Continuing on with out month of Sci-Fi, we have a selection of films to recommend. Just in case you’re not digging what’s currently in the cinema or have never been sure about certain films, these Sci-Fi films may be the antidote to an otherwise Sci-Fi free landscape. So dig in, and ask yourself “do you think that’s air you’re breathing?”.
I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but The Matrix Reloaded was actually good. Hear me out on this…
It actually had a good philosophical basis – existentialism/determinism (as opposed to the first film, which was simulacra – or what is reality?). Every part of it was a question of whether we have free will, or are simple puppets playing through a scripted story (I know, I know). Oh, and it also contained a few videogame logic points (I outlined a few of these in a previous piece on Scott Pilgrim Versus The World) – namely henchmen of increasing difficulty and use of keys (hello keymaker). It even explained why a system that is so changeable needed “agents” to begin with – as well as the equivalent of legacy programs. To be fair, I liked the fighting in both this film and the original, but I do think part of the problem was that it wasn’t “revolutionary enough” in terms of special effects (the slowing down of time and the camera moving around the subject). Maybe people didn’t like the pacing of it – it does seem that much more happens in this one compared to the original.
The problem is that the original Matrix film is so well received by both action aficionados as well as more academic film critics, the sequel pretty much had to be hated – because it was a sequel (something looked down upon by quite a lot of people).
I did also appreciate Enter The Matrix, which is set (and was released) at the same time.
The real doozy was The Matrix Revolutions, but since most people pair them together – mostly because Revolutions is set straight after Reloaded, and the departure kinda made less sense in every way.
But overall, I just don’t get why this one gets so panned. Yes, it’s a sequel. Yes, there’s still plenty of action to keep people entertained and yes it does have a dud sequel, but Reloaded I feel was a worthy successor.
Sci-fi films, boy this was a tough call this time. There’s been so many greats so I looked back and decided on one, which I grew up with. A film that always puts a smile on my face when I re-watch. Who can forget the first time they watched Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I’ve always been drawn in by the story, the mining facility on Mars. Arnie’s character having his mind wiped and being married to Sharon Stone. Caught in a dead end job, wanting to experience something new – with implanted memories. A process that manages to wrong, making him a target by the Mars administration. It has everything you could possibly want, plus some classic nineties cheese. It’s a popcorn munching, good old action movie with tons of fights and classic cheesy acting!
When I posted that I was rewatching Event Horizon for this month’s film pick, Nicholas helpfully described the film as, “Hellraiser in space,” and while I have fallen asleep each time I’ve tried to properly watch that film, he’s not half wrong. A sci-fi horror set in 2047 , starring the likes of Sam Neill and Laurence Fishburne, Event Horizon follows a spaceship crew as they set off on a secret mission to recover the ship and/or crew of the Event Horizon, which disappeared seven years earlier. So far, so normal for SF.
Thing is, this film pretty much is Hellraiser in space and seems to get more disgusting each time I watch it. And the technology and concepts discussed become more fascinating each time I watch it too. The first part of the film, while somewhat foreboding – Dr Weir’s use of an old fashioned razor while in low Earth orbit and haunted voices, disconnected nightmares – there’s this whole build-up with the technology that Weir created. The “gravity core”, when we finally see it, is this amazing, intricate contraption, the opposite in appearance to the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but equally as awe inspiring and fascinating.
Once all hell breaks loose, the techno-porn that is the surroundings of the Event Horizon is contrasted well with the grimness of the events happening on screen. And the terror of the film’s characters is well played. It’s some gruesome, predictable sci-fi horror that trumps the likes of Jason X by a mile and is definitely better than some of the Starship Troopers sequels.
It’s just a shame that the original version of what Paul W.S. Anderson created, while rediscovered in 2012, has yet to be released, because that’s half-an-hour longer and even more disgusting.
There are two things that Tom Cruise seems to do very well. One is run away from stuff, and the other is star in sci-fi movies. He’s at his best when he combines these two skills though, which is one of the reasons why Minority Report (which even has the tagline “Everybody runs”) is not only one of the best sci-fi films he’s stared in, it’s also just one of the best films he’s stared in.
Based, like all good science fiction movies are, on a short story by Philip K. Dick, Minority Report tells the story of John Anderton, chief of the Precrime Police Department, who, thanks to the vision-seeing Precogs, specialise in stopping murders before they are committed. But then Anderton appears in a vision, murdering a man he’s never met, and that’s when the running starts.
Part murder mystery, part character study, part film noir, part conspiracy thriller, and all science fiction, Minority Report is a dark, sprawling, often blackly funny epic of a movie that never once lets up its relentless pace and keeps the audience guessing right up until the end. It’s one of Spielberg’s best films, and it’s one of Tom Cruise’s finest performances.
Minority Report is also noteworthy for often being considered to be the most realistic and accurate sci-fi film ever made. A lot of the technology shown in the film was actually in development at the time it was being made (like the personalised retina-scanning adverts and the glove controlled multi-touch interface), and a lot of others have going into production after the film came out (like the electronic paper and, more frighteningly, the robo-spiders), so Minority Report is one of those rare science fiction films that actually got it (kind of) right, and that makes it pretty darn special.
Aliens are attacking earth. William Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself training to fight them in London with the United Defence Forces. The intelligent aliens have anticipated the attack. This is Edge of Tomorrow.
Even though Cage is not the most capable soldier he somehow manages to kill a big, bluish type of alien, which he later finds out is actually an alpha of the species. There’s a hitch, though – as he dies, he finds himself waking up in London, back where he started.
It turns out that killing the alien alpha meant that he his plunged him back in time as a kind of defence mechanism to avoid their destruction. He wakes up and unsuccessfully tries to convince his unit that the aliens know of the attack, and goes through the process over and over again, on a constant loop.
After countless attacks and ‘re-spawns’, he finds Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and potentially the ability to stop the looping, even though he has to remind her who he is every time he wakes up.
A fun action films with cool armour sets, aliens and a wonderful character development.
This was a difficult one to pick. I jumped around for a while, from Moon to Gravity to Primer, unable to choose. But there was one image I couldn’t get out of my head – an icy speck, drifting gently through darkness, suddenly vanishing in a tiny flame. It’s one of my favourite shots in any movie ever.
The film is Danny Boyle‘s Sunshine, and the speck is a corpse, frozen to death and vaporised by the sun. That should tell you everything you need to know about this film. It’s beautiful and it’s horrible, somehow channelling both Alien and 2001.
The setup is simple – the sun is dying, and a team of scientists are flying up to reignite it with a really big bomb. What starts out as a professional and well-oiled mission quickly goes wrong, as the heat and the pressure take their toll on the ship, the crew, and maybe even their sanity.
It’s a gripping thriller, in other words, but it’s no dumb action flick. Sunshine is everything sci-fi should be – it’s allegorical, it’s philosophical, it’s cynical but ultimately hopeful, and, above all, it focuses on the science in its fiction. The writers (aided by a pre-megafame Professor Brian Cox) have carefully thought out every aspect of this mission and the dangers it would face. Even that bit with the pretty corpse is science-based!
Sunshine is a gorgeous film but, more than that, it’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking film. It blends science and story to create something wonderful. Maybe next time don’t call your ship Icarus, though.