Great Sci-Fi Thrill Rides for 2013
We are more than halfway thru the year, but some of the best Science Fiction films have yet to be released (my favorite film genre, if you couldn’t yet figure that out). Some of these movies have already hit theaters or in other cases, VOD (Video On Demand a la Netflix-type services). Here is a breakdown of my most anticipated list of films that have yet to come and some that have already come to pass. Here we go in no particular order:
I have come across a sci-fi love story that only Spike Jonze could craft. The movie, titled “HER” casts Joaquin Phoenix as recluse, anti-social middle-aged man that adapts to a new Operating System on his computer, which surprise: Features human like qualities through it’s projected voice (played by Scarlett Johansson). Suri for the next generation, I suppose? The trailer eludes the character becoming conflicted from separating his feelings from the OS to the real world. I’m already interested….. ARE YOOOOU?
Here’s the trailer in all it’s 2 and half minute glory:
From the director who brought us the original sci-fi end of the world epic “Children of Men” comes something vastly different but still very unique and bold. In the “play-it-safe” Hollywood we all currently know, those two aforementioned words are rarely combined to describe a blockbuster caliber film today. But unique and bold is exactly how I would describe the cold and indifferent aesthetic of a film set completely free floating in space, primarily homed in on two astronauts (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) against the black abyss that is outer space. This is exactly what Cuaron’s latest project aims to bring to the fickle popcorn gobbling masses this fall. The basic plot synopsis: A crew of NASA astronauts are in the midst of repairing the Hubble Telescope when unknown debris smashes into their space shuttle at absurdly high speeds, rendering the shuttle little more than debris itself. Bullocks character, Ryan Stone, gets disconnected from her tether, the only thing keeping her secured to the ship and thus hurdled out into the emptiness of space. Clooney’s character gives chase in some kind of futuristic jet pack and the two are then literally lost in space (no pun intended) trying to fight and claw their way back to Earth. This film was actually supposed to be released fall of 2012, but Cuaron delayed the film’s release for a whole year supposedly to ramp up the 3D effects in post-production. The full film has already been screened to certain members of the media and from what’s been spilling over on to the web, they say the hype is definitely worth it. The movie presents an absolutely terrifying scenario which should make for a thrilling and tense dramatic release when it hits movie theaters October 4th. If you are not yet convinced this should be on your 2013 movie checklist, take a look at the extended Gravity trailer via YouTube:
Elysium is another science fiction film that on the surface, seems quite ordinary: In the year 2154, Earth is little more the a resource-starved dystopia where the class struggle has taken on a whole new meaning. The poor live in decrepit, ravaged cities on Earth’s surface struggling to survive while the rich head space-bound to the floating utopian-like space station Elysium, the polar opposite of Earth. On Elysium, their is no war, no poverty and no sickness. Hell, I don’t even think their are cockroaches on Elysium, but their are probably still schmucks who smoke cancer inducing cigarettes. But WAIT, Elysium has medical scanners in each household that rid you of any ailments and cure all diseases so I guess you can puff without a care in the world. What separates Elysium from the rest of the pack is that, reportedly, it isn’t another generic sci-fi action-for-action shoot-out watered down by bad CGI but instead we spend most of our time on Earth’s decaying surface getting a feel for what it’s like to live day-to-day on a dying planet while the socialites clink their wine glasses and go swimming on Elysium. We get to know everyman Max, Matt Damon’s character, an ex-con who once had dreams of getting a one-way ticket off Earth to Elysium but now prefers just to stay out of trouble at his job manufacturing robots on an assembly line that are programmed to be assholes. Unfortunately for Max, he gets caught on the wrong end of a sealed door that exposes him to toxic radiation. This prompts “generic sympathetic medic robot” to stroll up to a dying Max, throw a bottle of painkillers at him and breaks the bad news in the most monotonous robotic tone ever that he has less than 5 days to live but “We thank you for your service”. Max then sets off determined, on a mission to find a way to Elysium to rid himself of the poison in his body that’s slowly killing him and bridge the gap for everyone else left on Earth between treatment of the poor and the rich on Elysium.
This involves breaking into the most secured facility ever created by man, so Max is forced into fashioning some type of exoskeleton directly into his brain and other parts of his body that will help him on his mission to Elysium. Supposedly, the film’s 3rd act contains most of the whiz-bang action with an assassin named “Kruger” played by Blomkamp alumni Sharlto Copley dueling it out with Max exoskeleton style. Jodie Foster plays the frigid overseer of Elysium and stops at nothing to preserve the lifestyles of the wealthy elite living aboard Elysium, going as far to order any unauthorized vessels approaching Elysium to be shot down and initiate the psychotic Kruger from his dormancy to set him on Max and his companions. From what I’ve read about the film, it all concludes with a cat-and-mouse type chase and showdown between the adversaries. I have been clamoring for this film for months and can’t wait to see it when it opens in cinemas August 9th.
Blomkamp also didn’t seem to compromise his vision by cutting out the more explicit scenes for a PG-13 rating, instead opting for an R rating. It’s nice to see a big budget summer blockbuster get the more explicit, violent rating instead of the studio pushing for a much less lenient rating so they can “reach a wider audience.” I guarantee you that almost ALL of the people going to see Elysium were persuaded by it’s R rating, knowing it’s a much more adult film dealing with (hopefully) heady political subjects that mirror today’s problems with the growing disparity between rich and poor. Here’s the official theatrical trailer via YouTube:
Pitch Black was a sleeper hit when it was released way back in 2000, carving out a niche in science fiction films by creating a suspenseful blend of horror and action with possibly one of the greatest antiheroes in any recently released sci-fi film: a murderous, blood thirsty serial killer named Riddick. I loved the original and rumor has it that David Twohy recognized the fans craving a return to the series roots. Enter “Riddick”, and it appears we have our antihero again trying to escape from money-hungry Bounty Hunters on an hostile planet. However, an interesting element is Karl Urban’s return, the Necromonger who came close to killing Riddick in “Chronicles….” only to have to bow to him an the end when he disposed of the Lord Marshall (“You keep what you Kill”). This should definitely make for an interesting wild card, and even though I didn’t really care for the whole Necromonger themed-story of the second film, a Lord Vaako looking for some payback because Riddick disbanded his fleet of religious followers could certainly translate into some wicked on screen action. The film was also made on a smaller budget compared to it’s predecessor so it should retain the “R” rating when it’s released this September. Here’s the official REDBAND trailer via YouTube:
I’ll admit, I knew nothing of the Hunger Games novels by author Suzanne Collins when I went into see the original film. However, going to see a movie totally in the dark about it’s plot and having little to no fore-knowledge of what the series of books was about made this film absolutely riveting for me, as it caught me completely off guard. That’s a rarity these days with all the viral marketing via the web and constant stream of trailers on TV, but I was definitely swept up in the Hunger Games fervor. A sci-fi film about a dystopian society where gladiators must duke it out for survival to entertain the masses is nothing new, but a sci-fi dystopian film where the gladiators tear down the arena in protest is absolutely brilliant. It seems “Catching Fire” brings back the gladiators to the arena where I suspect will see more action between the Tributes but also the spark that ignites the revolution. “Catching Fire” picks up where the last film left off, as Katniss and Peeta must make a Victory Tour and profess their undying love for each other across all the districts. President Snow wants nothing to do with Miss Everdeen and only sees her as a potential threat for leading a revolt against the good life he has built for the wealthy in the Capitol. These Hunger Games are no ordinary games, as mentioned by one of the characters in the trailer below. For the 75th annual Hunger Games, victorious Tributes from past Games are now contestants, pitting the best against the best. Who will come out alive and who will join the revolution? Watch the trailer via YouTube below:
Europa Report is a science-fiction film that actually relies on real science to tell it’s story about a privatized space program entitled Europa One which sends a manned mission to the ice moon Europa which orbits Jupiter. The crew is international, using the best pilots, doctors, scientists and engineers across the globe to ensure safe travel. The cast of “Europa Report” is not made up of pissed off, ego-inflated idiots a la “Prometheus” but instead consists of all mild-mannered and professional acting astronauts, much like you would expect them to behave in real life. Most of the cast are relative unknowns except for Sharlto Copley, who has done well for himself in the science-fiction genre of films (also appearing as the psychotic assassin “Kruger” in Elysium). In “Europa Report”, a simple mistake during the journey to Europa sets off a chain-reaction of decisions that ultimately lead to the crew making the most significant sacrifice in the name of scientific discovery. The film does contain a fair amount of techno babble, but it’s all offset by the constant drama surrounding the uneasiness of the crew as it approaches Europa. Suspense builds as seemingly minor mistakes add up to eventual life threatening events that all conclude with a cautiously optimistic, yet terrifyingly haunting ending. Europa Report will stick with you for days and while many other big-budget sci-fi flicks are bound to the conventional “explosive” action-for-action sequences, Europa Report settles for the subtle, nuanced performances of it’s crew trying to overcome a worsening situation and cope with psychological breakdown in the face of human loss. “Europa Report” is a chilling reminder that space exploration is truly a dangerous exposition, even on the advent of groundbreaking scientific discovery. Any fans of hardcore science-fiction should not miss Europa Report. It’s a realistic, gritty and visceral experience that you won’t soon forget. If you enjoyed “Moon”, “Sunshine” or even to a lesser extent “Prometheus” then “Europa Report” is a must-see experience. Here’s the trailer via YouTube: