by Mark Aragona
Science fiction has long been a favorite topic for summer films and 2011 is no exception. But this year’s crop of movies looks to have something for everyone, having the usual exciting FX-driven fare as well as some introspective dramas and intriguing ideas.
Director by J.J. Abrams returns to his Cloverfield motif of creatures caught on film. A group of friends capture a terrible train crash on their Super 8 camera, then later find out that something inhuman had escaped that wreck and is spreading havoc in their own hometown.
A science fiction psychological drama directed by Lars Von Trier, Melancholia is unique in that it starts with the end of the world: A mysterious planet appears and crashes into the Earth. The film then flashes back to the lives of two sisters, one of them (Kirsten Dunst) turning melancholic at the prospect of the coming cataclysm. Von Trier doesn’t mince words: it’s obviously going to be a bad ending. But then, too many disaster movies focus on the event itself—Melancholia gets that part out of the way and focuses on how different people react to their impending doom.
Another psycho drama featuring planets appearing out of nowhere, Another Earth is the brainchild of first-time director Mike Cahill. The movie focuses on Rhoda (played by Brit Marling) who, while distracted by the appearance of a second Earth in the sky, causes a deadly vehicular accident that claims that lives of an entire family, save for the father. After serving her time, she eventually seeks out and falls in love with the widower, yet never gets the courage to reveal that she was responsible for his loss. Eventually she decides to travel to the mirror Earth to find out how her other self lived her life and maybe gain some insight on how to manage her own.
Cowboys and Aliens
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde. Amnesiac cowboy Lonergan (Craig) wakes up to find a strange glowing shackle on his hand. Even as he tries to evade the law for his supposed crimes, he and his erstwhile enemy, Col. Dolarhyde (Ford), must form a posse and turn back an impending alien invasion. Loosely based on a graphic novel of the same name.
Based on Richard Matheson’s short story “Steel”, the film follows a washed-out contender (Hugh Jackman) trying to survive in a world where robots have replaced human boxers. He finds his way back to the top by making an unbeatable champion out of an abandoned training robot. Here’s hoping that this movie will have something to say about how we have a tendency to abuse our own technology and not just be about machines reducing themselves into nuts and bolts.
The Thing (2011)
Not a remake at all, but a prequel to John Carpenter’s original classic horror film. Scientists led by Mary Elizabeth Winstead discover a crashed UFO in the Antarctic, as well as its seemingly deceased passenger. Thawing the creature out becomes a big mistake when it goes on a killing spree, mimicking any living creature it consumes. Fear and paranoia spread through the team as they attempt to hunt down the creature before it destroys them all. It looks like Ridley Scott’s Alien has made a lot of tracks on this film; let’s see how well it lives up to the original.