How To Make An Oscar Winning Scifi Film (The io9 Way)

Illustration for article titled How To Make An Oscar Winning Scifi Film (The io9 Way)

How easy is it to write a Best Picture-worthy scifi flick? As easy as slapping tried and true tropes together to create a shambling drunken Frankenstein of a movie! Gird your loins for the most critically acclaimed scifi movie EVER!


Thanks to Avatar and District 9, there's been a lot of hubbub that the 82nd Academy Awards is science fiction's coming-out party as critically worthwhile genre. Given that io9 is a science fiction site, I have a vested interest in critics deluging scifi movies with praise. As a rule of thumb, good reviews equals audiences which equals money which equals sequels which equals Burger King toys which equals me having a job. So out of my own unabashed self-interest, I will reveal to you, gentle reader, my clandestine formula to penning a Best Picture-caliber science fiction movie. I call this "The io9 Method," and to demonstrate to you that it's 100% legit, I will pen the greatest scifi film of one afternoon.

Illustration for article titled How To Make An Oscar Winning Scifi Film (The io9 Way)

What is The io9 Method? Why, it's so obvious that you wouldn't even know its being implemented. It's like nitrogen. Almost 80% of the atmosphere is nitrogen, but do you ever pause to think, "Fuck, look at all this nitrogen!" No, you don't. It's just one of those that you implicitly accept. Obvious, yet unseen. Nitrogen is watching you shower. Nitrogen is watching you sleep.

The io9 Method is the same as nitrogen - invisibly ubiquitous. You simply take a slew of time-tested great ideas and ramrod them together like Tetris blocks. It's the natural selection of cinema. When the Method works, nobody notices. But when it fails, it fails spectacularly . When James Cameron made Avatar, he amalgamated Dance With Wolves with FernGully with Paul Schrader's Cat People, and look how that turned out! Everyone's getting upset!

Now, for the io9 Method to work, you must be surreptitious but discerning. Here's a list of science fiction films that were nominated for Oscars. I've included other speculative fiction films due to a dearth of "pure" scifi nominees. Winners are in bold:

- The Wizard of Oz
- Doctor Dolittle
- A Clockwork Orange
- The Exorcist
- Jaws
- Star Wars
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
- Ghost
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Green Mile
- The Sixth Sense
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Avatar
- District 9
- Up


Whew! Now that we've got our master list of acclaimed movies, we'll cherry pick the best tropes. Science fiction will be given more consideration, as will films about talking pigs.

1.) Title
Most of these films include the word "The" in the title. Four of these works star some iteration of warlock; one is about an evil shark. I'm seeing a lot of "ofs." We'll go with The Wizard of The Babes. With a title like this, we'll see a windfall courtesy of the "confused bachelor" demographic.


2.) Setting
Many of these films occur in space or some alternate dimension. Babe took place in New Zealand. Middle Earth - for all intents and purposes - is in New Zealand. Ergo, our film will be set on a planet called "Nouveau New Zealand."

3.) MacGuffin
In many of the nominees, the MacGuffin is some fantastical device. Think ruby slippers, the One Ring, the Ark of the Covenant, Unobtanium, or Christopher Johnson's canister. Let's combine all of these lickety-split and presto! Our MacGuffin is a ruby anti-gravity ring that talks with the voice of God and transforms you into an alien dare you don it. What shall we call this ring? Artoo.


4.) The Hero's Alien Transformation
This year's crop of scifi nominees involve the hero mysteriously transmogrifying into an extraterrestrial species. In Avatar, it was a positive development - Marcus Wright got to leap around the trees and zahelu with Uhura. In District 9, Wikus turned into something that lives between Cthulhu's toenails. For The Wizard of the Babes to win the Oscar, our hero must become the happy medium between Lovecraftian and toyetic. Hey, I got the just the thing:

Illustration for article titled How To Make An Oscar Winning Scifi Film (The io9 Way)

5.) The Hero
All of the heroes in the above films have some made-up nonsense name like "Frodo" or "Wikus" or "Luke." I know these are strong words given what's on my birth certificate, but come now. It's like Hollywood has a team of highly-paid gibberish writers or something. I'm just not going to name the hero. Too bothersome.

5.) The Villain
The villain is a shark.

The Final Plot
In The Wizard of The Babes, an unnamed human from the planet Noveau New Zealand has stumbled upon Artoo, a magic anti-gravity ring that speaks with the voice of Yahweh. Artoo transforms our protagonist into a disgusting albeit marketable alien. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, a shark wants the ring. At some point, there is a Pixar-animated dream sequence starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood (as themselves). John Williams does the score.


I may have just written next year's Best Scifi Picture, but that doesn't mean you can't write one too. After all, there's room for nine more competitors at the 83rd Academy Awards! Use The io9 Method to write your own film in the comments, and I'll announce the winners in a post next week.