The “Top Five” Scifi Movies to Look Forward to this 2015

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This Collider article opens with talk of a new generation of Star Wars movies being different. Fans should be so blessed, I think instinctually, to get any more of the franchise in its primary format, natural habitat, however you’ll have it (enthusiastically most likely, neeeerd), but then I remember what I read on Wikipedia earlier, that the original teaser scored higher on YouTube than the Avengers sequel’s trailer. Star Wars is gonna be the biggest movie ever, provided it’s good and can carry past the ol’ $400 million guarantee.

I mean, they’re already working on the sequel(s), because the way we do blockbuster genre film these days is based on a model, as Andrew and I rapped about on Episode 50. So the question isn’t about generation, but generations. So imagine the future history of Earth, with its endless series of Star Wars movies, rolling on and on, defining in an even more fundamental way how we enjoy scifi.

Nothing wrong with that, and in fact it’s a fascinating case study in how our culture operates. Star Wars, like Indiana Jones after it, was designed as a throwback to the serials of the 30s and 40s. But instead of the Earth enjoying a new version, a reinvention, we get this strange situation where we continue this throwback, and it essentially supplants the original.

Is this just a movies thing, or is it more about the way we take old things and refine them? I think it’s well beyond the hackneyed conceit that all stories are the same (if we’ll excuse Star Wars being the most famous example of Campbell’s monomyth), and more about how a pastiche accurately reflects the development of these stories.

So what about the movie itself?

There are a few things that really grabbed me about it, and a few things I actually want to see out of a Star Wars movie.

Sweet Villain

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Whether Boba Fett or General Grievous, Star Wars has a tradition of having really awesome-looking bad guys falling anticlimactically to regular-ass dudes in robes. The art style, being this kinda identity-crisis pastiche caught between retro and the more futuristic sensibilities of space stuff, has kinda passed me by, even as scifi-fantasy grows increasingly more palatable to me in my twilight years.

But bad guys they’ve always done cool. Even the ‘troopers, whether storm or clone. Strangely, their robot army was usually always lame, but there’s so many bad guys, we can let it slide. Like all people who watch Star Wars have done. Let things slide.

Ultimately, a sweet villain (sweet looking villain, of course) speaks to art design. Masks are cool. And Boba Fett defined what a ‘space bounty hunter’ looked like forever, even bearing mention in art direction all the way up to 2015 with Titanfall’s pilots. Scifi has been looking pretty bland at the movies, so maybe this will rekickstart our interest there…

Emotion?

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The main character (?) is played by a fellow named John Boyega, reprising his role from 24: Live Another Day as ‘constantly shocked guy.’ But the shots of him and of Han Solo at the end indicate that Abrams will do for the often robotic Star Wars what he did for the always robotic Star Trek.

Female Badass

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This one actually passed me by in watching the trailer, because I really don’t know who the lead characters are. The very first trailer, which was so bare bones, featured a little rolly-polly droid, a Sithman from behind, and Mr. Johnny over here who — is black.

You can’t blame me for not selecting a lead hero among them.

This is also a movie with appearances by the original cast, which is great because I think for all the flack that Hamill got for his original performances, he’s grown a steady following over the years with the Joker, and the incursion of Hayden Christensen, who’s to the day, still persona non grata among fans.

So I’m completely confused, but Boyega has top billing (for now). And the actress who plays the girl (I can say ‘girl’ because this person is one year older than me — freaky) is second. She’s featured prominently in the trailer, doing all kinds of actiony things.

I mean, that’s an element that Star Wars has always been missing, it’s never really had a strong female character, I say with pointed malice in my keystrokes, but this is also what scifi has always been missing.

Black guy lead, female badass. It’s a new day for Star Wars, but I’ve never really liked Star Wars. Let’s just say then, it’s a new day for science-fiction.

4. Jurassic World

“So ya went and made a new dino. Probably not a good idea.”

Okay, dick. Have you any idea how much money, research, effort, talent, and passion goes into an undertaking like that? It’s not for your singular, squinty-eyed rejection, you square-jaw.

Seriously though, this trailer is all breedsa lame. Even normal people be laughing at it in the movie theatres. I’ve already talked about why this movie is exciting, which is basically just ‘dinosaurs,’ the last time being now ten years ago with King Kong, and I don’t think there’s much more.

I don’t expect to like the movie or ‘think it’s good,’ but I’ll enjoy every second of it. I mean… walking out of Prometheus, I was bewildered and reeling, but I still enjoyed it. Give me a beloved mise-en-scen, and you’ll have to screw up harder than Prometheus to wring a frown out of me. Me and my smiles.

It’s weird, because I do hope that they do all the things I hope they do, because there’s a lot of potential there. But I honestly have no hopes for this movie or series. Just give me two hours of dinosaurs, any which way. It being good or bad as a film are the same outcome, so it’s all profit. #1 on this list is something of a gamble — either it’ll be suffocatingly boring like all his movies are, or a tremendous scifi explosion right through my eyes and out the back of my head, like all his movies are.

So World is ultimately, the safest pick.

rawr

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

Of the three Mad Max movies, one is a true classic, one is a funny but slim Aussie exploitation, and one is just kinda lame… Terminator is a franchise frustratingly close to my heart, but Mad Max? I think the only reason I was ever interested in Fury Road was a deep burning to represent when last, action movies were good — the 80s. And who knows, if this one’s good, maybe they’ll do an update on Escape from New — oh, wait they already made Doomsday and it was incredible. Take notice.

I mean, it was certainly interesting that the original director was coming back, this man with the dancing penguins and directing Beyond Thunderdome after being cockblocked out of Contact, but I don’t know. You’re not gonna top The Road Warrior, and even if you do, who cares?

And then I saw the trailer on the IMAX screen.

But before our #1, let’s have a DISHONORABLE mention to round out this Top 5. Because that’s how these things work. Chrologically.

2?. Terminator: Genisys

I know — we get it. This movie looks like a pile of garbage and a half. It’s directed by a poor SOB named Alan Taylor, who’s done great work on Mad Men, the most literary and superb thing on TV. He once talked with Matthew Weiner about being influenced by Wong Kar Wai and all this, but now… Terminator 5? Terminator Generation Y?

What happened to Wong Kar Wai? What happened to Mad Men?

Talk about a left-turn, but that’s nothing compared to the left-turn of the franchise itself, going so left it’s poking out the right. It’s another one of these fangled reboots, in the mold of Trek ‘09, which was deemed ‘acceptable’ at the time, but probably because it was a great film, and fans were able to momentarily look past the fact that acknowledging canon within a reboot is so much worse than ignoring it — we’re actively erasing it!

Not that I care about the Terminator mythos — there’s a story that should’ve ended after the very first film, it’s just that the sequel intelligently continued it and became the greatest action movie ever made. So that’s the thing, right? We don’t want to say ‘no’ automatically to the continuation of existing properties just because there’s lotsa bad precedent, and because we’d prefer original things — a lot of good has come from this brand of commercialization.

My issue is more with the backpedaling. Terminator 3 just did Terminator 2 again, but without anything that made Judgment Day the greatest action movie ever made. Rise of the Machines’s biggest sin wasn’t the jokiness, or the attempted replacement of the series’ lead, but its setting. What the H is so special about the year 2003?

Terminator Salvation is a solid movie but what it did so right was actually take place in the future. I know that the glimpses of the war in the first two movies weren’t ‘teasers,’ but how am I supposed to come away with any other conclusion? Be happy with what you have, youngin. I know, and I am — really. But man…

A silly title like Ghost Recon: Future Soldier sets my teeth on edge. People bouncing their jowals ‘bout hah space marines are all the same (which they never are anyway). Military science-fiction is my favorite genre that never was, because no matter how populous, it’s never quite perfect. It’s missing some hook, that as much as I love the idea behind it, it’s never realized. I love space marines, I love future soldiers. But I know that their output has been limited in many regards. I want to defend it, but cannot.

MF, I just want to see some fucking soldiers in the future, shooting some big robots. Salvation was our first step, and now we’re going back. How far we going back? Way back. (We’re also getting an NWA movie, which is of note)

So the new movie has Byung-hun Lee. I can almost guarantee he’ll say nothing. Loken didn’t really say anything, but Robert Patrick did. His kind of silence was chilling because he was like two degrees off of friendly, going for it but missing the mark. Actual silence is uninteresting, and although our buddy Byung speaks more English than I do Korean, he’s another one of these yella fellas with a funny accent.

Kudos for the casting, but I wonder if he’ll make any impact. Sure hope so.

I also hope the movie’s good, and the only indications it won’t be have been superficial and conceptually. Would I like a Terminator movie set in the future? I’d love that. But I’d prefer something without the baggage of a preexisting series, because then we don’t end up with Terminator 3: 2, which is like the dragon slayed, now back as a ghost dragon for nefarious misdeeds and reckonings. Blerg

I won’t direct you to the T:GEN traily, but I will provide you with this instead, a video I’ve seen several times now and doesn’t get old. The picture’s funny, the song is funny. The whole thing just underscores how puerile it is… I never want to hear this song for real, because it’s just perfect like this.

1. Garm Wars: The Last Druid

A lot of people have already seen this movie. Some critics, back in September, which was when my senior year of college began. And a lot of those critics were mixed on it. For an assessment I trust, I turn to Brian Ruh, author of Stray Dog of Anime, though he hasn’t published anything officially, but was positive on Twitter.

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And it’s a strange situation because he’d been in somewhat frequent contact with the film’s star, Melanie St-Pierre, so I dreaded a negative reaction from him for my own purposes, but also because it would be sad and awkward if they then ‘split.’ St-Pierre is very friendly — she was generous enough to follow me on Twitter after I aired whatever hysterics about the movie, and she’s really funny. I look at her tweets and I’m like I wanna favorite all of these, but… I can’t do that.

My biggest Twitter regret is using that follow button as a kind of endorsement, like “of course I like Jason Bateman, Michelle Rodriguez, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, why wouldn’t I follow them?” Well, maybe because they don’t always work on things pertinent to my interests, or can even talk about the things they are working on, or are so high up in the clouds they’ll never say anything particularly human.

And it’s not like I can unfollow them, because that’d just be wrong.

All this to say that I’m pretty excited to see Melanie St-Pierre in her major debut, not only because she’s one in a short-haired tradition within Oshii movies (just visually, we can draw a line between the Major, Ash, and now Khara), which is a character I’m pretty fond of after so many classics, but also because she seems like a cool person. She doesn’t have to favorite some random tweet I make, she’s not getting anything out of that. I think she might just do it because it is her favorite.

The various directors listed above, I could take or leave ’em for the most part. But Oshii is in the top three for me, along with James Cameron and David Cronenberg. He not only makes great films, he’s an intensely fascinating person. The philosophical loner. Hates military, loves dogs.

I’ve probably only seen like 0.3% of his movies (he’s quite prolific, and I only actually got The Sky Crawlers in the mail last week), but at the very least he’s directed Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which, of every movie ever made, is the closest to what I aspire to create. It’s an amazingly constructed work of scifi, and I’ll tell you about it one day rather than recommend you listen to my episode on it, which was pretty good actually, but wracked by terrible audio.

To look at Garm Wars, it’s a pretty close approximation of what I want to see from Terminator, and indeed media itself. Some futuristic warfare with an amazing art design. And God do I love that Japanese CG. It’s so weird!

Yep. This one’s got all the ingredients, and it’s killing me. Just happen — just appear! Now! … Now!

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God, you’re so coool

Non-Dishonorable Mentions
Maps to the Stars: What’s it about? Will it be better than his last two movies? These are the things I needle to know.
Now!
Rambo: Blade Runner Part II: Yes, the Bald Runner sequel. I was supes into it, Blade Runner is good. But Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. What happened to the female lead? Remember Star Wars 7? How about Molly Millions? Or the Major? Cyberpunk has always been accommodating to kickass women… Blade Runner being a notable exception.
Ghost in the Shell: Please let this not be something totally generic. And don’t do the damn Puppeteer storyline, goddamn it, please! Look at me — look at me, I’m begging you. Get this one right. Holy cow.
Harbinger Down: AKA Salt, the movie. I liked The Thing (2011), but I’m not opposed to another creature feature. Look, I don’t give the first rat’s ass how the monster is delivered. Not the first in a line. Just make sure our resident evil looks cool. Oh! It’s all fake and CG. Looka dat. I thought for a second this human torso mutated into a scorpion with two heads was real and coming to get me. WHATEVER BROSEPH
The Matrix Beyond: Just have Keanu in a movie. Make 47 Ronin 2, I don’t care, I’m crazy.

Now!

Now for television, real quick uhhh the end of Mad Men, I wanna see American Odyssey, Grace Helbig Show, she’s pretty funny, Orphan Black 3 ehhh maybe probz not yo, The Americans is that still going?, Revenge is that still going I can’t look it up cuz I’ll get spoilered because it’s just that kinda show like what the F, probably gonna tune into Vikings, get started on that, I’m now just getting over my occasional super-intense but super-brief man I’m gonna watch Game of Thrones I’m in the mood for fantasy for the next five minutes–

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3 thoughts on “The “Top Five” Scifi Movies to Look Forward to this 2015

  1. So, Terminator Genisys. I watched it tonight against my better judgment. I had no interest in seeing it, but the Blu-ray hit $10 on Amazon so I said “fuck it” and threw it in my cart when ordering a bunch of other stuff. If I bought and watched AVP2, I may as well get this one out of the way, right? Rationalizing, I know.

    Skynet is some kind of smartphone app in the movie. For about ten seconds they seem to be using this as a commentary on how people are too connected to their devices these days and can’t seem to live without them, but the screenwriters got sick of thinking, so the idea was dropped pretty quickly.

    Sarah Connor. The screenwriters make her an unlikable idiot, and the actress was hired less for her talent and more for her resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence, her large breasts (which she squeezes together in multiple scenes while the camera looks down her shirt), and the fact that she’s on some TV show that’s really popular right now. Worst part of the movie. Megan Fox would be an improvement.

    Lee Byung-hun. I’m glad that big summer movies these days feel obligated to suck up to the Chinese market by hiring East Asian actors, because he was terrific in his three minutes of screen time. He actually came across as threatening, unlike the Nanoterminator, who wasn’t half as cool and ominous as Gort in the Day the Earth Stood Still remake. Imagine the possibilities of a nanomachine terminator. The screenwriters avoid all of them.

    Boom, biff, pow. Explosions. Lame jokes. Nostalgia. Hey everyone, remember that scene in T1? Remember that other one in T2? Here they are again, directed by incompetents. T2 may have been a rehash of T1, but it had a director who knew what he was doing, and it had heart. Genisys is soulless product, rolled off the assembly line. The franchise has become Skynet.

    They should let Paul W. S. Anderson have a crack at one of these movies. If they’re gonna insist on cranking out pointless trash, they may as well hire someone who can make pointless trash fun. Resident Evil: Retribution looks like Die Hard compared to Genisys. So does Terminator Salvation, but I don’t think they’ll hire McG again since they probably think he’s the reason it failed.

    I’m trying to think of nice things to say. J. K. Simmons is good. Jai Courtney’s American accent is better than Sam Worthington’s. The movie isn’t as embarrassingly bad as T3.

    The good news is that the other movies I bought were Shakespeare adaptations: Coriolanus, Cymbeline, The Tempest. So, hopefully, the drama gods will forgive me the sin of spending money on Genisys, and thus having directly contributed in some small way to Terminator 6 if they ever make it.

    Oh, and Fury Road? Would have been better if Tom Hardy hadn’t played Max as a prick who speaks in grunts. They should have gone full reboot and had Nick Hoult as a young Max. Other than that, though, not much to complain about. I’m glad that it made internet geeks go crazy over a movie that actually deserves it for once.

    1. I knew Byung Hun would only be there for a second or two. I’d almost say he should F back to Korea, but they’re now coming out of their cinematic Renaissance — Secret Sunshine was one too many, and Snowpiercer was terrible

      Yeah, the Sarah Connor actress — felt like she somewhat resembled what a young, sexy Linda Hamilton may have looked like (sans the 80s hair), at least more than Christian Bale looked like John Connor. Or the new guy, from Zero Dark Thirty

      I keep telling myself I’ll eventually see this movie… but what good would it do me?

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