5 Underrated SF Movies
Looking through the SF racks in Barcelona’s FNAC today I saw lots of science fiction films I’d never heard of, which made me want to see some of the rarer items on my shelf again…
Too cold, too talky, said some critics, but the emotional power of the story grows stronger the nearer we move toward a totalitarian CCTV society. Healthy Ethan Hawke and crippled Jude Law trade places the reach the stars in a world where genetic profiling has given the perfect a career edge over the flawed. Standing between them is suspicious colleague Uma Thurman, never more icily wary. Complicating matters in the personality-swap is a murder which will implicate one of them. With a surprising cast (including Ernest Borgnine and Gore Vidal) and a stunning score from Michael Nyman, this is thinking SF, and a terrific paranoid love story. A scene was cut from the end that featured a role-call of geniuses who would not have made it through the ‘perfect genetics’ programme.
From the same director, Andrew Niccols, came a likeable, smart SF drama that also got a peculiarly rough ride from the critics, for no good reason, and once again it contains a killer idea. We’re all time-poor, but Justin Timberlake really is; in his world people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year. Having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Timberlake finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage, while his mother runs out of time…perhaps the point it’s making is a little on the nose, but it’s still a good idea well executed.
I’ve written about this utterly unseen SF film before, but it’s still awaiting a release in the UK. Jaco Van Dormeil returns to the idea of choices changes the world as One of the most visually arresting films ever made, ‘Mr Nobody’ has glimpses of Kubrick and Vonnegut. It’s two and a half hours and a tad confusing, but all is eventually explained in its own way, and every visual tic has a special meaning. Any tale that features youth, romance, infatuation, death, string theory, eternal life, the reversal of the universe and a thousand bicycles floating in space deserves to be seen, and not given snitty reviews by a handful of critics who prefer ‘Transformers’ movies. The film is in English and has mostly British and Belgian actors. I love it for being brave and different and quite, quite mad.
The Two Worlds
Benoit Poelvoorde stars as a tradesman who makes himself a cup of coffee, falls out of a window and into another world, where he has to save an oppressed tribe by becoming their leader and fighting a war. It’s all very silly, and yet there’s a bedrock of good SF under it and the poster, with Poelvoorde fleeing a hundred angry tribesmen across an alien plain with cafetiere still in hand made me laugh.
The second half is a disappointment, but for a while this futuristic satire from Mike ‘Office Space’ Judge is a gem. Private Joe Bauers, the very definition of an average-to-dim American everyman, is selected by the Pentagon to be the guinea pig for a top-secret hibernation program. Forgotten, he awakes 500 years in the future. He discovers a society so incredibly dumbed-down that he’s easily the most intelligent person alive. Best moment; the film explains how the stupid gene pool got so bad, and it feels horribly likely.