Don’t Look Up (4*)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (4*)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (3.5*)
Free Guy (2.5*)
Mitchells vs the Machines (1*)
While I don’t understand exactly what it is that makes a movie fall into the “fantasy” genre box, I do have a pretty good idea of what “science fiction” is having appreciated films and books in this genre for many decades. That perhaps explains why my average rating in this genre is fairly high and I can definitely recommend four of this year’s six offerings.
Dune was one of the first movies I reviewed this year and although it didn’t become the hit I suggested it might, it was still a very good film. The movie received Oscar nominations in all of the “technical” categories and won several of them. It is this year’s feast for the eyes and ears and you should watch it on the biggest screen and with the loudest sound that you can possibly find. The story is fairly complex with layers of meaning and unexplained history, but so was Star Wars when it first came out. If you really haven’t seen this film yet you should.
Although I liked Don’t Look Up not everyone will, especially if you don’t happen to believe that global warming is a real problem. The asteroid in this science fiction film is only a metaphor for something else that may or may not be as serious. The music was fun and Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio took turns trying to explain what is going on. The film will engage you even if it also makes you angry.
The last two sci-if films I can recommend from this year were comic book films, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Normally, I’m not a big fan of comic book films, but both of these were well done, and I enjoyed them because they gave me a new perspective on what these films can be like. Shang-Chi had a lot of family dynamics involved, but left a lot of plot holes. The Spider-Man movie was especially good, I thought, because it was so interpersonal and felt more intimate than something like Infinity Wars or Endgame.
The other two films don’t make my recommended list. Free Guy, had a wonderful performance from Jodie Comer, but was basically a trivial and unimaginative look at artificial intelligence that has been done much better in several other films. There are lots of visual effects, but they are largely irrelevant. And The Mitchells vs the Machines was “possibly the worst movie I have ever seen.” I don’t recall seeing such a mess, even for an animated film – so you’ve been warned!
There were five science fiction movies on last year’s list, but I can only recommend two of them. Tenet was last year’s blockbuster. The plot – involving moving backwards and forwards in time – is so convoluted that you will need a notebook to keep track of things. But 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 one of my favorite films last year was the George Clooney film The Midnight Sky. Although audiences may not have found it exciting and critics focused too much on some of the more unbelievable aspects of the film, I found some beautiful visual and aural experiences and a story twist that I doubt you will see coming.
So there are six films from this year and last year that will certainly scratch your sci-fi itch. It is refreshing that the Oscars are starting to recognize more of the good filmmaking in this genre.