With the dawning of the space age in the 1960s, the science fiction cinema changed forever. No longer was it sufficient to make films about adventuring into space, for we were already doing that. The appearance of technological advancements at an ever increasing pace has made science fiction into the science fact of today, so much so that many critics have hailed the denouement of the science fiction film. But the true essence of science fiction has always been much more than merely speculation about technologies of tomorrow, and science has not yet begun to exhaust the possibilities of discovery.
The 1960s began with the dawn of the psychedelic era in the serious experiments of Aldous Huxley and others into the possibilities of expanded consciousness through drugs. This quest for outside knowledge through interior of the mind was more than suggestive of the evolution of the sci-fi cinema, for it exemplified the scientific underpinnings to the most esoteric and metaphysical explorations that have always been the touchstone of both drama and true science fiction. Now, even Science was asking, what is Man? What is consciousness? What is life and creation? Almost immediately, the question of cybernetic consciousness and its ramifications arises.
Although I originally considered describing this period as the Space Age or even as the Cybernetic Age, the most recurring theme of this era of Sci-Fi films is the vision of the future as Dystopia. Sterile and devoid of individuality or dark, bleak and decaying, these nightmare worlds of tomorrow are the cautionary tales of the late 20th century and perhaps the truest expressions of the science fiction genre, for they speak to the latent tendencies within society toward violence and oppression in all its forms, including those once thought of as liberation and enlightenment. This, and not technology, is the essence of the films in this era. This prophetic voice of science fiction makes the work transcendent of mere entertainment or even of art; a work of philosophic and spiritual importance. What this says about our collective appraisal of our capacity for advancement as humans I leave to the reader to judge.