In recent years, sci-fi enthusiasts have seen an increase in mainstream sci-fi movies, ranging from the new Star Wars trilogy and a series of standalone spinoffs to the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to fame. Beyond these cinematic constellations, we have seen a variety of other amazing sci-fi themed movies and TV series. As the genre seems to increasingly extend its appeal to a wider audience, much to the delight of original sci-fi enthusiasts who get to enjoy bigger budgets on beloved franchises, sci-fi movies have also moved to incorporate classic blockbuster tropes – including films scenes set in casinos.
James Bond: The spy who gambled
The casino setting has long been a Hollywood favorite thanks to the blitz and glamor it adds to a film’s landscape. This is why it has long been a staple in James Bond movies, as the archetypical cosmopolitan spy often encounters one of his antagonists or gains useful knowledge while playing a game of poker. While 007 plays baccarat chemin-de-fer in the novels penned by Ian Fleming, in the films he is depicted as playing no-limit Texas Hold’em Poker. As the online casino industry has flourished, many card games have been popularized, including blackjack and poker variants, besides the classic casino games like roulette, online slots and craps – or even online scratch card games.
Taking their cue from the fabulous world of British espionage, recent sci-fi movies have routinely integrated a casino as the setting for fast-paced action. At the start of Steven Spielberg’s 2018 film rendition of the iconic 2011 Ready Player One novel, which has offered us a nostalgic and fun-filled Easter egg hunt, protagonist Wade Watts takes us on a brief tour of the OASIS. Among other details that will provide crucial to the plot, the orphaned gamer behind the avatar Parzival also shows us a couple of planets to demonstrate the immense variety that the imagination of genius James Halliday has created – including a glimpse on a casino the size of a whole planet.
Star Wars and Marvel turn to casino settings
Just a few months before Ready Player One, sci-fi fans flocked to cinemas around the globe to watch the latest episode of the Star Wars saga: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. In one of the movie’s most iconic scenes, ex-stormtrooper Finn and mechanic Rose Tico pay a visit to the desert planet of Cantonica, in the hopes of finding a hacker to aid the Resistance. Their journey takes them to the famous Canto Casino and Racetrack in the resort city of Canto Bight, located on the planet’s outer rim. Director Rian Johnson has explained that the depiction of the wealthy and luxurious casino city has been inspired by Monte Carlo and James Bond movies.
Marvel has also had its share of turning to the gambling world, most notably in the recent hit Black Panther. In their efforts to save Wakanda and the world, king T’Challa, CIA agent Ross and fierce warriors Nakia and Okoye find themselves in an underground casino in South Korea, hoping to intercept villain Ulysses Klaue who specializes in illegal arms trading. When their cover is blown, they engage in what is perhaps the film’s most rigorous action sequence, taking on multiple foes at once – and destroying the glamorous gambling den in the process.
Director Ryan Coogler has also admitted that he has drawn inspiration from classic 007 movies – so could we perhaps see even more sci-fi themed movies pay homage to Bond’s affection for casinos in the future?