The recent release of Scott Pilgrim vs The World has got me thinking about other SF films that rocked hard. I'm talking about flicks that not only featured good soundtracks, but had musicians as the major characters facing the odds, and ideally with some kind of performance amidst all the science fictional or fantasy-related action.
Now, some of you may already be formulating your own suggestions, so let's get something straight: this is a rock-related list, so if you're thinking of a movie with another kind of music, it won't make it. The Devil and Daniel Mouse? Disco and folk. No way. Macross? Minmei's teenybopper pop is totally inadmissable. Strange Days? Well, yes, there was rock, but this flick gets disqualified on the basis of having Juliette Lewis as part of the cast. My list, my rules.
Here we go:
The Top 5 Rock'n'Roll Adventure Movies of SF:
5) Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Two moronic garage-band wannabes are sent on a journey through time to gather people from history to help them pass their history final, ensuring that they'll remain together and go on to form a band that will change he world. Great soundtrack backing up the film, and some of the characters are musicians (Beethoven rocks the mall until the rentacops arrive, and Rufus, the boys' benefactor from the future, shows his shredding skills at the end), but B&TEE isn't headlining this list because when it comes to musical ability, the frontmen Bill and Ted suck.
4) The Crow
A dead musician tears free of the grave to take revenge against the thugs who raped and murdered his fiancee and killed him on Devil's Night the year before. Pounding 90's rock perfectly underscores the dark moodiness of this film and Brandon Lee (at least in the scenes that he was in before his unfortunate on-set demise) certainly looks the part of a lanky lead singer, and he even sits down and plays once or twice. From a musical perspective, The Crow works well. But in terms of its other elements... throwing in the relationship with the kid as a mechanism of innocence redeemed was pretty hackneyed; and while the rocker is justified in being melancholy about losing his girlfriend and being, well, dead, the film has always felt to me as though it's going over the top in this respect, mopey to the point of self-indulgence - almost enough to be a run-of-the-mill vampire movie. But the rest of the film makes up for the weak elements, making it worth watching - and worth listening to.
3) Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
The mediocre metal-heads are back and this time the stakes are higher: they've been killed by evil robot replacements and have to find a way to come back from the dead, defeat the cybernetic impersonators, win the hearts of their princess girlfriends back, and win a battle of the bands, thereby getting exposure for their music and beginning their transformation of human society. Like the first movie, the soundtrack to B&TBJ rocks pretty hard, and while the jokes and characters aren't quite as good as the first time around, it's still a reasonably funny flick in its brainless way (you've gotta give them credit for their gaunchpull/wedgie/melvin manouever to escape from Death's clutches). But if B&TBJ isn't as good as B&TEE, why does it rank higher on the list? Because this time, when the movie closes, the boys and their sidekicks actually know how to play. Unfortunately, B&TBJ can't rate any higher on the list because Bill and Ted are responsible for creating a future where everyone wears really ugly, pastel-coloured, giant, foam boots.
2) Rock and Rule
In a post-apocalyptic future, an evil musician/magician kidnaps a beautiful singer to use her voice as the final component in his experiment to summon a demon from another dimension, and her band-mates have to come to the rescue. Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Cheap Trick, and Earth Wind & Fire - this animated movie's musical street-cred is undeniable. The story is solid, I've always been a fan of 80's style animation, and the background artistry has that run-down tech moodiness of Blade Runner. Bonus points too for the movie being produced entirely in Canada (hey, I make no appologies for being a proud Canuck - besides, we needed a good production like Rock and Rule to redeem our national ability to produce SF after the craptastic Starlost of a decade earlier). There are two reasons why this film can't take centre stage on the list though: 1) Omar, the musician who sets out to rescue his girlfriend Angela from the Faustian badguy, is a complete douchebag. Seriously, the movie would have been better if Angela would have defeated the demon by herself and then either set off on her own, or maybe if she had hooked up with one of the niceguy bandmembers. Omar is thoroughly annoying to watch and unconvincing in his change of heart at the end. 2) I've always found something disturbing about the anthropomorphized rats that are the film's main characters. There's just something creepy about human bodies (and in the case of the singer Angela, a very attractive body) topped by a weird, pointy-nosed quasi rat head.
1) Scott Pilgrim vs The World
Most of my opinions about this great flick have already been expressed in a recent post, so I won't belabour the point. Really, as rock'n'roll adventures go, this movie has the perfect balance of a musician on a quest, performing as he goes, with entertaining music in the background. Go enjoy it on a big screen with big sound.