Summer 2008 was a banner time for science fiction on the big screen, even if you don’t consider The Dark Knight to be SF. 2009 has a slew of interesting looking SF movies scheduled to release, I’m going to take a look at those that have caught my interest. Hold on, ’cause there are a bunch of them.
Synopsis: Seriously, you need a synopsis? Ok then: Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the “Doomsday Clock” – which charts the USA’s tension with the Soviet Union – is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues is murdered, the washed-up but no less determined masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes.
Why It’s Interesting: I have yet to read the graphic novel, but I’ve heard an incredible amount of good things about it. Even John liked it. Even so, the trailers I’ve seen just look incredible and the promise of the story makes this a ‘must see’. The only issue is can Snyder adapt the novel for the big screen? Will it live up to the hype? My feeling is that this will be huge opening day, with all the fans attending. Follow on success will depend heavily on how good the story is and word of mouth to pull in the non-fans. We’ll find out soon.
Synopsis: Seriously, for this one too? Sheesh: Wunderkind J.J. Abrams has taken one of the most beloved SF series of all time and is rebooting it for a new generation, complete with big budget SFX and a young, hip crew.
Why It’s Interesting: Because it’s Star Trek, that’s why. Also, because Abrams has a knack for making interesting things (Alias, LOST) and a lot of people like what he does. For those reasons, I can see Star Trek having the biggest opening weekend and overall haul of all the SF movies. I’m kind of undecided. I like Star Trek, though not as much as I once did, and the trailer didn’t generate a lot of interest for me. I do like the look of the new interiors and the action sequences look fantastic, but Trek isn’t about explosions and action, it’s about story and character. If Abrams can pull that off, he may singlehandedly saved the franchise. Oh who am I kidding? I’ll be there in the theaters to see this, in IMAX, even though it wasn’t shot on IMAX cameras but post-processed into IMAX. Must see for me.
District 9 (08/14/09)
Synopsis: Good luck! This movie is under very heavy cloaks of secrecy and very few people know what it really is about, and those who do aren’t talking. The bastages.
Why It’s Interesting: One of the more interesting rumors says that District 9 may be a cover for a Halo movie, based on the wildly popular video game (which has made more in its life span than this movie will). Another rumor says District 9 is based on the short film Alive in Joburg, which is why I’ve linked the short above. Either way works for me, but I’ll reserve the ‘must see’ judgment till I know what it’s really about. Till then you can amuse yourself with the viral marketing campaign for the movie.
Synopsis: A pair of crew members who awaken aboard their spacecraft unaware of their mission or identities and then make a discovery that threatens the survival of mankind.
Why It’s Interesting: An honest to goodness SF movie, with a mystery to boot. Sure, the missing memory stuff is cliche, but movies with spaceships appeal to me (I loves me some hardware). The other intriguing item is the ‘discovery’. Is it a Big Dumb Object? An alien? What?! Admittedly, the lack of info may be generating interest that might not otherwise be there if more were know. I’ll be watching for more about this one before I make a decision. But can I say that I like Dennis Quaid as an actor (and not just because he is a native Houstonian)…
Synopsis: In the year 2054, people are using surrogates (remote-controlled artificial bodies) to interact with each other. But someone is determined to return people to their old lives instead of living through proxies. Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through robots, a cop (Willis) is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate the murders of others’ surrogates.
Why It’s Interesting: Let’s get this our of the way first: Bruce Willis. The best thing about Armageddon? Bruce Willis. Add Bruce to a story with severe SF concepts and a potentially intriguing story line about what is/is not a ‘human’, and you’ve got yourself a movie. The big warning flag here is the writers/director have brought us such gems as Them, Primeval (not the British TV show) and Catwoman. Still, anything with Willis is watchable. But will it be watchable in the theater or at home?
Synopsis: A group of sapient rag dolls, living a post-apocalyptic existence find one of their own, 9 (Elijah Wood), who displays leadership qualities that may help them to survive.
Why It’s Interesting: We’ve mentioned 9 before, and nothing has changed my mind since then. Who doesn’t want to see sapient rag dolls in a post-apocalyptic world that looks like something straight out of Tim Burton’s head? No one! Big screen? You bet!
Synopsis: In this alternate history the corrupt US President Ferris F Fremont (FFF for 666, Number of the Beast) becomes chief executive in sixties. The character is best described as an amalgam of Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, who abrogates civil liberties and human rights through positing a conspiracy theory centered around a fictitious subversive organization known as “Aramchek”. In addition to this, he is associated with a right-wing populist movement called “Friends of the American People” (Fappers).
Ironically enough, the President’s paranoia and opportunism lead to the establishment of a real resistance movement to him, which is organized, through eponymous radio broadcasts from a mysterious alien satellite, by a super intelligent, extraterrestrial, omnipotent being (or network) named VALIS.
Why It’s Interesting: Because it’s a PKD novel, it hasn’t been done before and the story is not as ‘accessible’ as some of his other work. I’m very interested to see how this book is adapted for the big screen. Will it be good (Minority Report, Blade Runner) or bad (Paycheck, Imposter)? Can Alanis Morissette act? I’m guessing Dick’s usual trippiness will not appeal to a lot of people outside of his fans. However, this is screenwriter John Simon’s first screenplay, and what a screenplay to tackle. He’s also written one for PKD’s story, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said so maybe, maybe he knows what he is doing. Being an indie film production also gives hope.
Synopsis: Franklyn is set between the parallel worlds of contemporary London and the futuristic metropolis of Meanwhile City, and weaves a tale of four souls, whose lives are intertwined by fate, romance and tragedy. As these worlds collide, a single bullet determines the destiny of these four characters.
Why It’s Interesting: The first thing that grabs my attention is the V for Vendetta crossed with Rorshach from Watchmen vibe of the main character. The second thing is the future Meanwhile City looks incredible, as if Blade Runner had been mixed with a Victorean era aesthetic. This movie just plain looks cool. Add in intertwining current day/future storylines and it could be very interesting.
Synopsis: In the not too distant future, Kabel (Gerard Butler), a death row inmate, has unwittingly become a pop culture hero. Every week, millions worldwide tune in online to watch him and hundreds of other convicts battle in Slayers, an ultra-violent multi-player online game invented by technological genius Ken Castle (Michael C. Hall). To the wealthy young gamer who controls his every move, Kable is just a sim character. To the resistance group that opposes Castle’s games as high-tech slavery, he is a critical element in their battle to take down the inventor. Caught in the crosshairs of two opposing forces and under the command of a teenager’s remote device, Kable must use his extraordinary fighting skills to escape the game, bring down Castle and overthrow the system.
Why It’s Interesting: Sure, on the surface it seems like a rip-off of Deathrace (the new one wasn’t too bad, actually). But anything that combines MMOs, bread and circuses and @$$ kicking sounds like a winner. Sure it’ll probably suck, but the MMO aspect sounds cool to me.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of SF movies debuting in 2009, it’s just a list of those that appeal to me in one way or another. For more movies, Icon Critic’s Top 9 Unknown Sci-Fi Films for 2009 was a source for this post.
What movies are you looking forward to this year?