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Sci fi short films: the final frontier

Science fiction is a seductive genre. We humans love to debate our possible futures and the affects on us of technology to come – be it via alien take-over, government control or robot revolution. Luckily we’ve got some of Hollywood’s A-list talent tackling the big ideas in these short films: Rakka by Neill Blomkamp, Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB by George Lucas and I’m Here by Spike Jonze. These shorts have widely varying goals – to start a career, as a mode of delivery outside the studio system, and even to sell a bottle of vodka – but they will all have you pondering what lies ahead for the human race.

Rakka

District 9 and Chappie director Neill Blomkamp serves up an impressive sci-fi film in Rakka. Unusual for a short, Rakka has a three-act story structure. It follows the aftermath of an alien invasion, and stars Sigourney Weaver who delivers a powerful performance. The production values and world-building are out-of-this-world, with stunningly realistic CGI aliens and highly detailed weapons and prosthetics. It’s the gripping story of human survival that hooked me though.

Rakka is Blomkamp’s first film from his new production house Oats Studio. The production house aims to provide an outlet for smaller-scale creative ideas, developing multiple concepts and sharing them online. This way the projects can be tested at an early stage without studio intervention, to see if they gain enough traction to justify being developed into features. I can’t wait to see more!

Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB

Before Star Wars, and even before the full-length version of THX 1138, was George Lucas’s experimental 1967 short film Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB.

The film came about when Lucas was teaching Navy filmmakers at the University of Southern California, and in return was given an unlimited budget for film and lab processing. The short shows a talented director already in command of his tools, and is a hypnotic watch. Lucas used Navy men for cast and crew, and pulled Navy connections to access unique and normally restricted shooting locations.

For a student film Lucas creates an impressive government-controlled dystopian world here, full of flashing dashboards, maze-like white corridors and distorted CCTV footage. It even caught the eye of future collaborator Steven Spielberg, who saw it at a student film festival. Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB was reworked into Lucas’s 1971 debut feature, THX 1138, starring Robert Duvall.

I’m Here

Spike Jonze movies have some pretty far-fetched premises and settings – Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are, Her – but they also include a strong case of the feels, and this sci-fi robot-romance is no different.

I’m Here is a 30-minute story fusing the futuristic into our mundane modern world so seamlessly it doesn’t even feel like science fiction. Production design and costuming includes a unique recycled-robot look, thanks to Alterion, Inc – the creative minds behind the Daft Punk outfits. CGI animation of the shy ‘Sheldon-bot’ is combined with a winning performance by Andrew Garfield. The subtle facial nuances allowed me to develop a strong attachment to the robot. Music from Sleigh Bells completes this hipster love story. Even if it’s sponsored by Absolut you’ll have to have a heart of stone not to be affected by I’m Here.