Bring Out Your Dead: The Science Fiction Disappointments Of 2012

They can't all be winners.

By David Wharton | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old

There was a lot to be excited about in the science fiction landscape during 2012. But in spite of kick-ass outings like Looper and Dredd, and a reinvigorated season of The Walking Dead, we also got stinkers like Battleship, the frustrating wheel-spinning of Alcatraz, and an ambitious misfire in the form of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

We already celebrated the sci-fi triumphs of 2012, so now it’s time to air our grievances. Bring out your dead!


Nick says: Alcatraz made promises on historically ambitious sci-fi that just didn’t happen. Though the elements from the prison’s past made for quite enjoyable crime-ridden vignettes, the modern-day cop drama, mixed in with the non-sequitur time travel and location-heavy impossibilities, failed to raise a pulse, and put Jorge Garcia in another Lost-inspired drama that failed to finish spectacularly. Quit wasting Sam Neill, television!

Brent says: Battleship is terrible in almost every way you could care to measure the quality of a motion picture. First off, how do you base an entire film on a board game with zero plot? Throw in goatee-wearing aliens that look like rejects from a Korn cover band, and special effects made up of what may have been swept up when Michael Bay finished his last Transformers movie, and you have one of the biggest busts of the year. Still, you can’t help but think director Peter Berg and everyone else involved know just how insanely stupid their movie is. No joke, the entire story hinges on a stolen microwave chicken burrito, so how could you not recognize that as farce? Battleship is like that really, really stupid kid. You know the one I’m talking about. He doesn’t know any better, so he’s completely stoked about everything, all the time, always. The enthusiasm is kind of infectious, and I feel like when we’re more evolved as a species we’ll recognize Battleship as a supreme work of satire. As bad as it is, it must be a joke, right?”

Rudie says: Battleship was also a pretty bad movie in the science fiction genre. It’s a rare example of a science fiction movie lacking any imagination or originality. This movie was just loud and lifeless. Yuck!


Mediocre Doctor Who
David says: As the weeks were leading up to the premiere of Doctor Who’s seventh season, showrunner Steven Moffat said that the first five episodes would be almost like self-contained mini-movies, and that was pretty accurate. We got to see the Doctor cross paths with the Daleks yet again, play around on a spaceship filled with dinosaurs, square off against a Western-era cyborg, and finally bid adieu to Amy and Rory. And while the show has a long history of excellent self-contained episodes, unfortunately the seventh season’s initial batch proved to be really, really mediocre. With the knowledge that the Ponds were departing and new companion Clara was on the horizon, these episodes felt like so much filler. It’s telling that the two most memorable parts of the first five episodes were Jenna-Louise Coleman’s surprise appearance in the premiere and a scene that wasn’t even filmed. The show also managed to thoroughly waste the considerable talents of Farscape’s Ben Browder, a nigh unpardonable sin in my humble opinion.

Thankfully the Christmas episode felt like a real shot in the arm, and Clara is already one of my favorite companions even this early in her run. The second half of the season promises to be great fun, but I just wish the first batch of episodes didn’t feel like the show was just coasting until it was time for the Ponds to leave.

Nick says: Take Luc Besson’s Lockout, a movie teaming with seemingly intentionally dumb characters in a dumb plot, and vice versa it with Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, a seemingly intelligent movie teaming with unintentionally dumb characters in an unintentionally dumb plot. Lockout, a film I enjoyed without any critical goggles on, could have used a better plot with a larger scope on which to unleash its rude and ridiculous sense of humor. It’s only a coincidence that Guy Pearce is in both of these films, because his role in Prometheus is amusing for a completely different reason.

Prometheus, beyond Fassbender’s stoic and smile-worthy accomplishment, was devoid of anything light or sincerely amusing, and used a spacesuit-bong as a cheap shot. (Admittedly, it worked for me.) But other than the gorgeous cinematography and CGI, a lot about it drew un-stoked chuckles, from those in the science community, and those outside. I didn’t bother watching The Watch after all the non-hubbub, so these were the two sci-fi movies of the year I thought I might like the best; and Cloud Atlas just excluded my pre-disposed thoughts. And while I sort of liked both space adventures, they could have used a shot of the formula of the other’s successes.


David says: Let’s be clear: I don’t think Revolution is a terrible show. Overall it’s been a mixture of so-so episodes with the occasional really cool bit thrown in. I’d be content to shrug and move on to something else if it wasn’t for one thing: series creator Eric Kripke. With Supernatural, Kripke created a great, addictive show that managed to get better with every new season while Kripke was at the wheel, a far-too-rare accomplishment when it comes to network television. To say that I had high hopes for a new Kripke series would be putting it mildly, and for me those expectations have just thrown the mediocrity of Revolution even more starkly into contrast.

Now the show is in the midst of a months-long hiatus that is likely to drive away many viewers who were on the fence about sticking with it. And that’s a shame, since the final few episodes finally felt like the show was getting around to the meat of the story — the actual Revolution of the title — as opposed to a weekly installment of “We Still Haven’t Rescued Danny Yet.” I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the show will rally in the upcoming episodes, but I’m also afraid it won’t be able to recover from the long hiatus. And honestly, if we’re just going by the first half of the season, I’m not sure it deserves to.

Star Trek Into Darkness Stunts
Brent says: Specifically, annoying stunts where people involved in Star Trek Into Darkness say they’re going to reveal new footage, but then pull a fast one on fans. I won’t say that all of us are super excited for Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to J.J. Abrams’ reboot of the beloved franchise, but quite a few of us are pretty pumped for next May. Abrams is notoriously stingy when it comes to doling out information about his movies in advance. As such, fans are starved for news, and rabidly cling to every announcement or report, searching for anything that resembles a scoop.

Given this near frenzied state, fans are susceptible to pranks, schemes, and flimflams. Every so often this year you heard about some member of the cast or crew about to reveal some secret morsel, some juicy tidbit about Into Darkness, only to check it out and realize you’d been hoodwinked. Admittedly, there are no ill intentions behind these shenanigans, and when Karl Urban said he was going to unveil footage from the film at Comic Con, then released a video of himself surfing, that was pretty funny. But by the time Abrams went on Conan and showed three frames, just over one-tenth of a second of footage, it felt tired. (I feel like there’s at least one other similar instance that I’m forgetting.)

I’m as much to blame for this as anyone else, especially since I’ve written about it at least twice in recent months, and we (fans) do tend to take ourselves a wee bit too serious at times. But guys, can we please call it a day with stunts like this? Thanks, your fans appreciate the thought.


Total Recall
Brent says: Len Wiseman’s Total Recall remake wasn’t as completely rancid as many initially feared it might be. While the reboot of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 sci-fi actioner is never slow—keeping a high-speed pace is a good way to make you overlook glaring flaws and gaping holes—nothing can distract you from how the overwhelming emptiness of Total Recall. Nothing can make the movie anything more than completely unnecessary. All of this is to be expected, really. Wiseman is a style-over-substance kind of guy, and though Total Recall is slick and has all the bells and whistles, it lacks things like depth of character, emotion, or anything that goes beyond the surface level. Total Recall is most memorable for being totally forgettable.