is largely the same. Typically, Cameron will bring in a relevant figure to discuss the overall topic, such as Steven Spielberg on the “Alien Life” episode or Guillermo del Toro on the “Monsters” installment. Cameron can occasionally come off a bit stilted as he tries to coax out the fun anecdotes from his colleagues while maintaining a one-on-one conversation, but this can mostly be forgiven since it is doubtful some of these people would be participating if it were hosted by a no name. Nevertheless, watching two icons of the genre talk shop will never not be fascinating. The conversation weaves throughout the episode as other contributors talk about landmark moments within each topic, both expected, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and unexpected, such as Arrival. This process is extremely engaging to the nostalgia center of the brain. The show does a good job of touching on a lot of diverse, important movies, shows and books. In the off chance you might not know about certain titles, you will probably be adding things to your watch list for later. It should be noted that if a title pops up that you have been meaning to watch but haven’t seen yet, there is a 50/50 chance it might be spoiled for you, so maybe consider fast-forwarding.
The talent involved in these discussions can be pretty staggering. Figures such as George Lucas, Milla Jovovich, Keanu Reeves, Robert Kirkman, Ridley Scott, Will Smith, Sigourney Weaver, Paul Verhoeven, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and so many more offer up insightful contributions to their topics. Some of these figures have been away from their franchises for a while, making it a pleasant reunion of sorts. Add in lesser know people such as Lisa Yaszek (Professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech), Screencrush‘s Matt Singer, Wired contributor Annalee Newitz, The Canon host Amy Nicholson and several noted sci-fi authors, and you get a well-rounded collection of opinions. Due to the overlapping nature of the genre, some franchises get brought up on more than one installment such as Alien, The Terminator, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but nothing ever feels stale. You might occasionally get disappointed when a particular favorite movie of yours does not get more than a passing mention, but you have to give that a pass when you have over 100 years of content to choose from for a 40 minute episode.
James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction is not really anything deeper than it appears to be on the surface. You have entertaining personalities discussing movies and shows that you love while getting some fun clips from said projects. If the idea of a greatest hits collection of the science fiction genre tickles your brain like it does mine, you should find yourself appropriately satisfied. The production values on the show are glossy and aesthetically pleasing, and the editing is tight as a drum. Throughout the six episodes, science fiction is talked about with such great affection that it will be surprising if you are not itching to watch such a film after completing the show. Watching this series is a blast, and it is substantial enough that I could see revisiting it from time to time for a quick immersion into fond memories.
James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction comes to Blu-Ray featuring a lot of different material in varying degrees of quality. It can be said with certainty that the show itself and everything within it looks as technically excellent as it can look in high definition. This can partly be attributed to the fact that RLJE Films spread these six episodes over two discs, giving them plenty of room to breathe. This fact alone makes me want to give them a hearty thank you. The movie clips used seem to be the best versions that were available when this was made in 2018, with most of them looking pretty excellent. Interview segments look incredibly sleek and clear with natural skin tones and detailed facial features. There is no evidence of compression artifacts or other digital nuisances of the sort. I do not see how this set could have been improved visually. It’s a real stunner as is.
This Blu-Ray disc comes with a DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that perfectly suits the source material, but is understandably restrained. As this primarily acts as an interview show with talking heads abound, dialogue is the focus right up front in the center channel. The movie clips do not utilize the full-on surround sound tracks regardless of whether or not the original film had one. Some of the more active scenes lack the heft of a full-assault mix, but these snippets are not intended for these purposes. The two-channel presentation is enveloping in its own way, and it maintains the artistic choice of the series. For that reason, this is a very worthwhile audio track.
- Extended Interviews: Six additional interviews ranging from 2-5 minutes.
- Guillermo del Toro: Guillermo tells an interesting story about a UFO sighting from his youth that is quite funny.
- George Lucas: Lucas discusses how Vietnam influenced the story of Star Wars.
- Christopher Nolan: Nolan tells interesting tales about lucid dreaming after late nights in college, as well as why he tried to take a scientifically factual approach to Interstellar.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger: Arnold talks about how a large portion of his filmography has sci-fi elements. He also discusses the advancement of technology with Cameron.
- Ridley Scott: Scott discusses his early commercial work with nods to 1984.
- Steven Spielberg: This is a really interesting one where Spielberg discusses his friendship with Stanley Kubrick, and how his eccentricities shined through occasionally.
James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction is a really fun overview of big science fiction tropes discussed with academics, experts and some of the most iconic creative figures in the field. Those who are a fan of clip-based specials will eat this one up as they touch on subjects well covered, as well as lesser-known works. RLJE Films has provided all of the episodes with an excellent A/V presentation, along with special features that are essential complements to the show. Those looking for a nice dose of nostalgia mixed with some in-depth analysis really cannot go wrong with this. Recommended
James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: RLJE Films has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.