Why Sci-fi Fans Should Be Excited for 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' 'Dr. Strange' and 'Jurassic World'

Why Sci-fi Fans Should Be Excited for 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,' 'Dr. Strange' and 'Jurassic World'

Jun 19, 2014

Welcome to The Last Sci-fi Blog, our biweekly column about all things science fiction in movies.

With Jupiter Ascending pushed to early 2015, this month has become suddenly devoid of big science fiction releases, but fret not! While we may not be able to pick apart the latest film from the siblings Wachowski, we can look ahead to a few exciting films and do what the Internet was made for: speculate widly!


That New Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Trailer Promises Something Really Special

Only fools make up their minds about movies based solely on trailers... so go ahead and give me a silly hat and demand that I dance to entertain your noble court, because Dawn of the Planet of the Apes looks nothing short of spectacular.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is an excellent movie, it's rough patches (aka the humans) completely smoothed over by everything involving the hyperintelligent chimp Caesar and his rebellion. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes seems to have taken the strengths of the first film and magnified them while fixing everything that didn't work before. The new trailer promises a ton of time spent with Andy Serkis' Caesar and his ape compatriots, and it replaces James Franco with Jason Clarke and Gary Oldman. That's just unfair.

The new trailer also promises some fairly huge action. While the first film climaxed with apes battling police officers on the Golden Gate Bridge, this one features an extended war between apes and humans through the ruined, postapocalyptic streets of San Francisco. If the sight of apes on horseback duel-wielding assault rifles doesn't bring a tear to your eye, then what kind of a genre fan are you? That is some spectacular s**t. We live in a blessed time.

If Dawn of the Planet of the Apes can combine that spectacle with the humanity of the original film, we could be looking at the best American-made science fiction film of 2014.


Dr. Strange Nabs a Sci-fi Veteran Screenwriter

In the world of Marvel comics, Dr. Stephen Strange is a pure fantasy figure, the "Sorcerer Supreme" is charged with protecting Earth from all kinds of mystical threats. However, the Marvel movies have spent the past few films dancing around fantasy, going out of their way to provide sci-fi explanations for Thor and Asgard. After all, what is magic if not superior technology?

Jon Spaihts has been hired to write the script for Dr. Strange and he's the kind of choice that makes me go "Hmmm" and stroke my chin because he's a veteran of science fiction. He made his name with the still-unproduced but widely praised screenplays Passengers and Shadow 19. His screenplay for the alien-invasion movie The Darkest Hour was butchered in translation, but his screenplay for an Alien prequel ultimately formed the basis for Prometheus. And all of this makes me want to speculate wildly about Dr. Strange.

Does the hiring of Spaihts suggest Marvel is going to stick to its guns and ground all magic, even sorcery, in some kind of science fiction? Spaihts could easily whip up a pure-fantasy take on the character that would work just fine, but Marvel has been working overtime to make its cinematic universe consistent across the board. If the studio chickens out about introducing pure magic and wants someone who could make Dr. Strange work as a sci-fi/fantasy hyrbid, it has certainly hired the right guy.

In any case, it's going to be interesting to see what he whips up and what approach director (and horror veteran) Scott Derrickson takes.


Jurassic World Teases a Dino (and Goes Hard Sci-fi?)

Yep, director Colin Trevorrow tweeted an image from the set of Jurassic World that all but confirms that animatronic dinosaurs will be in the film alongside CGI counterparts. And that's just fantastic. After all, the original Jurassic Park swapped between digital dinos and practical effects and he results still hold up today.



But that's not what's really exciting about Jurassic World. Nah, what's really exciting about this one is that Trevorrow seems interested in returning the franchise to its science fiction roots after two sequels that steadily went off the reservation.

Addressing a bunch of leaked plot rumors, Trevorrow expressed his vision for a near-future world where genetically cloned dinosaurs exist and... have already become old news:

"Our relationship with technology has become so woven into our daily lives, we’ve become numb to the scientific miracles around us. We take so much for granted. Those two ideas felt like they could work together. What if, despite previous disasters, they built a new biological preserve where you could see dinosaurs walk the earth… and what if people were already kind of over it? We imagined a teenager texting his girlfriend with his back to a T. rex behind protective glass. For us, that image captured the way much of the audience feels about the movies themselves. 'We’ve seen CG dinosaurs. What else you got?'"

That's a spectacular image and it's all I need to hear to feel that Trevorrow gets Jurassic Park. The original film was all about man's scientific reach exceeding his grasp, so this one will be about what happens when we do manage that grasp... and then try to reach a little further. Trevorrow went on to explain that the film will deal with scientists pushing their dino-engineering abilities to the next level, creating an entirely new species and being forced to deal with the surely disastrous consequences:

"...There will be one new dinosaur created by the park’s geneticists. The gaps in her sequence were filled with DNA from other species, much like the genome in the first film was completed with frog DNA. This creation exists to fulfill a corporate mandate—they want something bigger, louder, with more teeth. And that’s what they get. I know the idea of a modified dinosaur put a lot of fans on red alert, and I understand it. But we aren’t doing anything here that Crichton didn’t suggest in his novels. This animal is not a mutant freak. It doesn’t have a snake’s head or octopus tentacles. It’s a dinosaur, created in the same way the others were, but now the genetics have gone to the next level. For me, it’s a natural evolution of the technology introduced in the first film. Maybe it sounds crazy, but most of my favorite movies sound crazy when you describe them in a single sentence."

The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III are mediocre adventure movies about people running from prehistoric beasts. At their absolute best, they're perfectly adequate action films. But Jurassic Park was all about asking questions, melding all of that running and screaming with terrifying concepts and ideas. Jurassic World needs to be a popcorn movie, but it also needs to be a thoughtful sci-fi story if it wants to live up to the first film. This all sounds like a step in the right direction.

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