We’ve already seen plenty of sci-fi movies arrive in cinemas this year, including the shouty Saving Private Ryan meets Independence day epic, Battle: Los Angeles, and Duncan Jones’ fast-paced thriller, Source Code.
The rest of 2011 will see numerous other genre movies heading to our screens, ranging from big-budget tentpole blockbusters to low-budget indie dramas.
Here, then, is a selection of ten potentially great science fiction movies we’re looking forward to in 2011, with their UK release dates…
Based on a real-world 70s NASA mission that was abandoned due to budget cuts, Apollo 18 reads like a mixture of Duncan Jones’ Moon and Paranormal Activity. In the film’s version of history, the lunar mission actually went ahead, and after a particularly grim close encounter, was subsequently hushed up by the US government.
Yet another shaky-cam, found footage movie, the sci-fi setting may lend the film a freshness the legion of other post Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity clones have lacked, and the (rather too revealing) trailer suggests that first-time director, Gonzalo López-Gallego shot the film with a keen eye for period detail.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a genuinely frightening science fiction film (Event Horizon‘s the last one that got my heart pounding, but I fear I may be in the minority there), and Apollo 18 may be the film that brings a genuine frisson of fear back to the genre.
Attack The Block
It’s Independence Day meets N-Dubz, as Joe Cornish’s alien invasion movie sees a group of South London yoofs fighting off a horde of pesky xenomorphs with glowing teeth. Nick Frost and Jodie Whittaker are among the adults along for the ride, but the film belongs to its fast talking young cast, who defend the capital with baseball bats and brooms.
After the rather po-faced heroics of Battle: Los Angeles, Attack The Block could provide the perfect, enjoyably daft antidote.
Cowboys & AliensRelease: 12 August
When aliens invade the 19th century West, a group of cowboys must gather together to repel the threat. Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig are perfectly cast as the grumpy men in hats who lead the resistance, ably supported by Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde.
The second of Steven Spielberg’s summer sci-fi productions (the other being Super 8, which will come out the week after Cowboys & Aliens), Jon Favreau’s in the director’s chair, while Star Trek and Transformers writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have worked with the original graphic novel’s creator, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, on the script.
From what I can gather, Cowboys & Aliens goes for a realistic, gritty tone rather than the more cartoonlike atmosphere of 1999’s Wild Wild West, which, for me, is a good thing. There’s a gritty edge to the film’s treatment of a dusty Arizona town, providing a solid base for its inevitable pistols versus lasers action.
Super 8Release date: 19 August
Writer and director J J Abrams channels the spirit of classic early Spielberg in this 70s-set movie that looks like a combination of The Goonies and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. While shooting a genre picture of their own (a reference to producer Spielberg’s own early filmmaking attempts, perhaps), six kids witness a train crash on the outskirts of their small town.
As we’ve already seen from the great-looking trailer already released, the train was carrying something large, angry and definitely not of this earth. While Abrams and Spielberg have wisely kept the rest of the film under wraps, Super 8 marks a welcome return to the 80s heyday of family-friendly sci-fi.
Hugh Jackman stars in this feature-length adaptation of an old Twilight Zone episode, which was, in turn, based on a short story written by sci-fi horror author, Richard Matheson. As a washed-up boxer, Jackman embarks on a new career that involves training gigantic, two-tonne robots to punch the rivets out of each other.
The movie looks far removed from the Twilight Zone episodeand story that inspired it, but the fighting mecha look well handled, with the film employing proper, physical animatronic robots to accomplish its boxing scenes, rather than relying on pure CGI. From the brief clips we’ve seen, this lends the combat scenes plenty of weight and grit.
Lost‘s Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand and Anthony Mackie (who was great in The Adjustment Bureau earlier this year) all co-star as the human interest outside the ropes.
Inarguably the most star-laden sci-fi movie of the year, Steven Soderbergh’s thriller sees Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law (pictured here with a plastic bag on his head. Don’t try this at home, folks), Laurence Fishburne and Elliott Gould dealing with a deadly virus.
Like disaster movies, the disease containment subgenre resurfaces every few years, and the results are often mixed. The most recent one that springs to mind is Wolfgang Petersen’s 1995 outing Outbreak, which pitted Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo against a disease-spreading monkey. Earlier examples include The Satan Bug (which features a character called Hoffman, oddly enough), and my personal favourite, The Andromeda Strain (1971), Robert Wise’s sobre adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name.
Little is currently known about Contagion other than its basic premise and its glittering cast, but the presence of Soderbergh places this film high on our list of anticipated movies.
The ThingRelease date: 14 October
Undoubtedly the most controversial movie on this list, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr’s belated prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic of the same name is a film many fans of the original would like to wish out of existence. But exist it does, and while we’ve reconciled ourselves with the fact that it can’t possibly match the brilliance of Carpenter’s sci-fi horror, we’re at least intrigued to see how this film’s events dovetail with those of the first.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as a graduate palaeontologist fighting a shape-shifting alien in the icy wastes of the Antarctic, assisted by Ulrich Thomsen and Joel Edgerton as a Norwegian scientist and a helicopter pilot, respectively.
The knackered state of the Norwegian research facility at the start of the 80s Thing surely means that Heijningen Jr’s film will have a similarly gloomy conclusion, though the presence of Battlestar Galactica writer, Ronald D Moore, on the screenplay credits gives us hope that there’ll be a few chilling surprises along the way.
NowRelease date: 4 November
Andrew Niccol’s been responsible for some superb films in recent years. Having both written and directed the superb Lord Of War and the underrated Gattaca, he also wrote the script for The Truman Show, an enduring personal favourite of mine.
Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Cillian Murphy and Justin Timberlake star in a dystopian tale about a future in which scientists have found a way to cancel the aging process. While this means that people no longer have to worry about losing their hair or purchasing stair lifts, the breakthrough’s had the unfortunate side effect of causing the world’s population to skyrocket. To counter-balance this, citizens over 25 are forced to purchase an extended lease on life, resulting in a two-tier society where the rich live forever, and the poor beg, borrow and steal to scrape the money together for a few precious years’ existence.
It’s a clever, evocative twist on the premise established in Logan’s Run, and this, along with Now‘s sterling cast and Niccol’s filmmaking track record, make this a film well worth keeping an eye on.
Rise Of The ApesRelease: 25 November
Is it really a decade since Tim Burton directed his own take on Pierre Boulle’s novel, Planet Of The Apes? My sense of disappointment is still fresh in my mind, even after all these years.
Having quietly sat on the property since Burton’s effort (which was, admittedly, a big financial success, if a critical disaster), Fox is now rebooting the franchise with Rise Of The Apes, an origin story that demonstrates just how a monkey-faced Tim Roth came to dominate the Earth.
James Franco plays a scientist whose research inadvertently brings forth a new variety of thespian apes, and Andy Serkis will play Caesar, the first of this special breed, with the CG monkey effects provided by WETA Digital.
The DivideRelease date: TBA
Xavier Gens followed up his remarkably bloody horror debut Frontier(s) with the more mainstream, yet less memorable videogame adaptation, Hitman. His next movie, meanwhile, sees Gens change genres once again, with the post-apocalyptic sci-fi, The Divide.
Featuring a great cast, including Michael Biehn, Peter Stormare, Rosanna Arquette and Heroes‘ Milo Ventimiglia, The Divide sees New York obliterated by an unspecified apocalyptic event. Huddled in a dank basement, eight survivors battle both a group of armed men in decontamination suits and their own disintegrating psyches in a thriller described as a combination of Assault On Precinct 13 and Lord Of The Flies.
A film we’d heard little about until recently, a clip of The Divide‘s opening appeared online earlier this week, which hints at a low-budget, yet well shot piece of sci-fi…