A few weeks ago, I wrote a column dissecting a random grab bag of upcoming science fiction films, with a few of the titles mentioned not set to open until 2014. But now that we're at the start of a brand new year, it's time to narrow this column's focus to the next 365 (well, 361 days). It's time to start getting excited about movies that actually have solid "we can't go back now" release dates.
In other words: here are the most intriguing, exciting and potentially great science fiction films opening within the next 12 months. Spoiler alert: Oblivion and After Earth aren't included.
Movie That I Will Kill You to See Tomorrow: Elysium
Look, you're probably a super-nice person, but if someone put a knife in my hand and told me that I could see director Neill Blomkamp's Elysium tomorrow if I ended your life, I'd probably take him up on it. I'm kidding (I think), but when the evil genius behind District 9 has a movie about a super-powered, blue collar Earth dweller played by Matt Damon doing battle with a wealthy space colony run by Jodie Foster with an underlying satiric message about immigration policy, you can bet your worthless life that I'll be first in line. This is Blomkamp's chance to continue the legacy of early Paul Verehoeven and to take his rightful place as the king of smart, bloody, wicked action/sci-fi/satire.
Movie That Will Hopefully Come Out in 2013: Snowpiercer
Hey, did you know that Bong Joon-ho, the incredible South Korean filmmaker behind The Host and Mother, is making his Hollywood debut this year? And did you know that it stars Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Alison Pill, Tilda Swinton and Ed Harris? And did you know that it's a post-apocalyptic science fiction flick about the remnants of humanity living out a second ice age aboard a massive train with a perpetual motion engine? Yes, it sounds amazing and yes, it's currently listed to come out sometime in 2013. But with no date set and notoriously fickle Weinstein Company pulling the strings, who knows when this thing will actually hit theaters?
Movie That I Pretend to Not Be Interested In But Am Actually Super Excited for: Star Trek Into Darkness
Blah, blah, J.J. Abrams is too secretive, blah, blah. Blah, blah, the script to the last Star Trek was awful and this one will be too, blah, blah. Blah, blah, are they really going to go back to the Khan well, blah, blah, how lazy, blah, blah. Blah, blah, why does most of this new Star Trek movie seem to take place on Earth, blah, blah. That's what I tend to sound like when I talk about Star Trek Into Darkness, but deep down, I'm pretty pumped -- I can forgive a lot if the latest adventure of Captain Kirk and his crew is as energetic and fun as the last film (although hopefully not as dumb).
Movie That I Would Bet $100 Is Probably Going to Be a Masterpiece: Gravity
It's been seven years since director Alfonso Cuaron made Children of Men, one of the best and most technically astonishing science fiction films ever made. It's difficult to say for sure if he's spent all of that time between films prepping Gravity, but it certainly feels like it -- we've been hearing about this one for a long, long time. Although the film remains shrouded in mystery, the high-concept plot manages to sound simultaneously claustrophobic and epic, following two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) who find themselves stranded in space following a shuttle disaster. Normally, talk of 10-minute long shots and never-seen-before cinematic techniques would inspire eye rolling, but with Cuaron at the helm, there's a strong chance that Gravity may be one of the best films of 2013 and a technical landmark. No pressure, guys.
Movie That Sounds Exciting But Makes Me Raise My Eyebrow: Ender's Game
Yes, writer Orson Scott Card is a despicable insane person, but that doesn't change the fact that his Ender's Game is one of the great science fiction novels. In an era where The Hunger Games can gross hundreds of millions of dollars, an adaptation of this already widely read story (which follows young children who are brutally trained to be future soldiers to fight off an alien invasion) feels destined to be a massive hit. With impressive young actors like Asa Butterfield and Abigail Breslin and beloved veterans like Harrison Ford and Ben Kingsley filling out the cast, the one wild card is writer-director Gavin Hood. Which version of Hood is going to show up for this project: the man who made the Oscar winning Tsotsi or the man who farted out X-Men Origins: Wolverine? If he brings his A-game (and the studios don't saddle him with a doomed and half-assed X-Men prequel), Ender's Game has the potential to be a great movie... but consider my eyebrow raised with slight trepidation.
Movie That No Ones Knows Anything About but Will Probably Be Great: Her
Spike Jonze has made three films, each of them a masterpiece. After the experimental Being John Malkovich, the meta-satire Adaptation and the raw, emotionally brutal children's film deconstruction that is Where the Wild Things Are, he's looking to enter the science fiction arena with Her, a movie that follows a man's unusual relationship with an advanced computer operating system. Outside of the that, the details of the film remain shrouded in mystery, but we'll surely start hearing more when it hits the festival circuit later this year. Knowing Jonze, it'll completely flabbergast us all.
Movie That 12-Year-Old Me Is Peeing His Pants to See: Pacific Rim
Why even attempt to eloquent when I can just write GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING GIANT MONSTERS over and over again until my long-dead inner child rises from the ashes of my soul and demands that I take him to see this 10 times?