Hey there, Awards Circuit fans! Every Friday I’ll be posting a column titled “Sci-Fi Fridays” in which I discuss all-things science fiction, fantasy, superhero, comic book hero, whatever fanboy topic floats your boat! Feel free to suggest some topics/films/etc. you’d like me to cover and I may discuss them in an upcoming post. For this week, considering we’re fresh off of Oscar nominations, not to mention a fantastic year in cinema, I thought I’d do what any great cinematic trailblazer does best: look towards the future. Before I get into some of the 2014 films that could become the next *insert awesome sci-fi movie you wish had won Best Picture that year,* I of course have to turn our attention to a film from last year that truly spring-boarded the possibilities of science fiction in cinema, specifically in the non-sequel or franchise department. You all know which genius film I’m talking about, so without further ado…it’s time to enter the zero “g” zone…
Whatever your feelings are towards Alfonso Cuarón’s breathtaking, big-budget extravaganza in space, it’s pretty hard to deny Gravity’s impact on our movie-going culture in 2013. An original film that relied so little on narrative — because quite frankly, it didn’t have to — managed to be one of the most compelling, most successful science fiction movies ever made, earning over $700 million worldwide and garnering 10 Academy Award nominations. And while there are some critics and fans out there who CANNOT STAND Gravity being classified as a sci-fi movie, I fully support its genre qualification as such. Look, it’s a movie set in space (the holy mecca of sci-fi realms) and it’s entirely fictitious. Plus it deals with themes such as humanism, identity, discovery, survival — all themes that have been explored before in science fiction, but perhaps never as emotionally grounded as in this film. Bottom line: don’t you dare take Gravity away from us geeks!
So now that 2014 is officially upon us, let’s pray to the stars and Cinema Gods for a movie that can stand on its own next to Cuarón’s landmark sci-fi epic. Yes, you may think this column is all “wishful thinking,” but then you must not know me very well. So long as the technology continues to improve and filmmakers, studios, writers, and actors who will take salary cuts just to push a project into the mainstream fold, collaborate on journeys into the cinematic unknown, there will always be hope for the science fiction/fantasy film genre! And with that, I give you five upcoming science fiction films — ranked from least to most promising — that could be our next Gravity.
Why it might be the next Gravity: Financially speaking, this could be one of the most profitable sci-fi epics of the year. It’s already amassed an impressive tally in South Korea, grossing just north of $50 million. If it hits the U.S. with as big a landing as it did in Asia, you can bet its studio distributor, The Weinstein Company, will be campaigning hard for it during the next awards season. Its futuristic gaze into the damaging effects of global warming will definitely resonate with a younger crowd, especially liberal Hollywood. Led by Captain America himself, Chris Evans, Snowpiercer could easily become a phenom, one that could have cinephiles discussing its narrative intricacies and themes for decades come. The only minor drawback is the rumored 20-minute U.S. cut by Harvey “Scissorhands” Weinstein. There’s nothing that will anger fanboys more than if the integrity of the original version is compromised. But honestly, in a post-Gravity world where Cuaron’s name is just a few pegs below James Cameron and Steven Spielberg, I believe audiences will be up for a movie that slightly resembles Cuarón’s earlier Children of Men.
Why it might be the next Gravity: Well it does star Tom Cruise, one of the most reliable sci-fi actors who had fans of the genre intrigued yet ultimately underwhelmed thanks to last year’s Oblivion. But then came the truly disappointing Elysium, a film that made Oblivion look masterful by comparison. Suddenly The Edge of Tomorrow didn’t look like such a bad project after all for the international box office king. A movie about an ongoing war with aliens that feels like Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow seems to share Gravity‘s sense of relentlessness, a trait that movie-goers couldn’t get enough of in 3D. With rising star Emily Blunt playing a major role in the film, don’t be surprised if female audiences clamor to the cinema in the hopes of discovering the next great sci-fi female icon. My only concern is that its multiple screenwriting credits could spell a film that is tonally all over the place. Let’s hope The Edge of Tomorrow keeps its plot relatively uncomplicated and focuses more on highlighting the action. Given the huge popularity of Lone Survivor, American audiences will likely be up for another pro-military movie, especially one set in the CGI-dazzling future.
Why it might be the next Gravity: If you don’t care for the look and feel of The Dark Knight Trilogy, then you can’t be a fan of the incomparable cinematographer Wally Pfister, whose stellar craftsmanship makes any film worth watching. Pfister is now making his directorial debut with Transcendence, a sci-fi technothriller that illustrates the dangers of merging human consciousness with powerful computer technology. Led by an all-star cast, the trailer for the movie was reminiscent of The Dark Knight Trilogy as far as the film’s visual palette is concerned. Whether it’s a flop or a global smash, I have a feeling Pfister has spent enough time with Christopher Nolan to learn a thing or two about successfully pulling off “out there” sci-fi concepts. Considering it’ll be the first major science fiction film post-Gravity to be released, you can bet the movie will benefit from all the goodwill Cuarón left behind in his wake. It also doesn’t hurt to be backed by Gravity‘s studio itself, the risk-taking Warner Bros.
Why it might be the next Gravity: While Cloud Atlas is undoubtedly one of the most ambitious sci-fi passion projects ever made, its rough pacing and overwhelming multiple storylines left viewers more confused than fascinated. From the little we know about Jupiter Ascending, the ambitious filmmaking of Cloud Atlas seems to be intact but the story feels more accessible this time around. Like Gravity, it primarily focuses on two characters, played by A-listers whose charisma instantly attracts you to them: Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum. Kunis’ sci-fi heroine embarks on a rags-to-riches journey of self-discovery, one in which she finds herself wielding unimaginable power. If Kunis’ Jupiter is written as sympathetic and strong-willed as Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone in Gravity, Kunis has a real shot at receiving her first Oscar nomination. Jupiter Ascending’s release date has me worried about its financial prospects, but when the Wachowskis are at their most culturally in-tune, they have control over the genre like no other contemporary director. I have a strong feeling that this is one movie we’ll be discussing a great deal about in the next few months.
1. Interstellar (Directed by Christopher Nolan): If anyone is standing toe-to-toe with Gravity at year’s end, it’s most certainly Nolan’s gigantic space mission/time traveling epic. The film focuses on a group of explorers that stumble upon a wormhole in space. This discovery allows mankind to travel across time, into alternate dimensions and beyond. Clearly, Nolan is shooting for a film that wants to feel real whilst maintaining a distinct sci-fi tone. It’s the movie’s assumed high degree of attention to detail that’s comparable to Gravity. From a technical standpoint, I can only imagine how advanced and realistic-looking the effects will be for Interstellar. Nolan’s movie, like Gravity, seems to be about overcoming the limitations of our knowledge by way of human perseverance. Clearly shooting for the same financial success and accolades as Gravity, Paramount’s secretive Interstellar might very well be the first science fiction Best Picture winner if Gravity doesn’t claim the prize this March. Interstellar’s late release makes it a viable candidate for plenty of Oscar nominations. I’m also willing to bet that while Nolan is by no means going to dumb down his script, he’ll be much more interested in mass accessibility considering the uncomplicated narrative goal. Guys and gals, I’m telling you, Interstellar will not only benefit from Gravity’s success, but it may even surpass it on all fronts. Given the emphasis on characters and casting, you can bet this will be an early awards favorite.
And that’s all for this big edition of “Sci-Fi Fridays.” Please share your thoughts about this week’s discussion in the comments!