If, dear reader, you have an interest in science (which I assume you do, as you’re reading the Palatinate SciTech section), then you may also enjoy science fiction films.
While cinemas remain mostly closed, streaming services remain open, so let me take you on a tour of SciTech’s Official (read: very unofficial) recommendations for sci-fi movies currently circulating the internet, as well as some hotly anticipated films expected to be released later this year. A cursory glance of Netflix’s sci-fi section reveals not one but actually multiple sci-fi films available for you to watch (note: this is UK Netflix, and if you’re in another country, the selection may vary).
Recently added and currently featured is Dredd, a gritty action thriller starring The Boys’s Karl Urban as titular character, Judge Dredd. Dredd is a sort of turbo-cop who fights his way up a dystopian mega- apartment building overrun by violent gangs. It’s pretty fun. If ultraviolent dystopia isn’t your scene, Netflix offers you two further films by Dredd writer, Alex Garland, though this time he’s in the director’s seat.
Ex Machina, his debut, is a tight psychological thriller that explores the nature of artificial intelligence, with an excellent small cast, featuring the talents of Star Wars’ Oscar Isaac and Domnhall Gleeson. Garland’s second feature is 2018’s Annihilation. Based on the novel by Jeff Vandermeer, the film sees an all-female group of scientists (led by a different Star Wars’ Natalie Portman) entering a strange ‘zone’ that has appeared on earth and seems to be altering things inside it. It is very weird, but that’s a good thing.
On the subject of weird – maybe confusing – Christopher Nolan’s hit thriller Inception is present on Netflix, too. Centring around a group of criminals who are able to enter people’s dreams to steal (or plant) information, it offers excellent visuals, great tension and a very interesting plot if you can wrap your head around it.
If sci-fi that is much more ‘sci’ than ‘fi’ is more up your street, 2015’s The Martian, starring Matt Damon as a scientist who ends up stranded on Mars after a freak accident, is fun and engaging, and generally a bit less intense than the previous films I have mentioned. Worth a watch for some much more grounded (though grounded on the wrong planet) sci-fi.
Another ‘close to home’ sci-fi with a world that does not seem too distant from ours, Sorry to Bother You is a 2018 film that appears almost more like an extended episode of Black Mirror. Following a call centre worker who ends up selling things a bit less mundane than insurance or encyclopaedias, the film is an interesting commentary on race, class, and the possible extents of modern capitalism.
Last on Netflix is anime feature film The End of Evangelion which follows on from the famous anime series, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Obviously, this film requires you to watch about 16 episodes of a show beforehand, which might be a bit of a barrier to some, but it remains one of the most iconic and thought-provoking anime films in the sci-fi genre.
Amazon Prime’s selection includes legendary cyberpunk action thriller, 1999’s The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves as Neo, a hacker who finds that his world is not quite what it seems. Expect physics-defying fight scenes and visuals that have surprisingly aged very well.
Going even further back to some classic sci-fi, Prime also features 1984 Arnie-classic, The Terminator, about a cyborg sent back in time to kill the mother of the leader of humanity – before he is even born. Expect iconic Schwarzenegger lines. Prime also features Guillermo Del Toro’s excellent Pacific Rim, a film where people piloting giant robots fight giant monsters. It has got some really great visuals, and it is better than you might think.
As for upcoming releases, the one I am probably most excited for is Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. An adaptation of the classic epic novel from the master behind Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, its release has been delayed a few times but we can probably expect to see it later on this year. Another with potential is After Yang, produced by the newly-prominent studio, A24. It seems to be about a father and daughter, and their robotic babysitter, the titular Yang.
There has not been too much information about this one released yet, so keep an ear out for more details later in the year. Godzilla vs Kong has taken the internet by storm, in a way that only a film about a giant dinosaur fighting a giant monkey could do. I’m certainly excited. All three of these films are expected to release this year, but with so many delays in the world of film, it could be anyone’s guess.
Image: Thomas Berg via Flickr