Why is the genre popular?
Some of the biggest box-office smashes of all time have been science fiction films - think of the Star Wars film, the Star Trek films, The Terminator franchise
Several reasons why they're popular – many are exciting action movie/sci-fi hybrids (like…?); they attract popular stars (Will Smith, George Clooney, Matt Damon – name their films…) who attract big audiences; they are often action movies with huge set pieces to attract an audience and extensive use of CGI to make things both believable and exciting (examples?); a typical narrative is the hero’s journey or quest and this offers suspense and enigmas – will he succeed/what will try to stop him/her?
Some of them, like Star Wars and the Star Trek films are franchises and previous films - including their existence on DVD, the games, models, toys, graphic novels, comic books, TV shows - build up huge anticipation for the next instalment.
They sometimes cast light on present day problems such as the dangers of over-reliance on technology or genetic engineering or a class system where the majority of people work to please a rich minority (examples?) but in an entertaining fashion. This is called REFLECTION THEORY – they reflect contemporary issues – so, Them! (1954) featuring giant ants mutated by radiation, reflects the 1950s fear of radiation and the atomic bomb, whereas Elysium (2013) reflects the fears that wealth and power are controlled by a few people and the rest of us do all the work – you can see this theme has a long history, because it’s there in Metropolis (1927) too – or District 9 (2009) is a parable about racism in South Africa.
The genre contains a mass of possibilities for storylines which can use the conventions or combine them or combine them with those from other genres. E.g. Terminator 2 is about the dangers of futuristic technology that will lead to a dystopian future. It’s also an action movie starring one of the main stars of the genre, Arnold Schwarzenegger. On top of the that, it’s variant on the Western (specifically Shane) where the mysterious hero comes to town and solves the problem by violence but has to move on because there’s no place for him in that newly lawful society – and The Terminator has to destroy himself to stop more trouble in the future, should scientists get hold of the technology used to create him.
Many of them have elements of comedy and romance – think of the romance in Star Wars; there’s romance between the captain and the female scientist in The Thing from Another World; the romance that develops between the scientist and the ex-Navy man in Jurassic World. What about comedy? Jar-Jar Binks in the Star Wars films – or the bickering between R2D2 and C3P0. They don’t have to be expensive to be exciting - look at Attack the Block (2011) - the plot centres on a teenage street gang who have to defend themselves from predatory alien invaders. The age group of the characters helped the film’s appeal to an audience that age. It only cost $8million to make. The average cost of a Hollywood movie is about $50million. Elysium cost $115 million. Your film will have to be reasonably cheap, near the $8million mark.