Sci-fi’s heyday has to be the 70s; the aliens were real (or at least they weren’t CGI), every leading man looked like he’d sprung from The Joy of Sex, women weren’t totally relegated to screaming, and John Williams did most of the scores. There was a feeling to 70s sci-fi movies that grown-ups were writing the scripts. Whether it was Richard Dreyfuss’s messy, truthful marriage difficulties in Close Encounters or the bitter, tired wage disputes in Alien, you felt the pulse of these people. Compared with doomy, evangelical schlock like Knowing, even bad 70s sci-fi looks like Bergman. Modern sci-fi owes too much to pixels and not enough to people.
Everyone wants revenge. We’re savages. Two thousand years of Christianity hasn’t dulled the revenge instinct in the slightest. If we’re wronged, we want the wrong doer to suffer. If our children are wronged, we want carnage. In movies (lucky us) we get to act out these revenge fantasies vicariously. Even High Noon is basically saying: they wronged you, now it’s right for you to kill ’em. Through the Seventies and Eighties these movie revenge fantasies might have got more violent, but that only meant more blood; it didn’t alter our desire. In Taken, Liam Neeson kills half of Paris on our behalf. What was the bad-guys’ crime? Kidnap.
A comic that “deconstructs the mythology of comics” is still a comic. That’s been Alan Moore’s dilemma all along. If he wrote fairy tales he could be Angela Carter, and Watchmen would be his Company of Wolves. But he writes comics. And comics are always hamstrung by their form. Using pictures to tell a story means you lose interiority. There’s only so much depth that can be crammed into a thought bubble. So even though Watchmen does have characters with rich interior lives, we still only glimpse a fraction of the whole. The movie version of Moore’s opus doesn’t conquer its progenitor’s problems, but it’s a stunning-looking miss.
A class’s thoughts are always elsewhere. The lesson (whatever the lesson) is an albatross around every student’s neck. That’s why teaching is difficult. How to spark interest in reading and writing when teenage life is rioting at the margins? Even for adults (even for teachers) sex is more interesting than grammar. At fifteen, sex takes precedence over oxygen. Not to mention Beebo; one’s MySpace profile; who said what on MSN last night. It’s a miracle that anyone listens to anything teachers’ say. But occasionally they do, and we call this: an education. In The Class, the class listen quite often. The question is: what do they learn?