October 22, 2017

2010: The Year in Science Fiction

The Breath-taking world of Pandora… (Credit: 20th century Fox).

2010 was an odd year of sorts for science fiction; the major franchises (i.e., Star Trek, Star Wars, etc…) are on their respective “gap years,” but the odd indie gem was indeed out there, if you knew where to find them…

- Avatar: The big box office draw early this year was the film Avatar. We were pleasantly surprised when we finally caught up with this flick via Netflix, and now wish perhaps we’d searched it out on the big screen. The world of Avatar was fully fleshed out and imagined, far from the usual shoot ‘em up Hollywood fare. I liked how they used real places such as Alpha Centauri and ideas from astrobiology to create a convincing ecosystem for the moon Pandora. I was even willing to give the floating mountains a pass, as they reminded us of a vision of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern.

- Iron Man: The top superhero draw this year was the second film installment of the Iron Man franchise. The film didn’t disappoint, as action and smart visual effects abounded… the Marvel superhero was updated for our times, fighting international terrorists instead of spinoffs from the Vietnam War as originally depicted in the graphic novel. Like Avatar, a bit of an underlying message was there, too, as Tony Stark must grapple with his companies’ own consumption and what it has wrought on the world.

- Caprica: An unfortunate causality this year was the Battlestar Galactica spinoff Caprica, which got axed from the SyFy channel lineup. SyFy seems bent on further alienating its fans, also canceling Stargate SGU as this goes to press… what, was this to make room for more killer asteroid flicks? The Galactica universe begs for exploration… how ‘bout seeing what became of some of those other lost colonies?

- District 9: A sleeper science fiction piece, District 9 tackles first contact from a unique perspective. In the film, an alien race looking for a home is sequestered in a South African slum. ET lands, and all we can think to do is exploit them… the movie actually made the short list of favorite first contact films conducted by fans earlier this year. 

– The Book of Eli: The Book of Eli was the sole apocalypse/Road Warrior future that drifted through our transom this year. In it, Denzel Washington finds himself on a mission to deliver a sacred book that has an ability to save or destroy what remains of mankind. It’s worth watching twice, as what’s revealed at the climax puts a totally different spin on the film.

- Splice: This genetic thriller was another surprise this year. In it scientists accidentally create a twisted human hybrid that looks like Björk will a barbed tail. Dren, (nerd backwards) swiftly grows beyond the control of her captors. The feel here is sort of like ET meets Rosemary’s Baby, as you feel sorry for the bizarre oddity but can’t help but keep watching until the disastrous end.

- Humanity’s End: If SyFy hadn’t done a meteor disaster flick this year, this one could have easily slid into the ‘worst of 2010’ nomination. Humanity’s End depicts a future were the genetic integrity of the final surviving humans is at stake, and our hero must deliver one of the few “breeders” from destruction. The movie has the look of a film school project, and the acting and the soundtrack give you the feeling of watching one loooong movie trailer!

- 2012: Supernova: Another shocker for the Mystery Science Theater crowd… 2012: Supernova is so bad, it’s good. At its best, this is the only flick we’ve come across that depicts a supernova as the disaster about to do in mankind. At its worst, it crosses shuttle stock footage and some appallingly bad acting that makes it look like something straight out of the 70’s. You almost feel bad for the supernova!

- Books: Some of the best sci-fi books we came across this year were Gardens of the Sun, the sequel to Paul McAuley’s Quiet War series, Grave Thief by Tom Lloyd, and The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder. The last was probably the best steam punk novel we’ve read to date, and the sub-genre itself seems to be what’s selling in 2010. Thanks to Pyr books to continue to feed our Science Fiction addiction!

- Escape Pod: Fed up with SyFy fare? For cutting edge science fiction, the podcast Escape Pod continues to be on our ‘must listen’ weekly podcatcher list. The podcast has gotten revitalized with author Mur Lafferty at the helm and host Norm Sherman of the equally outstanding Drabblecast occasionally stopping by. These two podcasts are where it’s at, for those of us that still spell it Sci-Fi!

- The Big Bang Theory: One of our favorite science-nerd based comedies is now in its fourth season, as Leonard, Sheldon and friends grapple with science, comic books and the world around them. But the truly ground breaking news is that CBS now posts these shows up online! Imagine, computer geeks can now successfully access a show that targets their demographic… And don’t forget after the online streaming, to check out the companion The Big Blog Theory for some of the science behind the show. Is it wrong that I too can recite the Oath of the Green Lantern right along with Sheldon?

Worst: It was a tough call, but the worst flick this year in a long line of doozies was… wait for it… Meteor Apocalypse. There really needs to be a moratorium placed on meteor disaster films… come on guys, there’s a hundred astronomical ways that life could end that have never been explored on film! Among the worst goofs this flick produces; meteors producing aurorae. Really!  

Best: One of the best films we caught was the mind bender Inception. This film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page features a world within a world where it’s possible to enter the consciousness of others, but at a terrible cost. We were doubly glad to catch this one in IMAX!

Flashback: This year’s flashback shout-out goes to the original Star Trek series. Now that the entire original run is re-mastered on DVD, it’s well worth your weekend. The series itself did nothing short of bring science fiction to the masses, and paved the way for one of the biggest sci-fi franchises of all time. Have to believe the series is approaching 50 years of age!

What’s ahead for 2011? Both Star Wars and Star Trek franchises appear to be dormant, but expect a new Star trek sequel from the rebooted timeline in 2012. Will this leave a gap for some hip indie sci-fi to fill? And speaking of 2012, I’d like to say the spate of disaster related films will abate in 2011, but doubtless, we’ll have to wait until 2013 for that to occur. From the laptop of Astroguyz, expect reviews of such works as The Buntline Special, the Horns of Ruin, and Cowboy Angels… And yes, there is (finally) a Green Lantern flick on tap for the summer of 2012! Astroguyz will be there at the opening, along with Sheldon and his Green Lantern lantern…

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