The sf and fantasy movies of 2013 certainly delivered at the box office, although nothing quite matched the highs of The Avengers in 2012. However, Iron Man 3, Wolverine, Star Trek Into Darkness and Thor, The Dark World brought some mighty entertainment to world still straining with the entrails of economic gloom. There were some turkeys too: After Earth and Oblivion, in Will Smith and Tom Cruise the big stars couldn’t guarantee big audiences, and Man of Steel, while it had some great moments, lacked of humour and humanity. Two really terrific movies in though were the second Hunger Games, Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, both significantly more effective than their predecessors, teasing out both emotional and narrative depth from potentially exhausted themes. So, onto 2014, a fantastic mix of sf and fantasy, and a few more than the Top 10:
This feels like a shiny TV series with some fabulous FX, but I’m a sucker for Frankenstein and if Sherlock can be updated to 21st then so can the good Doctor. Based on a graphic novel of the same name this is set in a present day future where Adam (yes, that’s a new name of Dr Frankenstein’s creation) is caught in a war between demons and gargoyles (I know!). Gothic horror and Bill Nighy, it’s got to have something going for it!
I guess this is meant to be the next teen blockbuster, after Twilight and Hunger Games. It looks interesting and has gritty dystopian feel (there it is again) as our hero, Beatrice has some sort of special mind (yep, she’s Divergent) which makes her impervious to the authoritarian controls of the society that surrounds her. Rebellion, adversity, rugged landscapes, this has it all (!). It does need some great acting, which the trailer certainly hints at.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Jackson, Robert Redford, how can this fail? Well it won’t it’s going to be magnificent. I don’t like army films and I don’t like gun battles, and I really hate having someone else’s patriotism thrust in my face, but the first film worked because it focused on the qualities of the individual, a sort of wholesome everyman that we all hope hides in us all somewhere. I don’t care what this is about, the trailer is great (2nd one just released, below) and we’re going to see it!
Based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller (oh yes!), a screenplay by Zack Snyder (Man of Steel), a follow-up from the grim brilliance of 300, with Eva Green (utterly brilliant in Dark Shadows) and a switch to the open sea this is powerful stuff. Based at that point in relatively ancient history when the Greek empire was beginning to resist the all-conquering Persians this promises a mix of astounding digital fx and dark mythology.
I ummed and ahed about this. Russel Crowe? Monosyllabic titan of mysogeny? Actually, he was probably born for this role, as long as we can forget his risible Robin Hood. Also stars Emma Watson (having survived Harry Potter intact she’s blooming into a terrific screen presence), and the ever reliable Anthony Hopkins, late of Odin (in Thor), now he’s Methuselah, a slight step down I suppose. This is portentous movie that revels in a defining moment in period of history. Gradiose and epic, it could be the movie event of the year.
Johnny Depp. Up to The Lone Ranger I would have said I’d watch any movie he was in. This sounds good though, A.I., consciousness and terrorism. Not sure what to make of it, but it’s intriguing. Morgan Freeman, as always, provides the usual gravitas.
Scarlett Johansson plays an alien seductress who seeks out hitchhikers. I might regret including this, but I hope it has more mystery than salacious cl
iché; it’s an indie film, so worth supporting. Johnansson has a busy year, and is filming the next Avengers movie.
With its creepy, surreal movie poster and chilling trailer Oculus looks intriguing from the several months off release. Starring Karen Gillan, an engaging Doctor Who companion who guarantees a loyal fan base, in her first big movie role, it’s hard not to want this to succeed.
Amazing Spiderman 2 (May release) The Rhino, Green Goblin and Jamie Foxx as Electro, this new take on the Spiderman franchise is moving into a higher gear. I’ll admit to some weary nostalgia on this but my daughter really likes Andrew Garfield, which is, ah, interesting.
Lana del Ray’s trippy ‘One Upon a Dream’ haunts the trailer of this spiky, powerful vehicle for Angelina Jolie as the ‘villain before she became a villain’, the witch queen of Sleeping Beauty. Somehow this reminds me of Jolie’s amazing performance as the monster’s mother, in Beowulf: a seductive, magisterial but tragically flawed character.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (May release) Mark Millar (Marvel’s creative consultant for the the film) says, “You’ve got robots, you’ve got time travel, you’ve got superheroes – it’s got everything in one film.” A follow-up to X-Men First Class, this is still a prequel to the first X-Men movie, and somehow manages to pack in almost every major star to have appeared in all the previous movies, from Jennifer Lawrence to Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman to James McAvoy. Hard to ignore, and long in the making, I hope it lives up to its promise.
Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt head yet another soldier ‘who comes to the rescue of humanity’ sf thriller. Combinging undefeatable aliens with time loops and a rugged cast this is based on a story by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and there is a heavy manga feel to the plot. Cruise certainly works his socks off but let’s hope its more of Minority Report than the pedestrian Oblivion.
A new film by the magnificent Wachowskis (The Matrix is probably still my top film) this one stars Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum and Sean Bean. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), enduring a humdrum existence on earth is found by a military hunter and informed of a cosmic destiny that matches the strange dreams she has enjoyed since she was young. Oh, sounds good to me!
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Following the moderate success of the reboot Planet of the Apes, the new movie explores the survival instincts that cause conflict between human and ape, after the virus that wiped out most of humanity. Caesar’s band of evolved apes begin to assert their physical superiority over the remnants of the human race. The incredible Andy Serkis stars, with Gary Oldman inventing another of his incredible silver screen persona.
Starring the voices of, amongst others, Bradley Cooper, Karen Gillan and er, Vin Diesel this incredible film would not have been made without the billion dollar success of The Avengers. For the readers of the comics, it’s a triumph to reach this far, for the everyday movie goer, the hope is for a cosmic Avengers. Tall order? We’ll see. The new trailer below was released on 19 Feb.
Lucy is forced to become a drug mule. The plan goes awry as the drug instead enters into her system and she becomes strong, skillful and hyper-intelligent. Oh, and she can’t feel pain, and she can move stuff with her mind. Starring Scarlett Johnasson and Morgan Freeman, this is a cool new movie from Fifth Element’s Luc Besson. It’s got to be good! Just put in the amazing trailer below.
The final book, like J K Rowling’s Harry Potter is split into two. This first part, stars teen throbs Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and adult sophisticates Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, (the now late) Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland. There was very little about this movie online at the time of writing, except that it’s the third in a highly successful franchise. Following on from the rescue at the end of Catching Fire Katniss Everdeen now finds herself as the leader of a rebellion against the tyranny of the government Capitol. Finding it difficult to know who to trust she has some difficult decisions to make, affecting her friends, family, and the fate of the districts she is determined to protect. There are a couple of teaser trailers available now, here’s the best one:
Directed by Dark Knight’s Christopher Nolan and starring Matthew McConaughey and, intriguingly, Anne Hathaway, Interstellar is based on the use of wormholes for time travel to the farthest borders of our scientific understanding. Couldn’t find much else on this, but sounds like a decent sf movie.
Final part of the impossibly long, but enthralling trilogy (if Hobbit is 3 films, Lord of the Rings should be at least 9!). Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Evangeline Lilly, Martin Freeman, Christopher Lee, Ian Mckellan, Hugo Weaving and so many more this is wraps iup Tolkein’s children’s story, now made into a family blockbuster. So let’s see how Peter Jackson conveys the mighty final drama of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and his dwarves, as they try to reclaim the ancient Kingdom of Erebor. It’s hard to find a decent poster for this one at the moment, so here’s one from part 2, Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
There are a number of other SF and fantasy movies coming in 2014, but they haven’t made my list: Robocop (February, surely nothing new), Godzilla (May, for aficionados only), Transformers: Age of Extinction (July, too young for me, too noisy for my daughter and too trite for my son!), Resident Evil (September, next one in the series, surely no different from the rest), Hercules, (July, with The Rock. Oh come on!)
So here’s to an amazing 12 months of fantastic movies. Some will surely disappoint, and some will surprise but there’s no shortage of ideas and excitement. Do you have any other movie suggestions? Let me know in the comment section below, or on Twitter.