2013 was a great year for science-fiction films. We had superheroes (Thor: The Dark World, Man of Steel, Iron Man 3), the end of the world (The World’s End, This is the End), aliens (Riddick, Dark Skies, The Host), dystopias (Oblivion, Elysium, Ender’s Game, Pacific Rim), space exploration (Europa Report, Gravity), and another Star Trek film. This year’s crop of upcoming sci-fi films are full to the brim with goodies, including the return of some old friends and plenty of mind-blowing scenarios coming from some of the best minds the genre has to offer.
After the complete disaster that was Roland Emerich’s Godzilla of 1998, the Big G swam back to his native Japan; his pride shot and his confidence almost nonexistent. After starring in numerous Toho-produced entries in his regular series (most of them better than decent), Godzilla decided to give America one more chance to get his story right. After years of development hell and backroom dealings, in stepped director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) and screenwriter Max Borenstein, who presented a dark and disturbing tale harkening back to the dread of the original Gojira (1954). Headed by an all-star cast of Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, not much is known about the actual plot (or even what this incarnation of Godzilla looks like) besides from the cryptic synopsis given on the film’s official website, which states, “This spectacular adventure pits the world’s most famous monster against malevolent creatures who, bolstered by humanity’s scientific arrogance, threaten our very existence.” So does that mean Godzilla won’t be the only monster vying for screen time? If the answer is yes, maybe the exciting creature feature we were promised 15 years ago will finally be delivered.
Edge of Tomorrow:
Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but the man knows how to pick his projects. Based on the cult classic novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Cruise stars alongside Emily Blunt as a couple of soldiers in the near future, fighting an indestructible alien armada known as the “Mimics” that have invaded Earth. Cruise’s character, Lt. Bill Cage, is an inexperienced soldier who is dropped into battle only to die within minutes. He soon finds that he has been sent into a time-loop where he returns to be killed again and again unless he can break the chain and change his future. Directed by Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity).
After the visually brilliant yet thematically hollow Cloud Atlas, the Wachowski siblings are at it again in this mind-bending space opera starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, and Eddie Redmayne. In the film, Tatum (who sports a fuzzy goatee) plays an interplanetary warrior, Caine, who has been sent through the galaxy to kill Jupiter Jones (Kunis), a lowly and unremarkable Russian toilet cleaner. Unbeknownst to Jupiter, she carries immense power that was bestowed upon her when the stars aligned on the night she was born. Thus, her DNA is imprinted with the genetic blueprint to have her become the Queen of the Galaxy. The rest of the plot and much of the cast members’ roles are yet to be revealed. Man, Hollywood is so secretive these days!
Another movie based on a YA novel, except this one is a Newbery Award-winning classic penned by Lois Lowry that has enraptured the minds of tweens for over 20 years. Set in the distant future, where everyone lives in harmony and pain and suffering are things of the past, the film follows young Jonas (newcomer Brenton Thwaites), who is sent to learn about the “real world” (the world of pain and sorrow and hate) from the titular Giver (Jeff Bridges). When Jonas learns that this utopia is a sham, he has to decide between a life in a beautiful lie or an escape into harsh reality. Also starring Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Taylor Swift and Alexander Skarsgard.
Possibly the most controversial of the list, this reboot of the 1987 Paul Verhoven classic eschews the hard R rating of its gore soaked predecessor and instead settles on more mainstream PG-13. Staying mostly true to the original, this Robocop follows Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), a decent and family-centered Detroit cop who is critically wounded during an investigation. OmniCorp, a profit-driven conglomerate that has put robotics on the map, then turns Murphy into a human/machine hybrid in an attempt to test out their new line of police robots. While OmniCorp has dollar signs on their minds, Murphy decides to take justice to a whole new level. Jackie Earl Haley, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish, and Michael Keaton as the greedy head of OmniCorp round out the A-list cast in this Jose Padilla-directed remake. If nothing else, maybe this version will get audiences talking more about the role machines play in society and how far corporations will go to make a buck.
Not much is known of the plot to this Christopher Nolan-directed thriller. All that has been revealed is that it involves wormholes, alternate dimensions, time travel, and a team of scientists sent into space to do some sciency stuff. Suffice it to say, Nolan’s involvement is incentive enough to get movie lovers’ mouths watering. Also, as is typical to a Nolan production, a great ensemble cast has been formed featuring the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow and Anne Hathaway.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:
After the surprise success of 2012’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a sequel was inevitable. Set 8 years after Rise, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his liberated simian pals have made the Muir Woods in San Francisco their home. Unlike the human population, which was decimated after the spread of a deadly disease in the last film, the evolved apes’ numbers have flourished and peace seems to have finally been achieved. Yet when a band of human survivors seek to usurp the apes’ haven, war is declared and things get pretty ugly. With such noted actors as Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, and Jason Clarke (Lawless) on the human side and Serkis and Judy Greer (13 Going on 30) leading the apes, Dawn looks to be a worthy addition to the Apes franchise. Besides, how can you go wrong with a title like that?
Honorable Mentions That May Slip Under Your Radar
Under the Skin:
After screening to rave reviews at the 70th Venice International Festival and the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, this Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth)-directed mind-bender is sure to be the word-of-mouth sleeper hit of 2014. Starring the always seductive Scarlett Johansson in what Sci-Fi Now’s Jonathan Hatfull says is “quite possibly her strongest performance to date”, Under the Skin revolves around an alien shape-shifter played by Johansson who drives around the rural back roads of Scotland in a beat up van searching for hapless hitchhikers to prey on.
Johnny Depp has seemed to have transformed into our generation’s Lon Chaney recently, what with his heavily made-up roles in Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows and the numerous entries in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, just to name a few. In this techno thriller directed by longtime Christopher Nolan cinematographer Wally Pfister, Depp appears in yet another guise, that of a famous A.I. researcher, Dr. Will Caster, who is trying to create cognizant machines and computers. After a group of anti-singularity extremists attempt to kill him, he is left crippled and infected with radiation poisoning that is slowly eating away at his body. His team of scientist buddies have no choice but to upload his consciousness into a computer system to save his fragile mind and in doing so grant Dr. Castor the power to bend the world’s technology to his whim. In Hollywood, there is no such thing as a “sane scientist.” Also stars Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Cillian Murphy and Kate Mara.