The Midnight Sky (4 Stars)
Tenet (3.5 Stars)
Love and Monsters (3 Stars)
Over the Moon (3 Stars)
Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon (2.5 Stars)
In my mind, Science Fiction films are those that satisfy three main criteria: settings in a different time or place, stories about the impacts of technology or science, and/or projections of humanity’s future. Sometimes films get lumped into this category, although their treatment of these ideas becomes highly tangential or minor.
Two of this year’s films were animated features and, while I guess they dealt with some of these ideas, I wouldn’t say they were ‘serious sci-fi’ as I might mention it. The Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon had a spaceship land on earth and some sheep proceeded to protect the alien from rather obtuse humans, whose only motivation provoked by the experience was a need to make some money. There were multiple references to maybe a dozen different real science fiction films, so it might be of interest to sci-if afficionados in a comic kind of sense, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a lot of extra time.
Over the Moon isn’t a whole lot better, especially as a science fiction film. It actually works a lot better as a musical, with some terrific songs, especially from the ‘moon goddess’ Chang’e. But there is very little here for sci-fi fans, unless you enjoy good music.
Love and Monsters satisfies all the criteria for a sci-fi film, although it, too, is a comedic treatment – so don’t expect a whole lot of depth. The ‘Monsters’ in the title are some terrific examples of good visual effects (for which it was nominated), and the film is engaging, cute, and worth some escape time. But don’t expect any major takeaways.
Perhaps the exact opposite is to be found in this year’s blockbuster, Tenet. The plot – involving moving backwards and forwards in time – is so convoluted that you will need a notebook to keep track of things. The characters pretty much fall flat and do not generate much sympathy or engagement. As I said in my review, “it is three hours of sensory escape and that is all!”. But it is a powerful three hours, so have fun.
And that leaves my favorite science fiction movie this year: The Midnight Sky. George Clooney put this film together and, while it engages all the requirements to belong to this genre, it was not well received by critics or audiences. Audiences were, I suspect, disappointed that the action was not prominent or, really, all that intense. Critics, I think, focused a bit too much on some of the more unbelievable aspects of the film. But, if like me, you are willing to suspend disbelief long enough, there are some beautiful visual and aural stimulations and a story twist that I doubt you will see coming.
There were only three Science Fiction movies in last years crop of Oscar-nominated films. Of the three, however, I would argue that only one of them is a true ‘sci-fi’ film. The Avengers film, the largest box-office draw ever, meets the requirements of being a science fiction film, but it is so over-the-top that it should properly reside in the comic-book realm. Of course, I doubt you haven’t seen it yet, but, if not, then please do.
The Star Wars franchise, is, unfortunately, getting a little old. The Rise of Skywalker is fun if you are still into this story, but otherwise you can probably let it go.
And that leaves Brad Pitt’s Ad Astra, another film that wasn’t received real well, but I liked more. It is a psychological film that poses lots of mind games for the audience. So, if you like sci-if, put this one on your list too.