The year 2013 was one helluva year for the science fiction genre, so it feels weird to look ahead to 2014 and think that it may somehow top it. The next 52 weeks look to bring us a smorgasbord of genre delights, with releases ranging from wacky space operas to serious-minded hard sci-fi seemingly coming every other week. The only thing left to do now is to wait, which means that it's time for our 2014 Science Fiction Movie Preview!
Naturally, the new year will surely bring all kinds of surprises and discoveries, so consider this preview to be a basic outline instead of something truly comprehensive. After all, what's the point of watching movies if we can't fall in love with something completely unexpected and out of the blue?
Movie That Gives Us a Sinking Feeling in the Pit of Our Stomachs: RoboCop
The Last Sci-fi Blog has been on a bit of a roller-coaster with Jose Padilha's upcoming remake of RoboCop. First, it sounded like it could buck the remake trend and be a smart, savvy hard sci-fi take on goofy material. Then the horror stories emerged from the set and the trailers arrived and our good will evaporated. Padilha remains an exciting talent and there's no point in prejudging a film, but this thing has stinker written all over it. I sincerely hope all of us naysayers are proven wrong next month.
Movie That Really, Really Wants to Be The Hunger Games: Divergent
With The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on track to possibly become the highest grossing film released in 2013 (as of this writing it's $16 million behind Iron Man 3), studios continue to search for the next big dystopian young-adult franchise and Divergent is the latest up at bat. With a franchise-friendly premise and a cast of seriously talented actresses (and a few questionably but undoubtedly attractive guys), this could very well be the next big thing... or it could vanish into thin air like so many other botched YA adaptations. In any case, star Shailene Woodley deserves a major franchise to call her own and hopefully this will do the trick.
Other Movie That Really, Really Wants to Be The Hunger Games: The Maze Runner
A dystopian sci-fi setting. A cast of young protagonists. A sadistic government "game" that threatens the lives of our heroes. Yep, The Maze Runner certainly sounds like The Hunger Games, but unlike Divergent, the source material isn't as well known and the talent in front of and behind the camera doesn't look like it will drag us to the theater (sorry, Patricia Clarkson). Then again, first-time director Wes Ball may pull the rug out from under anyone and surprise us all. Consider this column's metaphorical fingers crossed!
Movie That Looks Like It Escaped from the '70s: Transcendence
For a film with such a strong pedigree, it's truly strange how goofy Transcendence looks. Acclaimed cinematographer Wally Pfister makes his directorial debut with this story of a scientist (Johnny Depp) who is assassinated and has his consciousness uploaded into an advanced computer system. Some will immediately say "Like The Lawnmower Man!", but others will remember an actually good movie like Colossus: The Forbin Project. In fact, Transcendence's all-star cast, deadly serious tone and awesomely goofy premise makes it look like a relic of '70s science fiction in the best way possible.
Movie with the Worst Title That We Still Want to See: Edge of Tomorrow
Since you really can't call it "Sci-fi Action Groundhog Day," Tom Cruise's latest blockbuster has been saddled with the truly awful title Edge of Tomorrow, which makes it sound like a daytime soap opera instead of a wacky actioner about a soldier who continuously dies in battle only to wake up and repeat the day over and over again. Early buzz has been mixed, but there's nothing you can say that will stop us from seeing a movie where Tom Cruise hops in a mech suit to battle aliens. As 2013's Oblivion showed, Cruise has a knack for elevating flawed movies with compelling lead performances. Don't let us down, Mr. Cruise. We're counting on you.
Movie That Your Kids Will Want to See but You Should Leave Them at Home: Godzilla
You've most likely seen the trailer for Gareth Edwards' upcoming Godzilla reboot and you're probably in agreement that it looks just plain awesome. But unlike last year's terrific Pacific Rim, this is a giant-monster movie that doesn't look like it'll be catering to family audiences. This thing looks just plain dark and depressing, returning the titular radioactive beast to his horror roots. Forget about this franchise's frequently goofy entires and forget about the awful 1998 version -- this Godzilla means serious business and, for better or for worse, it looks like you should leave the youngsters at home before you venture out to see this one.
Movie That We'll Probably Love and No One Will See: Jupiter Ascending
No one saw Cloud Atlas. Before that, no one saw Speed Racer. We're not sure what audiences have against the Wachowski siblings post-Matrix sequels, but they've been missing out on some of the best and most exciting films of the past decade. Alas, we expect a similar situation with Jupiter Ascending, which casts Channing Tatum as a deadly space-elf-cat and Mila Kunis as an interstellar Snow White (or something). Real people will avoid this thing like the plague, but this looks like a buffet of awesome for genre buffs.
Movie with Absurdly Massive Expectations on Its Shoulders: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I
The first Hunger Games film was pretty good, but The Hunger Games: Catching Fire raised the bar in a serious way. More polished, better shot and completely different than its predecessor, director Francis Lawrence exceeded every expectation and then some. However, the downside to making one of the most well-liked movies of 2013 is that the 2014 follow-up now has to clear an even higher bar. After Catching Fire, we feel confident that Lawrence and his cast and crew are up for the challenge, but man, we really don't envy them right now.
Movie That May Be the Craziest Thing Released in 2014: Guardians of the Galaxy
Superhero movies have a habit of blending together into one generic blur, so we're just plain giddy to see Guardians of the Galaxy, which promises to buck the comic book movie formula in every way possible. Although set in Marvel's movie universe, James Gunn's film literally takes place a galaxy away from Iron Man and Captain America, following a ragtag group of just plain weird heroes as they embark on a cosmic adventure. Putting a director as wild and inventive as Gunn at the helm of a major movie is exciting enough, but this is a movie where two of the main characters are a genetically modified raccoon and a sentient tree. If Guardians of the Galaxy is half as good as it sounds, we'll see it about six times.
Runner-up Most Anticipated Movie of 2014: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the best science fiction films of 2011. There's no reason for the seventh film in an oddball franchise (and a near reboot, at that) to be good, so it was downright shocking when it turned out to be truly exceptional in every way, telling a smart, moving story despite the fact that every good character was a motion-capture animated ape. Although Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has a new director in the very talented Matt Reeves, the trailer looks like a worthy follow-up, taking place in a devastated and desolate world where the remnants of mankind are at war with Caesar and his hyperintelligent apes. We were already sold before they cast the great Jason Clarke as the main human character but that just pushes it over the top.
Most Anticipated Movie of 2014: Interstellar
One of the best directors working today. One of the best ensemble casts ever assembled. A hard science fiction screenplay. An evocative teaser all about the importance of space travel and scientific discovery. Yeah, there is no 2014 release more exciting than Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.
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