Review: Watch the Skies!: Science Fiction, the 1950s and Us (2005)

Directed by: Richard Schickel | 56 minutes | documentary | Featuring: Mark Hamill, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, James Cameron

Directors Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Ridley Scott and James Cameron have all earned their spurs in the field of science fiction, so it’s a good idea to let them talk about the early days of this wildly popular genre. . The choice of Mark Hamill as the commentary, best known for his role as Luke Skywalker in the “Star Wars” films, is also fine and entirely in style.

It is a pity that despite the presence of these greats, “Watching the Skies” has become a boring, aimless documentary. The directors are interviewed separately and talk without obligation about what they believe is the basis for the rise of the genre and its immense popularity. The fact that they are not talking about their own films for the umpteenth time, but just reminisce about their own childhood, illustrated with all kinds of relevant film fragments, is great fun. Their knowledge of the build-up of tension in those old-school films or the way in which the monsters or aliens are portrayed is also interesting, but it lingers on the level of a random bar conversation that is nice and entertaining at the best of times, but no more than that.

The yield of interesting statements or remarkable insights might have been many times greater if the four of them had indeed sat in the pub and had the opportunity to develop an animated conversation between these four professionals. It is particularly disturbing that there is hardly any discussion of what exactly from those old films was a source of inspiration for the own work of these directors, who each managed to get millions of audiences to the cinema, and especially why. This is a very simple question that could have given this documentary the much needed right to exist. The obligatory analysis of their own work could simply have been left out of consideration, so that the leading role would still be reserved for those old films of which all four have such penetrating childhood memories. A shame of such a unique opportunity.

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