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Iron Sky

Iron Sky

Go back to where you came from, space Nazis

dir: Timo Vuorensola

What the hell was all that about?

At first I was disappointed because I thought it was going to be a biography about actress Ione Skye, the 80s / 90s It Girl, daughter of folk singer Donovan, former wife of Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz, current wife of irritating Australian singer Ben Lee (!), star of such beloved classics as Say Anything and Gas Food Lodging, and mother to several hundred children. Surely that’s more important than Space Nazis?

But there is absolutely nothing about Ione Skye in Iron Sky. Iron Sky might have benefitted a little by including something about her, since it contained almost everything else in the known universe in its running time. Nothing about wavy-haired ingénues from another time, though, sad to say.

Instead it has a premise that’s pretty much the beginning and the end of the entire thinking behind the entire film that employed hundreds of people for several months: Nazis on the Moon. What else do you need when you’ve got such a ‘killer’ idea?

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Something's missing. Needs more... fire, that's it

dir: Gary Ross

For readers of the book the only question is whether Jennifer Lawrence is a credible Katniss Everdeen. For people who haven’t read the books, it would surprise me if they care at all, and surprises me even more that they went in such droves to watch this film, which they have. It’s the biggest film of the year, thus far, which is pretty surprising in itself, and also gratifying.

In my mind at least, the success of The Hunger Games trilogy has always been a statement of quality against that other titan of the teen – young adult genre, being the Twilight series of abominations. Katniss is the anti-Bella Swan, in that she’s a decent and enjoyable female character to follow, who has agency and makes tough decisions concerning her fate and the fates of others. In contrast, Bella is a blank who has two hot supernatural boys fight over her.

There’s no need to fight over her, boys, she’s definitely not worth it.

But Katniss, Katniss Everdeen… It was like Suzanne Collins was saying ‘this kinda thing can be done right’. And so even if the story comes across as a melange of Battle Royale, Running Man, Predator, Nineteen-Eighty-Four and every reality television cliche of the last ten years, it's still the product of a worthy endeavour.

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John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars

Yeah, how and why did this movie fail again? It should have
been bigger than Titanic based on this image, which should
be spraypainted on the side of a panel van near you if there
is any justice in this universe, and we know there isn't.

dir: Andrew Stanton

‘Old-school science fiction’ is one of those phrases that seems like it’s too oxymoronic to be allowable to be used in common parlance and polite company. Even if it’s meaningless semantically, I’m still going to use it because I think it’s totally applicable. And what do I mean by such a phrase?

Tarzan in space.

Maybe Flash Gordon is a better example of where it’s coming from. At the very least, it’s not robots and star ships and ethical dilemmas about helping lichens on distant planetoids.

It’s just about a guy, called Herman Merman, no, sorry, he’s called John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), and he was on the losing side of the Civil War. The American one, not the one in England, or Liberia. In the pursuit of a cave full of gold, he mysteriously appears somewhere else. Somewhere very much else.

Without him knowing it, he’s turned up on Mars, which the locals call Barsoom. And on Barsoom, there are really tall green four-armed Martians, some other reddish looking ‘white’ human types, and some shapeshifting shitstirrers, who look like whoever they want. It’s too difficult to unpack the racial implications of much of this stuff, so it’s easier to just drop it on the ground, and back away quietly.

At the very least it’s not as obviously retrograde as that other paragon of science fiction, being Dances with Avatars.

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Real Steel

Real Steel

Look at me, robot, look at me. My ears are up here, you pig

dir: Shawn Levy

It’s Robot Rocky. Anyone telling you anything different is a liar, and you can call them a liar to their face. Tell ‘em I said it was okay.

This might have shiny robots in it, or at least CGI approximations thereof, but in all honesty this entire flick is constructed as if by robots in a factory, except instead of using metal alloys and circuits, they’re using clichés so old Sylvester Stallone is tempted to run up and rub human growth hormone all over them because they’re so aged and creaky.

Into this technological whorehouse of gimcrackery they insert the compelling and obnoxious presence of Hugh Jackman playing a former boxer who ekes out a living having his robot beat up cows at county fairs.

I’m not making this up. In the first few minutes of this illustrious flick, Charlie is rudely awakened by children, finishes off a beer, then comes off worse during an argument with them. It doesn’t bode well for his skills as a smooth operator.

A former opponent in the ring (Kevin Durand), with a pretty poor Texan yeehaw! accent, despite or because of being a Canadian from Thunder Bay, goads Charlie into a bet: Charlie’s robot Ambush versus the shitkicker’s two thousand pound bull.

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In Time

dir: Andrew Niccol
[img_assist|nid=1538|title=We're so serious?|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=634]
Oh, World: Stop foisting Justin Timberlake onto us as a lead actor. I know he doesn’t want to record albums anymore, but really, when he’s talking and moving, he’s not really conveying whatever the hell it is that you think he’s conveying.

He’s certainly not an action hero in the making. Where do you think this is, Taiwan? Only in Taiwan, Seoul and possibly Hong Kong do people make a career as treacly pop singers before they make the jump to action superstardom.

And what a film to try to make him the next Jason Statham, eh? A science fiction flick where Timberlake’s character, who’s from the ghetto, don’t you know, tries to upend an unfair system which keeps most of humanity in virtual slavery to Father Time.

Yeah, I know, it’s just like every single other flick that comes out, with Timekeepers instead of cops, and people literally stealing the life left to people off of each other’s arms instead of having Matrix-y type fights, but these chaps have thrown in a completely new spin on the Bonnie and Clyde set-up, so it must be good.

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Another Earth

Another Earth

We need another earth... this one's nearly done

dir: Mike Cahill

No, it's not a movie version of the soap opera that ran for a thousand years, the only rival for the daytime soap crown against Days of Our Lives. This is Another Earth.

The five people that will see this outside of the film festival circuit and at ‘special’ screenings might argue, if they found themselves at the same coffee shop or crack house, whether this is actually a science fiction flick at all. I’m not sure myself, and I’ve had a few days to think about it.

A teenage girl with the unfortunate name of Rhoda (Brit Marling) gets drunk at a party, and, whilst drink-driving her way home, hears a news story on the radio about the discovery/appearance of a celestial body in the sky that looks a hell of a lot like Earth. She tries to spy this phenomenon in the sky, losing track of the fact that she’s meant to be watching the road.

She plows into a car, killing most of the occupants. It’s a very bad thing she’s done, no-one’s saying any different, you know, so no need to get on your high horse. She is/was a bright girl, planning on becoming an astronomer, astrophysicist or astrologer to celebrities, but now that’s all gone. Once this moment of hideous negligence occurs, that bright future she envisaged disappears in that instant.

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Cowboys and Aliens

Cowboys and Aliens

Go on, say I'm underacting one more time, I double dare you

dir: Jon Favreau

It’s not even Cowboys VERSUS Aliens. It’s Cowboys AND Aliens, as if pitting them against each other in the title would be too aggressive and off-putting to audiences who just want to see them together on the screen at the same time, peacefully co-existing, standing nonchalantly side by side.

Well, they’ll still be disappointed, because the Aliens attack the Cowboys, so all hope of gentle understanding and interspecies acceptance fly right out the fucking window.

However, in the flick’s greatest conceit, rugged outlaws, cattle men, Mexicans and Apaches fight together to conquer the alien menace, which transcends the genre bounds of science fiction and enters into the realms of purest fantasy.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not an example of my natural contrariness when I say that I actually enjoyed this flick. Nor have I suffered a stroke, or a fruity outburst of dementia, nor was I on film-enhancing drugs whilst watching, or receiving passionate head for the duration.

More’s the pity. Still, I somewhat enjoyed this strange flick despite the lack of the aforementioned, or any tangible reason as to why.

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Super 8

Super 8

Yeah, based on this poster, I thought the flick was about haunted oil rigs

dir: J. J. Abrams

Homage to the 70s, homage to old cameras, homage to Steven Spielberg? Do any of these things really need to be honoured and celebrated? The 70s isn’t exactly the forgotten decade, the Super 8 camera is missed by no-one with a half decent mobile, and Steven Spielberg has made more money at the box office than Jesus and is plenty celebrated by Hollywood and all its legions of sycophants.

So what worthy thing is J.J. Abrams really bringing to the table? He’s made a summer blockbuster aping elements of Spielberg’s early blockbusters, except he has access to a whole bunch of CGI and a cast of people pretending to be characters from ET and That 70s Show. And in which gentle world worth living in is any of that necessary or ever desirable?

None. When younger directors honour the most well rewarded and celebrated directors of all time, it’s kind of like having a fund raising pass-the-hat around in honour of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett: like they’ve not had enough payola and praise already over the decades?

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Paul

Paul

Aliens walk among us. And they're very rude

dir: Greg Mottola

This flick is a perfect storm of nerd signposts and signifiers so nerdish in their nerdishness that it’s akin to watching a table full of Comic-Book Guys playing with their Magic the Gathering cards, drinking Pepsi Max straight from the bottle for an hour and a half.

However, before you suspect that I’m going to go for cheap and easy laughs mocking the indefensible, and an easy pop cultural target at that, let me just say that I am a fairly nerdy person myself (as are all people who obsessively watch movies and complain about them on the tubes of the internets, let’s be honest about it), so the question for me is whether Paul is a tolerable movie because of its nerdiness or in spite of it.

Well, the two are inseparable, really. Since its two lead characters are nerds playing nerds (quite deftly, I might add), and it’s a homage to the science fiction flicks of the 1980s (mostly, though Close Encounters was earlier), and one of its main characters is a CGI alien, you can’t really grade it on its Shakespearean qualities or its Byronic pathos.

Clive and Graeme (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) are two British nerds who’ve achieved the dream of a lifetime by travelling to the States and going to the Comic-Con event in San Diego. Some people aim high in their dreams, others aim low, but the important thing is to have a dream, I guess, no matter how achievable.

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Battle Los Angeles

Battle Los Angeles

Big thing probably go boom by movie's end

dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Finally, Shakycam has come of age. It’s been a long, agonising adolescence, but this most painful of weapons in the director’s / cinematographer’s arsenal is now constituting the entire running length of goddamn movies. Even the opening titles get to squiggle and spaz around like a meth addict with no meth, money or people to blow for money.

Eh, it’s not so bad. Depending on the venue, I find that if I sit far enough back from the screen, instead of being actively aggravating, it’s just a mild irritant at worst and a confusing blur at best. Far enough in this context is right up the back against the goddamn wall.

World Invasion: Battle Los Angeles is the full title of the flick, apparently, which seems to imply that if it’s successful enough, an entire series of World Invasion flicks will ensue. World Invasion: Battle Morwell, World Invasion: Battle Ulan Bator and World Invasion: Battle Yackandandah are doubtless on the cards if the right return on investment is achieved. Considering the fact that much of the flick looks like it was filmed on someone’s mobile phone, and that the aliens themselves look like they were created on a Commodore 64 computer, it shouldn’t be too hard for them to break even.

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