Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Reel Facts & Opinions: The Sci-Fi Resurgence

For nearly 100 years, Hollywood has been good for embracing a genre and telling nearly every type of story there is to tell in that style. For decades the Western was the go-to place for fun and adventure, as was the WWII men-on-a-mission flick. In the 1960’s throughout the 1970’s, thanks to the coming of JAMES BOND and public mistrust in government thanks to a very unpopular war, the espionage and conspiracy films were the popular choice. In 1977, a then-unknown director by the name of George Lucas rocketed the sci-fi genre into our culture with his game-changing STAR WARS…which made the old genre from the 1950’s, which was usually packed with cheap-looking aliens and cheaper-looking spaceships, a legit form of cinema.

But STAR WARS was almost too good. Although STAR TREK would eventually find its way from the TV screen to the silver screen a few years later, STAR WARS has had a stranglehold and almost a monopoly on adventures in space. Through the 1970’s and 1980’s, there were several low-budget knockoffs here and there, but none were taken seriously and the genre seemed to be owned by the makers of STAR WARS and TREK. For the last thirty years we’ve seen countless versions of the Western, the spy-film, and war-picture, but no one seemed to be willing to venture out into the cosmos.

All that seems to be changing, as studios have finally awakened from their hyper-sleep and are giving new and original sci-fi films a chance…with this year, and especially this coming Fall, looking very promising; with films such as MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, ARRIVAL, and PASSENGERS earning good buzz among sci-fi fans and Oscar voters.

But this turn towards the cosmos has been a slow and bumpy one, as not just any outer-space bounding sci-fi attempt has been shiny as a star. Marvel Studios got the ball rolling in August of 2014 with their adaptation of their comic book heroes GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, which was less of a superhero film and more of a cosmic adventure which was a hit with audiences both in and out of comic shops. The fall of that year brought us Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR, which starred high-level talent such as Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway…but struggled at the box office and didn’t quite blow critics or fans away.

The bottom was hit in February of 2015 when the Wachowski Siblings arrived with their steaming turd of a movie in the form of JUPITER ASCENDING, which stunk up the atmosphere so badly it could dissolve the sun…and gave critics a good case for avoiding any or all sci-fi at the theatre. And then this year brought us the equally stinky INDEPENDENCE DAY sequel.

But hope was restored when director Jeff Nichols landed with his magnificent MIDNIGHT SPECIAL. Starring the great Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL was a perfect mix of family drama and other-worldly beings, and is easily one of the best films of 2016 (read Reel Speak’s review HERE). The journey continues this Fall and Winter, with Denis Villeneuve’s ARRIVAL in November. Villeneuve, who last directed the great SICARIO in 2015, is telling the story of a team of scientists (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner) investigating an alien landing. And then in December, director Morten Tyldum, who gave us the Oscar-darling THE IMITATION GAME in 2014, travels into the far reaches of space with PASSENGERS, starring Hollywood heartthrobs Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as two space travelers who wake up from suspended animation 90 years too early. And as icing on the cake, the first STAR WARS spinoff film, sub-titled ROGUE ONE, also comes in December.

Considering all of the fine pieces and parts involved in the coming sci-fi films for this year, we could very well be seeing resurgence in the genre. Hollywood has become a monkey-see, monkey-do business (maybe it always has been), in which every studio tries to copy the success of another. If the upcoming slate of space adventures does well with critics, fans, box office, and awards-voters, sci-fi may finally step out of the long shadow of that galaxy from far, far away.


See the trailer for ARRIVAL HERE

See the trailer for PASSENGERS HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.