The Best and Worst SF Movies of 2011.

Sucker, Punched.

My very favourite blog in the world (clue: irony is being employed here), i09.com today breaks down their list of the best and worst SF movies of the year, because it’s the law to make these kinds of lists at the end of the year.

It’s illustrative to me personally that I’ve seen one of their top ten best films – the Marvel adaptation, “Thor”, and have a bunch of the other titles on my DVD rental list: Do I share a taste in films with my enemies?

The year's most underrated movie?

It’s a bummer that they couldn’t find a place on their list for “Source Code“, Duncan Jones’ follow-up to “Moon”, as I felt it did a lot to confirm that Jones could make mainstream, science fiction-inflected adventures as well as occupying the more art house territory of his debut – is “Limitless” really that much better?  “Source Code” had provocative ideas about the notion of the self, our Western responses to terrorism, personal freedom and found time to balance intellectual concerns with pulse-racing action, a romantic sub-plot which didn’t make you want to gnaw off your limbs in annoyance and some great acting work from Jake Gyllenhaal and Vera Farmiga, amongst others.

Tell me if I’m off-beam here, other viewers of this film – it was as good as I remembered it being, wasn’t it?

Meanwhile, in the realm of terrible films, io9′s blogger really didn’t like Zack Snyder’s fetish farrago, “Sucker Punch” and I can see where they’re coming from.  It’s a difficult flick to recommend to anybody as it shoots for the moon and misses primarily because it makes some utterly inexplicable, divisive choices in the process of doing so.

We’ve got a cast of young actresses playing young girls who are essentially imprisoned in a 1950′s reform school/mental home only to find that they’re now victims of what we might call people trafficking.  Yeah, I know – Friday night fun for your multiplex demographic!  In order to escape the very real horror of their surroundings, each girl escapes into a fantasy world which sees them transformed into super-cool, uber-skilled warriors battling all manner of sci-fi/high fantasy bad guys in order to retrieve dream world totems which become real world items which will allow them to escape.

Sounds like trashy fun – but it really isn’t.

The major problem for most thinking viewers of this film will be the way that it spends a lot of time getting leery over these young women, dressing them up in lingerie (not exactly practical for the battlefield, last time that I looked) and then photographing them in a way which makes Michael Bay’s soft-porn “Victoria’s Secret” adverts look like a Jane Campion film.

It’s that old chestnut – when does empowerment become exploitation?  If you answered “When a film director old enough to know better has his cast inexplicably dressed up like anime schoolgirl hookers”, that’s probably the correct answer.

Elsewhere on the list, you’ve got your usual candidates for terri-bad viewing during the year.  “Green Lantern” gets a nod, for mostly eschewing the cosmos-spanning comics lore in favour of a desperately dull, earthbound adventure with supremely dull characters.  “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” is cited, mostly for being shrill and still persisting with the idea that Shia LaBeouf is an actual leading man.  For the record, I could do without the human beings in the film (noted exception, the glorious Alan Tudyk) and felt that the action sequences were frequently extraordinary – it’s just a shame that the movie they appeared in was so unlikeable.

I would have to say that “Green Lantern” was my pick for the worst film of the year – as much of a missed opportunity as “Sucker Punch” was, it at least managed to provoke you to object to sections of it and had some bravura action (Baby Doll’s fight against the Giant Robot Samurai, the steampunk WWI Nazi Zombies, the dragon battle) to distract the audience momentarily from it’s profoundly misguided sexual politics.

They're letting anybody be a member of the Green Lantern Corps nowadays...

“Green Lantern” was chuffing terrible.  Sexless, character-free, action-light, played broadly by a cast who seem alternately bored, uncertain as to their role or believe that they’re in a pantomime and that mugging is therefore perfectly acceptable (For shame, Tim Robbins, for shame!).

It’s not entirely the fault of the actors – the script is wretched, the cinematography bathes the on-screen action with a murky green tinge that makes on-screen action hard to see and Martin Campbell shows so little interest in the character that he flashes back to the hero’s father’s death a matter of minutes after we initially saw it, apparently in the belief that the audience has nodded off in the intervening moments.  Of this film – which is apparently getting a sequel – I can say only ‘Ugh!’ by way of summing up.

Let’s hope that 2012 offers a few more things to look forward to – on the evidence of trailers for “Prometheus”, “The Dark Knight Rises”, dark superhero ‘found footage’ tale “Chronicle”, part one of  “The Hobbit” and even Greek Mythology sequel to “Wrath of the Titans”, things are already looking a lot better.

 

 

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