The Best Sci-fi Films of the 2000s - Part II of a series
The coming of a new millennium did bring with it a wave of science fiction. What we've got is a shortage of any deeper, thought-provoking sci-fi movies. Avatar sure didn't bring THAT back. They tend to be more or less like the case of I, Robot: Taking a deep subject material and making a moronic action movie where the world must be saved out of it. Thus, we had to swallow some big disappointments such as the Star Wars prequels and the Matrix sequels. I would go on to argue that the best sci-fi of the naughties has been made for the small screen in the form of great sci-fi TV shows like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. But yet, there has been quite a few of nice movies out of the subject as well.
Here's my top 15:
A.I. – Artificial Intelligence
Ah, Stanley Kubrick. So much I love you that I'll like any movie you made, even though it might've been directed by someone else entirely. This certainly shares the cold, depressing athmosphere of most Kubrick's movies. If you just ignore the ending, that is total Spielberg, this is quite a good one.
I trust the japanese to have the craziest social commentary/satire movies. In surface, this is just an ultra-violent flick of teenagers murdering each other. But peel away the layers and it reveals something crucial about the nihilistic modern day. In that, it is similar to Fight Club and American Psycho. And like those movies, it was a little ahead of its time. A cult classic probably mostly because of the violence, it's sad that this was Kinji Fukasaku's last film. One wonders what he could've accomplished.
Children of Men
Films about the future are pretty much actually films about the time they were made. This seems pretty like a possible future for mankind at this point. Just like a good sci-fi movie should. There will not be flying cars and visits to space, but everyday terrorism, a Big Brother society, and death camps for foreigners. Oh, and new children will no longer be born. This shakes our view up a bit, huh. It is tempting to compare this with up to Blade Runner and Brazil. I love how the action utilizes different levels, in a true 3D way. Also the hand held long action shots are certainly worth their salt.
Where Avatar was hammering down a noble message and was annoyingly preaching, District 9 has an anti-racist message that works, even though it's not exactly subtle. If the audience sympathized with ugly space prawns, perhaps it can then accept different people too, after leaving the theater. And the film is funny and has kick-ass action as well. The computer effects never look too videogamy. The only problem with the film is its documentary style which comes off as off-putting and annoying after the set-up at the beginning. Fortunately, it faded in the background, but should be cut off completely after a point. Anyway, quite a good story about how the racists get a taste of their own medicine.
This worked for me in a very personal level. I see much of my own teenage self in Donnie. Feeling angry and isolated, at least I didn't go to therapy, see creepy bunnies and set fire to houses while sleepwalking. The psychological aspects and lynchian mindfucks work very well in this one - no part of the story feels futile or weird for just weirdness's sake. It also has great dialogue (one of the best scripts of the decade) and the last notable role of Patrick Swayze, RIP. Try to see the original cut rather than director's - it's well worth it.
Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind
I actually am not such a big fan of the movie as many others are. This ultimately is too long and has futile subplots. But the main theme of treasuring memories is still apt and deep. Charlie Kaufman also keeps the main plot going refreshingly straight-forward, even if he has his usual gimmicks he likes to play with. One of the strongest points is the casting, which feature's Jim Carrey's best role and one of Kate Winslet's best as well.
Howl's Moving Castle
It's not one of Miyazaki's greatest, but he is such a wonderful director that even his lesser work is ten times better than what most directors can achieve with their best work. The attention to detail is stunning, as is the whole animation in this one. It also doesn't follow the usual pattern of animated movies (which even Pixar succumbs to), but is more of a spiritual and psychological journey through the mind of the main character, aged beyond her years. Funny, exciting, thrilling and beautiful. I love the cute grandmas Miyazaki treats us with.
This century's Metropolis doesn't really compare to the original. What does? But despite the fact that the story revolves around a robotic girl, it doesn't actually have much similar, either. I saw this as a teenager just about to get into anime. This and the Final Fantasy games worked as a gateway. I stayed somewhat sane with that thing, but I'd like to see this again after a long while. I should also see FFVII: Advent Children I guess.
This also isn't good all the way through (the only Spielberg movie that was this decade was Munich). It's certainly no Blade Runner, but it presents some interesting sci-fi ideas pretty good. After all, it is based on Philip K. Dick's novel. The view of the future is reasonable, and doesn't feel to be as depressing as it's usually portrayed. But beneath the surface, the greedy, the ruthless and the plain-out evil still rule and prevent us from ever reaching utopia. I want a magnetic car, dammit!
This is more like the intellegent sci-fi I would like to see tahn anything other this decade. It is slow, quiet and character-centred, which may be off-putting for many. I'm surprised that many don't even like the ending, which I feels aptly belongs to this story. It's either that or ripping off the trippines of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which would damage the earlier film as well. Let's hope there's more goodness coming from Duncan Jones.
This is too a sci-fi movie. But I won't spoil how come. This is literally movie magic. By over-analysing this ultimately does not seem to have any more content than the basic magician's trick, but who cares when it's so entertaining. Good actors, a fascinating story, really strange events, and of course the mystery, which, like magic, pales when it is revealed at the end. It's not as good the second time around, but still intriguing.
To be fair, I only remember basic plot points from this movie. But after seeing this, I watched Firefly the TV-series and appreciated the movie a lot more. If Han Solo's further adventures in the Old Space-West isn't your cup of tea, you're dead inside to me. I should see the film again, but I am a lazy bastard.
One of the freakiest time-travel movies I've seen. And that includes Back to the Future II. This spanish thriller reminds me a little of Memento, in that it seems to add up to a neat little package in the end, but the more you think about it, the more weirdness you find. Totally mind-blowing, man. I hope there won't be a Hollywood remake ever. The spaniards sure have good genre-movies nowadays.
V for Vendetta
I still think this is the best movie based on comic genius Alan Moore's work. It follows the comic faithfully, but takeing a few turns out here and there which makes it feel refreshing. Although the Wachowski brothers do make it very clunky at parts (V:s introduction, anyone?), it sure works most of the time. It's great to see that it isn't an action movie (aside some cool knife tricks) but still focuses mostly on characters. And has a dystopian future, too.
Somehow, I could symphatize with a lonely robot doomed to an eternal cleaning job better than any other film character this decade. Movies this sad and heart-warming, romances this beautiful, handsomer animations and smarter sci-fi movies are very rare. And yet they do not have it all at the same time. I'm not the only fan - Terry Gilliam loves it too. This is not quite flawless film - a few noisy spacecraft scenes seem to be added to the movie just to maintain the hyper-active child viewers' interest. I would be happy to watch only the two robots on the deserted Earth for hours. I also love the satirical picture of the future of mankind. Wall-E in ten minutes is a lot smarter and sends a more powerful (eco) message, as the entire Day the Earth Stood Still remake. I watch the DVD quite often. And every time I blubber like little baby. One of my very favorites this decade and for animation, ever.