January 13, 2016

Eight science fiction films coming in 2016

There are a bunch of science fiction films headed our way from Hollywood this year. Some of them are high profile blockbuster sequels, and some are a little smaller in scale. Hopefully we'll manage to get two or three knock outs from this batch. As with previous film preview posts, I'll let you know what I'm anticipating as we go. Release dates are for their USA debuts - international dates are obviously going to vary like crazy. Rule of thumb: the bigger the movie, the more likely it will get a simultaneous release.

The 5th Wave
Opens 22 Jan. Directed by J Blakeson. Starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Ron Livingston, Nick Robinson and Maggie Siff.
First off the rank, and opening in just a few weeks, is The 5th Wave. Based on the novel by Rick Yancey, the film follows a young woman on the run after four waves of alien attacks have almost entirely wiped out the human race. I have to be honest: I don't know a lot about this one other than its trailer - which seemed interesting without feeling like a must-see - and its basic premise. Moretz, however, is a pretty great actor. Hopefully she's signed onto something worthy of her talents.

Independence Day: Resurgence
Opens 24 Jun. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher, Brent Spiner and Judd Hirsch.
It is slightly odd that it has taken exactly 20 years for a sequel to Independence Day to come to fruition. Two questions hang over this one. Firstly, will audiences miss Will Smith, who declined to return for the sequel? Secondly, is there sufficient audience interest in a follow-up film after so many years. This is not a widely beloved multi-film franchise like Jurassic Park or Indiana Jones - do enough people really care about another Independence Day to justify its cost? Either way I'll be skipping this one. I didn't ever warm to the original.

Midnight Special
Opens 18 Mar. Directed by Jeff Nichols. Starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Sam Shepard.
Jeff Nichols was the director of the highly acclaimed independent films Take Shelter and Mud. He's now returning with his first studio-backed feature via Warner Bros. In it, a father must protect his strangely empowered son when he is targeted by a mysterious religious sect. Nichols has claimed he is aiming to replicate 1980s science fiction films like Starman, which sounds like a pretty promising basis to me. Acclaimed writer/director, a solid cast, and an original screenplay? This is the sort of science fiction film I really want to excel and succeed.

Opens 21 Dec. Directed by Morten Tyldum. Starring Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Sheen.
So there's a colony ship running towards a distant planet, with thousands of colonists frozen in suspended animation for the 60 year journey. There's a malfunction, and one of the colonists wakes decades early. He decides, I'm assuming to save his own sanity if nothing else, to wake a second colonist to be with him. This science fiction romance stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, is written by Jon Spaihts - whose Prometheus screenplay was pretty well regarded until its Damon Lindelof rewrite - and directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game, Headhunters). That all sounds pretty darn promising to me. Like Midnight Special, it's another chance at a quality original science fiction film for 2016.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Opens 16 Dec. Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen.
Disney's plan to dominate the planet with Star Wars movies take a bold step forward with this, the first film spin-off from the main saga since Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. It's effectively a war movie set prior to the original Star Wars, and follows an attempt to steal the plans to the Death Star. I'm on the fence over its director, Gareth Edwards, whose previous two films have been both great (Monsters) and disappointing (Godzilla). The cast, however, is fantastic: particularly Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen who have been long overdue for international exposure. Of the eight films listed here this one is the obvious big hit. I really hope it doesn't disappoint.

The Space Between Us
Opens 29 Jul. Directed by Peter Chelsom. Starring Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman and Carla Gugino.
This sci-fi teen romance almost failed to make it thanks to the bankruptcy of its studio, Relativity Media. It's since been salvaged by STX Entertainment and is coming out in July. Asa Butterfield of Ender's Game is back in space, as a boy on Mars who decides to visit a girl on Earth. That's pretty much the extent of my knowledge. While it's getting a theatrical release in the USA it seems easy to imagine it going direct to video and streaming services in Australia. Director Peter Chelsom has also directed Hector and the Search for Happiness, Serendipity and Hannah Montana: The Movie, none of which fill me with confidence.

Star Trek Beyond
Opens 22 Jul. Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, John Cho, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg and Anton Yelchin.
So Paramount released Star Trek Into Darkness, and it earned a pretty respectable amount of money. Then Disney released Guardians of the Galaxy and it earned quite a lot more money. As a result, this is Paramount's pitch for more mainstream dollars. We have a new director - Fast & Furious helmer Justin Lin - and we have a much more action-oriented, comedic sort of plot and tone. A teaser trailer has been released to a fairly mixed response from Star Trek fans. Personally I'm optimistic. Star Trek has regularly given us comedic banter and action before, and with co-star and supreme science fiction nerd Simon Pegg co-writing the screenplay I think there's a very solid probability that the film is going to respect its roots just fine. To be honest, the franchise could do with a little Guardians after the disappointment of Into Darkness.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Starring Analeigh Tipton and Sophie Black D'Ella.
The directors of the rather excellent doco-thriller Catfish return with this science fiction horror film. In the aftermath of a global viral pandemic, a woman tries to protect her son while recording on video the events taking place around her. I'm assuming from the pitch that it's found footage, which is something I enjoy tremendously if done well. Certainly Catfish is one film I'd say managed to do that. Viral was supposed to open in American cinemas on 19 February, but last week Dimension Films abruptly pulled it from the schedule. My guess now is that it's going direct to video and streaming.

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