"No less a critic than C. S. Lewis has described the ravenous addiction that these magazines inspired; the same phenomenon has led me to call science fiction the only genuine consciousness-expanding drug." Arthur C. Clarke

Top Ten Lists

Top Science Fiction Films of 2012 #1: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

Number One on my list of films (as well as many other people’s) for the remainder of 2012 is the final Christopher Nolan Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.  It only makes sense that this film would have an even greater level of anticipation than it’s predecessor in the series, The Dark Knight, which was especially fueled by the tragic saga of Heath Ledger, who overdosed on prescription drugs just a few months before the film’s theatrical release.  The film grossed just over $1 billion at the box office, which is the twelfth-highest mark of any film in worldwide sales to date.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Dark Knight Rises begins with Batman on the run from Gotham City Police after taking responsibility for the crimes of the late Harvey Dent to protect Dent’s reputation.  It is eight years later when Bruce Wayne/Batman returns to Gotham.  Now, the villains taking over the city are revealed to be Bane and Selina Kyle (Catwoman).

The film, directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, returns Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as Lucious Fox.  Bane is played by Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway plays Selina Kyle.  Secondary characters include Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, and Matthew Modine.  Many members of the Pittsburgh Steelers have cameo roles as the Gotham Rogues football team.  I would like to point out (as a side note) that this cast includes four (4) Oscar winners (Bale, Caine, Cotillard, and Freeman), an impressive feat for a big-budget action film.

One clue to at least a secondary plotline is the revelation that Liam Neeson has a cameo role, and while it is unclear whether it is in flashbacks or not, the importance to the plot remains.

English: Image of the Batwing filming in Pitts...

English: Image of the Batwing filming in Pittsburgh in the The Dark Knight Rises.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There has been some speculation among fans as to if Bruce Wayne will even survive this final film.  This theory comes about from a short conversation in the trailer between Batman and Selina Kyle:

Kyle: “You don’t owe these people any more. You’ve given them everything.”

Wayne: “Not everything.  Not yet.”

Nolan was reluctant to return for this third film and killing off Batman would put an end to the series and alleviate any pressure on him to return for a fourth.  As well, Bale has said that this is his last film as Batman, and he is becoming typecast in the role, which is never good for an actor.  Nolan has said: “The key thing that makes the third film a great possibility for us is that we want to finish our story…rather than infinitely blowing up the balloon and expanding the story…Unlike the comics, these things don’t go on forever…”  That sounds like not only the end for the story but the end of Bruce Wayne.

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Top Sci-Fi Films of 2012 #2: THE AVENGERS

I finally saw The Avengers a few days ago, so I figured i would wait to write my preview of the film until after I had actually seen it, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.  I had meant to see it very soon after it’s release, but with finals and a move it did not happen so quickly.

The Avengers (2012 film)

The Avengers (2012 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Avengers is the culmination film of the Marvel Universe, bringing together superheroes from previous individual films as well as those not seen before.  It essentially follows Nick Fury as he puts together this team, in spite of the government’s reluctance to put these heroes together under their watch, to fight Loki and his supernatural army from taking over the Earth.

It is the sixth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following Iron Man (2008)The Incredible Hulk (2008)Iron Man 2 (2010)Thor (2011)and Captain America: The First Avenger.

The film is directed by Joss Whedon, who brings his brand of space-opera-type science fiction and humor, very welcome in my opinion in a film such as this.

The team is comprised of Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), along with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).  Loki is played by Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg reprises his role as Phil Coulson, and Cobie Smulders plays another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.  Stellan Skarsgard and Gweneth Paltrow reprise their roles from previous Marvel Universe movies as well.

What I liked about the plot was that it incorporated parts of the plots of previous films in the story problem.  Loki, the villain of Thor, is the instigator, and the power is supplied by the Tesseract, the cube with infinite power that the Red Skull found and tried to use in Captain America.  With this power, Loki commands an army to take over the Earth, his army arriving through a portal opened to another world by the Tesseract.

Under Whedon’s guidance, this film has taken the Marvel Universe another step forward, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing A-list actors participate in an ensemble film, each taking a back seat at points.  I look forward to many more films by Marvel, as I am sure many of you do.

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Top 10 Science Fiction Films of 2012 #3: SKYFALL

Coming out in the UK on October 26th is Skyfall, the twenty-third James Bond film.  I include it in the science fiction genre because of the technology aspect that has become integrated into the series over the last fifty years.

The film returns stars Daniel Craig and Judi Dench as Bond and M, respectively.  The rest of the cast is dominated by Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, the primary villain, Ralph Fiennes as a government agent, and Naomie Harris as the primary love interest.  The film is directed by Sam Mendes, director of American BeautyJarhead, and Revolutionary Road.

Skyfall, according to what has been released so far, centers around Bond’s relationship with M after certain facts about her past are revealed.  MI6 is attacked and Bond is challenged with the response.

Having been a lifelong Bond fan, I will definitely go see Skyfall as soon as I can when it comes out in the United States sometime in November.

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Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of 2012 #4: MEN IN BLACK 3

May 25’s Men in Black 3 is a film ten years in the making.  It will be released almost a decade after it’s predecessor in the series and fifteen years after the original Men in Black.  The film returns Barry Sonnenfeld as director, as well as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

The film will center around the adventures of Agent J (Smith) as he goes back in time to 1969 to stop an alien from killing Agent K (Jones) and changing Earth’s history in the process.  The young K is played by Josh Brolin, while Alice Eve and Emma Thompson play young and old (respectively) versions of Agent O, obviously another agent of the Men in Black.

In the first trailers that have been released so far, it seems as if the Young Agent K’s voice has been edited in with Jones’ voice, but I would not be surprised to hear Josh Brolin replicate it that well.  It will be interesting to hear which is the case, as I would not imagine an A-list actor such as Brolin would particularly enjoy having his voice covered-over.

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Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of 2012 #5: LOOPER

Of all the films on this list, Looper might be the most intriguing.  Due out on September 28, the Rian Johnson-directed film, based on early reports, reflects shades of Blade Runner in it’s science-fiction/film noir style.

LOOPER: "Hunted by your future...Haunted by your past"

Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt.  It is set in 2042 in a “gangland” dystopia, where the main character (Gordon-Levitt) works as a “looper,” an assassin who kills and disposes of those sent back in time from the year 2072 by certain gangs.  However, he recognizes one of those sent back for him to kill as himself (Willis) and he lets the future version of himself escape, setting off the gangs who pay him.

The time-travel aspect of Looper is what makes it especially interesting, to me.  One the one hand, he could go ahead and do his job, killing his future self, knowing for the rest of his life exactly how he will die, being sent back in time to be killed by his younger self.  He could regret that for the last thirty years of his life.  On the other hand, if he does not do his job, the gangs which serve as his employers could kill him right then and there.  However, if that happens, he would not live to be sent back in time in thirty years, thus eliminating the issue that killed him in the first place in 2042.  This is the time-travel paradox which, while in reality proves that time travel is not and never will be possible, makes an interesting film premise.

I will definitely be going to see Looper in theatres, but it’s release is quite a ways away.  I am sure I will have more about this one before then, though.

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Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of 2012 #6: PROMETHEUS

Prometheus is famed director Ridley Scott‘s newest masterpiece, a prequel/reboot of the Alien franchise, set to release on June 8th.  It stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, and Charlize Theron.

The film follows the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as it explores an ancient alien civilization, based on a star map taken from the drawings of ancient Earth cultures.  The film was originally conceived as a prequel to the Alien franchise, but after multiple rewrites, moved away from that premise.  According to Scott, the story is based in the same universe and has “strands of Alien‘s DNA,” it is a separate story.

Scott is also famous in science fiction circles for (along with Alien) the film Blade Runner, considered a seminal work of science fiction film, released in 1982 and starring Harrison Ford.  In future science fiction work he has been attached to a film adaptation of Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World as well as a possible sequel to Blade Runner.

As far as Prometheus is concerned, I will see it because of Scott’s masterwork in science fiction, and I believe this will be an even better film than Alien, which I did not feel was particularly impressive, especially compared to Blade Runner.  With the money, as well as nearly twenty years to develop the story as it relates to Alien, I think this will be one of Scott’s best films to date.

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Top 10 Sci-Fi Films of 2012 #7: GI JOE: RETALIATION

One of the most feast or famine films of the summer is G.I. Joe: Retaliation The first G.I. Joe film, The Rise of Cobra,  was  far too childish and action-figure-like, with very little real plot or character development past what a fourth-grader could have written.  That being said, the special effects were great and the brand/franchise is a popular one, so there is no reason why another film could not be very successful.

The new film stars Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, and returnees Channing Tatum, Ray Park, and Arnold Vosloo, and is directed by John M. Chu (of Step Up 2 fame).

After the events of the first film, in which Zartan, under the influence of Cobra Commander, is undercover as the President of the United States, the G.I. Joes are soon framed as traitors.  They are soon exterminated, leaving only a few left to defeat Cobra.  These are led by Roadblock (Johnson), who recruits the original Joe, General Joseph Colton (Willis).

Before seeing the first full-length trailer, I do not think I would have bothered going to see this film in theaters.  However, after seeing Bruce Willis in all his action-movie glory, I think I will.

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