After going on a rant for the last couple of weeks in relation to the state of Hollywood and the film industry in general, I thought I should at least say some good things and thankfully, there’s some good science fiction that has come our way from Hollywood in 2014 that can make up for it. It’s ironic given that this genre hasn’t always been served so well, and in this environment of safe, generic blockbuster filmmaking, it’s refreshing to get films this well made with great stories and characters. Let’s have a look at some of them now:
Sure, Godzilla’s been around for decades, and Hollywood really botched their last attempt to bring the big lizard to the screen in Roland Emmerich’s 1998 film. However, director Gareth Edwards has truly channeled the spirit of the original films in this new Hollywood remake of the famous monster, simultaneously giving us some serious, character driven moments as well as the immense fun of watching Godzilla duking it out with some big, dangerous monsters. The science may not be that great, but then who cares? The idea that there are gigantic monsters living at the Earth’s core (which is why we don’t see them) because it’s warm and radioactive is ridiculous, but then so is a giant lizard bigger than the Empire State Building. Smartly written and directed, with great visuals and well executed action sequences, the 2014 version of Godzilla is exactly what you would want from a monster movie.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
The only comic book film to make the list, what makes this new entry in the X-Men series so compelling, apart from its commentary on dealing with difference, is the sheer skill in which director Bryan Singer and his writing team manage to tell such a grand story, with such a huge ensemble cast, and do all of it and every character justice. This film has huge ambitions, and succeeds in achieving them. It relies on the tried and true sci-fi concept of time travel to bring the old and new casts of the X-Men series together, and in doing so broadens the scope of the X-Men universe while still getting across its core messages in relation to tolerance of those who are different. Perhaps what is best about this film is that it ends by completely erasing the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, a feat that no doubt was brought about by the bad taste Brett Ratner’s film must have left in Bryan Singer’s mouth after he left the series originally.
Edge of Tomorrow
Say what you want about Tom Cruise but he knows how to pick a good script and get filmmakers to make great movies out of them. This film is perhaps even better than most in that it takes what could seemingly be a dull concept (Groundhog Day meets Independence Day) and infuses it with witty dialogue and a clever plot, making for fascinating and fun viewing. Some may get a kick out of watching Cruise die so many times, while others will enjoy the “video game” aspect to the film where your character dies and you start the mission all over again. And the science may not be all that great, but it’s good enough to use the repetitive time travel concept to get quite a lot out of its characters and story.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Out of all of the 2014 sci-fi films, the latest entry in the Planet of the Apes franchise is without a doubt the strongest of the lot. Its immediate predecessor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was a fantastic film that put a new twist on the franchise by showing how it all started. This film however, picks up ten years later, with most of the human race extinguished, and the apes living in peace in the woods just outside San Francisco; that is until they come across some humans looking to secure the last source of electricity in a dam where they are living. While this film doesn’t deal with big issues such as slavery and religion in society like the 1968 film did, what it does do in spades is tell a very human and emotional story where there are both good and bad characters among the humans and the apes, making it difficult to take sides. All you feel in the end is the tragedy of how close the humans and the apes come to living peacefully together. This film has some spectacular visual effects too; you struggle to realise that every ape in the film is computer generated given how realistic they look, with Caesar and Koba’s characters being nothing short of incredible.
Another film that I would like to mention here (but not on its own because I haven’t seen it yet) is Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film, Interstellar. Aside from the idea that it deals with humanity’s first trip through a wormhole, not much is known about this film. Suffice to say, I will be going to see it when it comes out for the simple reason that Nolan has an established track record for making excellent films, and the idea of seeing what he does again with the sci-fi genre is too tantalizing to ignore.
And for those of you wondering why I haven’t included “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in this list, then watch this week’s FiST Chat where Steve and I discuss the series in general. In short, I find it hard to figure out why these films are so financially successfully given how poorly they are put together. Maybe action and fighting robots is enough for some? All I know is that the films I’ve highlighted earlier in this post are far more worthy of your time, not only in terms of science-fiction, but in films generally.
It’s been a good year for science-fiction in 2014. There’s still more to come and I’m looking forward to what’s coming up.
Watch FiST Chat 173: Sci-Fi Films of 2014 for more on this topic.