12 sci-fi films still to look forward to in 2014

Odd List Ryan Lambie 23 May 2014 - 06:58

Looking for a handy list of the science fiction films still to look forward to this year? Then here's the post for you...

The year's nearly half over, and we've already experienced a range of genre movies, some great, some less so.

But with the summer season finally here and about six months left before the terrifying prospect of 2015 hoves into view, there are still plenty more science fiction offerings to be found in a cinema near you.

Here's a pick of 11 of our favourites, plus a selection of honourable mentions at the end, which includes films that don't yet have a firm release date in the US or UK.

Edge Of Tomorrow

In terms of sheer entertainment value, Edge Of Tomorrow could be this summer's dark horse. That it's based on a relatively obscure Japanese novel (All You Need Is Kill - the film's original, far less generic title) might make it something of an underdog in a season more typically dominated by superheroes, but Edge Of Tomorrow provide a satisfying burst of big-screen entertainment.

Tom Cruise stars as a soldier fighting an alien invasion, who dies on the battlefield and is forced to return to the same fateful day again and again until he can find a way to win the war. The exo-suit designs and action sequences look thoroughly solid from what we've seen, but it's the casting that intrigues us most. Cruise's talent as a leading man is somewhat taken for granted of late, and he's the perfect fit for Edge Of Tomorrow's high-concept premise. 

It's great to see Emily Blunt cast in a tough, prominent role, too - she teams up with Cruise to defeat the aliens - and we're also excited to see the great Bill Paxton in an Aliens-type military role.

Release date: 30th May in the UK, 6th June in the US

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes emerged as one of summer cinema's most pleasant surprises in 2011. Successfully reviving a series that had remained dormant since Tim Burton's disappointing Planet Of The Apes a decade earlier, it was technically remarkable, intelligently made and ended on a daringly bleak note.

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes picks up the thread years later, with much of humanity swept away by disease and its remainder teetering on the brink of war with an army of intelligent apes led by the first film's hero, Caesar. Matt Reeves is the director this time around (replacing Rise's Rupert Wyatt), with Andy Serkis and Terry Notary returning as the motion-captured apes, while Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman and Keri Russell are among the human cast.

The sequel has much to live up to, but the trailer hints at a balanced and weighty mix of post-apocalyptic war film and decidedly hairy drama.

Release date: 11th July in the US, 17th July in the UK.

Jupiter Ascending

Following on from the admirably ambitious and sometimes enthralling Cloud Atlas, the Wachowskis (minus co-director Tom Tkywer) are back in slightly more commercial territory with Jupiter Ascending - a kitsch, high-tech sci-fi fairytale starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum. Kunis plays a toilet cleaner who discovers that she has a genetic birthright that could make her queen of the universe (or something), while Channing Tatum plays a half man, half wolf who becomes her protector.

As you can tell, it's all quite eccentric for a summer movie, but whether it's a hit for the Wachowskis or not, it's clear that Jupiter Ascending will be anything but bland. Eddie Redmayne plays a preening, shouting villain, and in one explicable scene captured in the trailer above, Mila Kunis appears to control a swarm of bees. Den Of Geek favourite Sean Bean also stars, and there's even a cameo from Terry Gilliam.

Release date: 18th July in the US, 25th July in the UK.

The Purge: Anarchy

Writer-director James DeMonaco's The Purge was far from perfect, but it had lots going for it, not least its premise: in a future America, the population's violent tendencies are kept in check by the promise of an annual jamboree called the Purge, in which every citizen has 12 years to commit whatever crimes they choose, consequence-free. It's a bit like when Activision releases a Call Of Duty game each November.

The Purge: Anarchy takes this premise from the decidedly interior, claustrophobic setting of a plush house and out onto the streets of Los Angeles, where a young couple (played by Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez) must survive a 12 hour onslaught of chaos and violence. If The Purge channelled the spirit of John Carpenter's classic Assault On Precinct 13, DeMonaco's sequel seems vaguely reminiscent of Walter Hill's The Warriors.

DeMonaco's only had a year to get Anarchy into cinemas, which is a bit of a tight turnaround, but he proved adept at staging scenes of tension and horror in The Purge, and he may yet improve on that with his sequel.

Release date: 18th July in the US, 25th July in the UK.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction

You'll probably know what to expect from Michael Bay's latest explosions-and-robots extravaganza. With a new cast and the addition of the Dinobots, there's still a chance that Bay might change the formula up a bit this time around. The slow-motion explosions are still present and correct, though.

Release date: 27th June in the US, 10th July in the UK.

Guardians Of The Galaxy

If there's one expensive science fiction film practically guaranteed to make a box-office splash this summer, it's Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy. What makes this sprawling space opera so exciting is Marvel Studios' willingness to take a chance on a director less than versed in large-budget filmmaking (Slither and Super writer/director James Gunn) and let him make his own swaggering, anarchic take on the comic book material.

The result is a film that appears to contain all the crashes and bangs we'd expect from a Marvel film, but with a welcome dose of knowing humour. Reflecting the plot, which sees a group of rogues form to create the most unlikely saviours of the galaxy you could think of, Guardians' cast list is delightfully eclectic: Chris Pratt stars as the outlaw Peter Quill (also known as Star-Lord), backed by Zoe Saldana, former wrestler Dave Bautista, while Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper provide the voices of walking tree Groot and Rocket the raccoon respectively. Among the rest of the cast, there's Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillen, John C Reilly, Benicio del Toro and Lee Pace.

Can James Gunn make a film to match the feel-good quality of Guardians Of The Galaxy's trailers? We remain highly optimistic. A superhero movie that wants to have fun could be just the tonic this summer.

Release date: 31st July in the UK, 1st August in the US.

The Rover

At the opposite end of the SF movie spectrum, we have David Michod's The Rover. Michod made his name internationally with the acclaimed and mercilessly bleak Australian crime drama, Animal Kingdom. There's a similarly sharp tone to The Rover, a futuristic thriller which takes place in the Australian outback. Guy Pearce stars as an embittered hero who's lost everything - including his car (not, sadly, a Rover), when it's stolen by a vicious gang. When one of those criminal scumbags leaves one of their number behind (played by Robert Pattinson), Pearce employs the young lout's help as he pursues the thieves.

With its cars and dusty, post-apocalyptic feel , comparisons with the seminal Mad Max are inevitable, but Michod appears to be going for something far more low-key and despairing here - think Cormac McCarthy's The Road crossed with a particularly moody episode of Home & Away.

Release date: 15th August in the UK.

Lucy

Scarlett Johansson's already starred in one science fiction film so far this year, and it was an absolutely corking one: Jonathan Glazer's unique, button-pushing space oddity, Under The Skin, with a superb and brave performance from Johansson as a predatory alien. The actress plays a powerful being of a different kind in Lucy, a sci-fi action thriller from Luc Besson.

As the title character, Scarlett Johansson gets to strut around with guns, kick bad guys around prison chambers and show off all kinds of other paranormal powers after she's infected with some kind of experimental drug. The result looks like a mix of Besson's action back catalogue, as well as such recent genre fare as Chronicle, Limitless and maybe a bit of Nicolas Winding Refn - a scene where Johansson stabs South Korean actor Choi Min-sik in both knees even recalls Refn's polarising revenge nightmare, Only God Forgives.

Lucy doesn't exactly look subtle, but it's great to see Johansson taking on the lead role in an action movie - we're still waiting on that Black Widow spin-off - and with Besson's form in the genre, we could be in for a late-summer treat here.

Release date: 8th August in the US, 22nd August in the UK.

Monsters: Dark Continent

Monsters director Gareth Edwards may have headed off to pastures new with Godzilla, but that hasn't stopped Vertigo Entertainment from producing a sequel to his 2010 indie breakout. With a change of director (Misfits' Tom Green takes over from Edwards) comes a change of genre, with the road trip romance of Monsters giving way to what appears to be a Starship Troopers in Africa-type action premise.

Joe Dempsie, Sofia Boutella and Johnny Harris star, and the special effects look extremely good from what we've seen so far. There are hints in the synopsis, meanwhile, that Dark Continent won't be all gung-ho slaughter; that title hints at a link to Joseph Conrad's classic novel, and like the 2010 Monsters, this could prove to be far more thought-provoking than your average creature feature.

Release date: 26th September in the UK.

Interstellar

As we wrote a short while ago in these very pages, Interstellar could well prove to be something of a departure for director Christopher Nolan. He's said in early interviews that his sci-fi odyssey is his own take on the golden age of blockbusters, as pioneered by Steven Spielberg - and Interstellar could well be Nolan's own Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Not that Interstellar and Close Encounters share a common storyline, but they do both appear to have a similar balance of familial drama and cosmic awe.

Matthew McConaughey plays a pilot, engineer and family man who discovers that, as crops around the world fail for unspecified reasons, he may have to leave his children behind in order to save them. At the behest of a posh scientist (Michael Caine), he heads out in a space shuttle with Wes Bentley and Anne Hathaway, and by travelling through a wormhole in space, hopes to find salvation for humanity out there among the stars.

Interstellar's second trailer is light on space travel and heavy on homestead drama, but we suspect that the always-secretive Nolan has something far more grand and mind-expanding in store than he's currently letting on.

Release date: 7th November in the US and UK.

The Signal

Back in 2011, we were lucky enough to see writer and director William Eubank's Love, a lonely, beautifully-shot sci-fi film made for just $500,000. If Stanley Kubrick had made 2001: A Space Odyssey in his back garden, it probably would have looked something like this.

The Signal is Eubank's second feature, and it looks like a more commercial outing for the director, while still retaining his talent for poetic visuals. Like Luc Besson's Lucy, The Signal's about an ordinary human being given extraordinary abilities, and there are shades of the classic Akira in here, as well as the gritty, hardware-heavy SF of Neill Blomkamp.

We aren't short of films about people with superpowers these days, but with Eubank's involvement in The Signal - and his suggestion that it's inspired by the twist-heavy plotting of The Twilight Zone - suggests that there's far more to his film than initially meets the eye.

Release date: 13th June in the US. UK date currently unavailable.

I Origins

In 2012, Mike Cahill brought us the meditative sci-fi drama, Another Earth. It was a great debut, and I Origins looks equally intriguing. Like Darren Aronofsky's Pi, I Origins follows a scientist's obsessive search for answers: in this instance, an investigation into the evolution of the human eye leads to a discovery that could change our understanding of the universe.

Early word suggests that Cahill's served up a great piece of work here - "the best science versus faith film since Contact, says Slash Film - and that it has far more twist-laden things going on in it than the trailer above is willing to give away. Brit Marling, who was excellent in Another Earth, stars again here. We're very much looking forward to this one getting a UK theatrical release.

Release date: 18th July in the US. UK release date currently unavailable.

Honourable mentions:

Snowpiercer - Bong Joon-ho's magnificent 2013 dystopia, still awaiting a US and UK release date.

The Congress - a sumptuous mix of live-action and animation from Waltz With Bashir director Ari Folman. Like Snowpiercer, it came out in 2013 in some territories. No wider release date announced yet.

The Giver - there's the promise of director Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm, Salt) behind this futuristic dystopia, plus a cast which includes Jeff Bridge and Meryl Streep. Based on Lois Lowry's children's novel of the same name, it's about a future society where crime and disease have been eradicated, but at the cost of individuality or privacy. Out on the 15th August in America, The Giver doesn't appear to have a UK release date yet. We do know that it features an appearance from pop Taylor Swift, though, so that's something.

Ex Machina - Writer Alex Garland has great form in science fiction, having previously written the screenplays for 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go (adapted from the novel of the same name) and of course, Dredd. Ex Machina is Garland's directorial debut, and it stars Domhnall Gleeson (set to appear in Star Wars: Episode VII), Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander; the latter plays an artificially intelligent robot, while Isaac plays a billionaire programmer who hires Gleeson's character to engage in some form of test with said robot. Ex Machina's tentatively scheduled for release this year, and if a firm release date comes through, we'll update you accordingly.

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Can someone help me out? There was a sci fi film that was in production 2012-ish which I was curious about, but seems to have disappeared. The details were it was about an astronaut of some kind, who basically wakes up tumbling through space, has amnesia and his oxygen is running out...anyone remember this?

Edit-not Gravity.

Sounds like Gravity, to be honest, minus the amnesia.

Yes, very similar to Gravity, but not that film. He starts to remember slowly through flashbacks why he's floating off in space during the course of the movie, was the pitch. Maybe it got binned due to similarities/success of Gravity. Although knowing Hollywood, that would normally be a green light to put a film out.

Hmm, can't help you I'm afraid. I'd definitely watch it, though. Sounds like it could be interesting, even if it does remind a lot of Gravity.

Cheers Ralph. What's worse is I'm sure the director of this mystery film was possibly South American-yet another link to Gravity! I didn't originally post that as people will think I've got amnesia :-/
Every Google search throws up Gravity, too, haha.
I remember really liking the premise. Gravity was in post production, so was wondering which would be better. Oh well.

Might want to change the description of the purge anarchy amazing article but 12 hours not years :)

Hopefully we will get a 2014 UK release of the Australian "These Final Hours" which looks excellent in a Miracle Mile way

Say what you will ( and I have on numerous occasions), but Alex Garland is a f*cking hack.
Originality is not his strong point (28 days = day of the triffids without any characters you liked, Sunshine = every cerebral scifi movie of the last 40 years cherry picked and mashed together) and he even managed to f*ck Dredd up with over thirty years of source material to work from (no PSI division? MC1 looks a bit roomy....).
The man is a jerkoff. That is all.

That sounds a bit like Love by William Eubank.

I've been searching all morning. It's called "Spaceless" and will be directed by Cary Fukunaga. It could be stuck in pre production, but look it up-sounds interesting.

cheers I will

A bit harsh, I happen to like all of the above.

Me too.

Ditto...

Very minor point, but Dave Bautista is still an active wrestler in the WWE.

Some would say a lack of cardio makes him not-that-active, but that'd be mean.

Is The Purge actually a scifi movie? Haven't seen it, but going with the trailers I don't see any future tech, just a freaky law.

It might not feature lots of futuristic tech but it is set in the future and it shows a situation which does not currently happen so probably falls under speculative or dystopian sci-fi.

So how far into Jupiter Ascending is Sean Bean's character going to die? ;)

We do know that it features an appearance from pop Taylor Swift, though, so that's something.

This is ironic, right?

Is anyone actually looking forward to another transformers film? ;)

Calm down dear...

No, nobody. Most people learned their lesson after Transformers 2.

Cruise is a natural in the science fiction genre...

Mean and wrong, at least wrong now, he's been bloody awesome since WM.

Before then, maybe not so much.

the premise sounds vaguely familiar to me too, like i read an announcement or something. i tried a little searching, but came up empty. it was probably something in preproduction that had its cashflow dry up

it'll be nice if it moves forward. it sounds terrifying.

yup. i've enjoyed his novels too

i have the exact same level of excitement for this one as the other three. ;)

edge of tomorrow is a terrible title, it sounds like a direct to video steven segal type action movie. the one sentence premise i first heard didn't grab me either, but i broke down and watched a trailer and now I'm excited about it. it strikes me as being a pretty original idea. looking forward to GotG too--its trailer just looked so fun. Also happy for a new Luc Besson movie, especially a balls-out one.

thanks for the heads up about I Origins, i hadn't heard of it. I have been really enjoying the emerging indie genre of introspective stories that orbit a sci-fi trope (takes shelter, cold souls, safety not guaranteed, another earth, etc.)

of course he's a scientologist!

I kid you not, my friend is very excited about the next Transformers movie. I was like, what the hell is going on in your head? But she swore that the previous movies were pretty good.

She's beautiful, which is why I didn't immediately turn and walk away.

Yeah, I don't know what Flaps is on about. I actually liked Dredd and Sunshine a lot, and 28 days was decent. And I had no idea this guy did those.

I really don't understand the hate for transformers. I acknowledge the fact that they're not going to be particularly clever or thought provoking, but damn as a piece of sci fi action cinema they are so entertaining, and neither do I understand the hate for bay, he's first and foremost an action director and has never claimed to be anything else. He's very good at the genre, and I always find myself in awe at the fights he stages in the transformers franchise. I feel as though he's a victim of the whole 'it's cool to hate on what's popular' scene, similar to the hostility avatar now faces. The strange thing is when a sci fi action film comes out which does have glaring plot holes and shockingly generic combat sequences (star trek into darkness) there are no questions asked.

Memento 2: Lost in Space?

Maybe, but at least he never appeared in Battlefield Earth...

Must admit this made me laugh.

But yeah, he's been much better since they firmly established him as a heel.

I blame the writing team actually. Orci/kurtzman suck Devastators balls!

Its the writing team at fault and the fact that Bay has to suck up to the military so they'll allow him to shoot their gear and stuff. Bay's smarter than the public thinks.

But it doesn't have space ships and laser guns so it can't be sci-fi...
Titter.

Europa Report?

One of the major problems is the way he shoots action in the Transformers film, the robot fights just aren't coherent, it looks like he's filming a bag of colorful nuts and bolts. That and the acting. That, the acting and the racist Transformers from the second film. That, the acting, the racist Transformers and the incomprehensible plot. That, the acting, the racist Transformers, the incomprehensible plot and the objectification of women, bordering on misogyny.

Nah, they're just awful films.

He isn't that smart. Look at his appearance at the Samsung conference, which can be found on Youtube, if you want a look.

Public speaking and making films are different things dude. Ive also heard he's awkward in social situations but that hasnt stopped him from making movies.

No, you're right, it hasn't stopped him from making terrible films.

That's a matter of opinion. The box office numbers tell a different story though.

Box office does not equate in any way whatsoever to quality. Neither does intelligence, or lack of.

He was smart enough to make crazy money and for most that's already an accomplishment.

Mr Bay, is that you? You're clutching at straws now.

Anyway whatever, if you like his films I'm pleased for you.

Thanks. I'll keep you in my thoughts while I'm laughing my way to the bank.

Slightly superficial, but never mind.

12 years? That's a lot of crime.

Some great looking films. Jupiter Ascending looks like silver age SF ludicrousness...might be a lot of fun! Although it only gets a special mention, I'm also very much looking forward to The Congress (adapted from a novel by Stanislaw Lem, the Polish writer of Solaris, though the film looks like it took some liberties with the original text!)

I didn't like how he made Jetfire old and insane.

He was so cool when I was a kid reading the comics.

Altering Bumblebee's original form simply so small American's could recognise it was also an issue.

I liked the first one vaguely. The second is just a bad film. Nothing else to it.

The third, I've no idea.

I am, though. Seriously excited for more mindless action and robots.

Not really sci-fi but it's set in a dystopian world. It's categorized as a sub-genre of sci-fi, so...

You'd have to be retarded to not like The Rock though.

Every diabolical hack gets to make one good movie, usually towards the start of his career. Paul WS Anderson made Event Horizon, Michael Bay made The Rock, Brett Ratner... actually no, this isn't working is it?

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