Ticket sales at the box office may have been at a 20-year low in 2014, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything worth seeing. I’m a firm believer that, no matter the state of the industry, there will always be people making exciting, interesting films, you just might have to look for them. Regardless of what this means for studios and their bottom lines, sci-fi fans had a lot to dig into over the past year. There were huge, spectacle style blockbusters right along side quiet, introspective independent features more concerned with ideas than eye candy, as well as everything in between. There are a few gaps in my genre viewing for the year—I still have yet to watch titles like Young Ones, The Zero Theorem, and Under the Skin for some reason—but in this spirit, here are my top sci-fi movies of 2014.
Here in the States most of us are winding down a day spent eating too much, drinking too much, and likely experiencing more than a little family-related drama. Far be it from us here at GFR to play humbugs, so, as we’ve done in previous years, we sat down to ponder what science fiction developments we were most thankful for this year. So before you collapse back into a turkey-induced coma, take a moment to look back at the things that put the biggest smiles on our faces in 2014. And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
Everything About Edge of Tomorrow
How is it that a movie involving an alien invasion and a weird form of time travel joined forces with polarizing megastar Tom Cruise and became one of the year’s most guiltlessly enjoyable movies? Whether the credit for the sci-fi magic goes to director Doug Liman, screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Christopher McQuarrie, or even Cruise and co-star Emily Blunt, the film’s sense of sheer fun and darkly comedic whimsy are undeniable.
Based on the Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow could have easily crumbled beneath the weight of its time-looping narrative, but manages to steer clear of weary repetition. By sticking Cruise back into a learning recruit role instead of having him start the film as the almighty hero, Edge of Tomorrow gives its lead one of the weirdest character arcs in all of fiction, which can’t be derailed by the likes of co-stars Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson. By far the airiest, funniest, and most exciting blockbuster of the year, Edge of Tomorrow is arguably the only must-see tentpole film of the year for sci-fi fans. (That’s right, Godzilla and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I said it.) – Nick
Let’s be true to one another. The Purge was one of the worst horrors/thrillers of the last few years, taking a potentially meaningful plot and shitting on it with terrible characters and awful decision-making. Director James DeMonaco’s actual direction was probably the fourth thing anyone thought about after watching it. Thankfully, The Purge: Anarchy is in almost every way the film that its predecessor was meant to be. Unfortunately, that still equals out to: “Frank Grillo in an okay slasher movie.”
Not that this is a slasher movie; not in the singular sense. This is a slashersss movie, where murderers run amok in Los Angeles because it is their Founding Fathers-given right! The Purge: Anarchy is at times surprising where it chooses to go with its subject matter, but only The Purge part of its subject matter. For two films now, DeMonaco has teased horror fans with a truly great scenario—the U.S. allows its more depraved citizens the right to go nuts for twelve hours a year, with no consequences. And for two films, he has delivered stale genre movies rife with stereotypes. But at least this one has Frank Grillo front and center.
The more we see from The Purge: Anarchy, the super-fast follow up to last year’s low-budget moneymaker, the crazier it looks. And so far, nothing has looked quite as bat-shit insane as this extended new clip that is essentially an entire scene for you to examine before the film opens on July 18. It should give you a good frame of reference to use when deciding whether or not to go see this in the theater.
Set on the same night at The Purge, Anarchy gives you a wider view of violent, dystopian world where the government legalizes all crime for 12-hours one night every year so society can get out its collective ya-yas. While the first movie was essentially set in a single house in a wealthy suburb, framed as a home invasion story, the follow up shows you have the proverbial other half lives. Instead of focusing on one family, this movie follows three different story threads from deep within the inner city.
The Purge: Anarchy looks to be that rarest of animals, the sequel that is actually better than its predecessor. Despite the fact that it took just a hair over a year to get approval, knock out a script, shoot the sucker, and get it all into movie theaters worldwide, the closer we get to the July 18 release, the better this looks. And since we’re only a day over two weeks away, that hype machine is churning at full speed, knocking out trailers, TV spots, clips, and posters, posters, posters, including this new collection of six one-sheets and a banner.
The Purge: Anarchy is a movie that I wasn’t initially very interested in, let alone excited about. The first Purge produced a tepid reaction, the sequel was originally slated to appear almost exactly one year after the first without being previously green lit and felt rushed, and the generically ominous name didn’t do anything to sweeten the deal. But a funny thing happened, as we’ve crept closer and closer—and the release date got pushed back a little bit—this has become a movie that I’m actively looking forward to, and this new behind-the-scenes look, and two new clips, only serve to heighten that anticipation.
Anarchy doesn’t look like high art, not at all, but over time it has come to resemble those grim, hard-boiled revenge thrillers from the late 1970s and early 80s, which is a subgenre I hold near and dear to my heart. You don’t get that kind of low-budget, vengeance fueled action in theaters all that often anymore—these days this sort of film usually goes direct to video—and when you throw in a dystopian twist, you have my attention.