Report on Science Fiction Movies 1H 2019

I Am Mother, Netflix, science fiction movie, robots, dystopiaAs I predicted when I wrote the list of science fiction movies scheduled for the first half of 2019, the results have been pretty dismal. The few movies that actually hit mainstream theaters got pond-scum-level ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. Many never reached the big screen at all. Streaming TV gave us the best opportunities to go out in space but even then, the movies left me grim and uninspired.

The best of the lot, I Am Mother, never appeared on my list of science fiction movies at all and was, therefore, a pleasant surprise.

The Television Options

Streaming TV is becoming a problem. We have cable, HBO, Amazon Prime, Starz, Syfy, Showtime, and Netflix. More appear seemingly every month, like Democratic candidates for President.

We refuse to add more premium outlets and thus don’t see what’s on Hulu, CBS All Access, etc. That means no Star Trek Discovery or Handmaid’s Tale for us. But you have to draw the line somewhere. At some point, the industry will consolidate but there’s no telling how long that will take.

The movie offerings of any genre have been so thin lately, we haven’t been to the theater for weeks. Every week, I hope. Every week, I’m disappointed. And this is the height of the summer movie season. Things will only get worse in the fall.

The Rules

The Day the Earth Stood Still, science fiction movies, theater marqueeAs always, here are the rules for science fiction movies to be included on my list. It’s my blog; my rules.

  1. The following list does not include superhero or comic book movies, anime, animated children’s movies, movies based on video games, horror (including poltergeists, haunted mirrors, creepy children, etc.), fairy tales, Bible movies, paranormal romance and (with a few notable exceptions) monster movies. They are not science fiction.
  2. This list focuses on movies appearing in theaters. It includes a few premium channel movies, which may be straight-to-video films or appear simultaneously in theaters. Distribution patterns are changing and Netflix has raised the bar for new content.
  3. To be included, the movie must have a definite release date. This date may change and the movie may even slip into the following year. In that case, I will not review it along with the others. But if it has no announced release date, it does not make the list.

Report on 12 Science Fiction Movies

Check out how well the 12 science fiction movies I listed in January for the first half of 2019 did in actual release. If, that is, they actually appeared anywhere.

Io

  • Release Date: January 18, 2019
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: 32% Rotten / NA Audience
  • Box Office to Date: NA
  • Production Budget: NA
  • Viewed: Yes

My Take: It amazes me that Hollywood can make and end-of-the-world apocalypse boring but they succeeded here. This story about a woman in love with a ghost and living in denial has so little action one might actually wish the world ended just for something to watch. The movie I expected never really got started. Io was dreary, dismal, flat and a real let-down.

Alita: Battle Angel

  • Release Date: February 14, 2019
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: 61% Fresh / 94% Liked
  • Box Office to Date: $404,852,543
  • Production Budget: $170,000,000
  • Viewed: No

My Take: I missed this in the theater but my husband saw it and liked it a lot. I will catch up on TV.

Fox Trot Six

  • Release Date: February 21, 2019
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: NA
  • Box Office to Date: NA
  • Production Budget: NA
  • Viewed: No

My Take: This science fiction movie came and went in the blink of an eye. No one seems to have seen it or paid any attention to it. No critical reviews, no Rotten Tomatoes scores. No financial information. Nada.

Captive State

  • Rupert Wyatt,Captive State, science fiction, movie,Release Date: March 15, 2019
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: 44% Rotten / 40% Liked
  • Box Office to Date: $5,958,315
  • Production Budget: $25,000,000
  • Viewed: Yes

My Take: The science fiction aspect of Captive State is so low-key, so played down, that this movie could as easily have been about occupation by Nazis or Russians or Chinese. While Captive State has more action than Io, it mostly concerns human beings running a Resistance movement against aliens who never appear. This makes it like shooting blanks at invisible targets in the dark—not too engrossing.

High Life

  • Release Date: April 12, 2019
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: 83% Fresh / 44% Liked
  • Box Office to Date: $1,225,852
  • Production Budget: NA
  • Viewed: No

My Take: I don’t remember this movie ever hitting the theaters. Although the critics claimed High Life wasn’t really an “art-house film,” the few audiences that saw it seemed to disagree with them. Seems like a good prospect for TV at some point.

Brightburn

  • Release Date: May 24, 2019
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: 57% Fresh / 67% Liked
  • Box Office to Date: $17,300,439
  • Production Budget: $6,000,000
  • Viewed: No

My Take: One look at the trailer told me Brightburn had a lot more to do with super-hero horror than science fiction. I don’t see movies about evil demon children with or without superpowers, whether they fall from the sky or are born here on Earth. Not interested.

I Am Mother

  • Release Date: June 7, 2019
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: 91% Fresh / 73% Liked
  • Box Office to Date: NA
  • Production Budget: NA
  • Viewed: Yes

My Take: Netflix gave us a nice surprise with this science fiction movie. It combines multiple science fiction tropes to build an engrossing film with a satisfying ending that still leaves you wondering what happens next. Three gold stars.

Men in Black: International

  • Men in Black International, MIB, movie onesheet, science fictionRelease Date: June 14, 2019
  • Rotten Tomatoes Scores: 22% Rotten / 66% Liked
  • Box Office to Date: $237,871,331
  • Production Budget: $110,000,000
  • Viewed: No

My Take: This was one of my Grand Disappointments. I was so hoping the re-boot of this franchise would be great that I almost saw MIB: International despite how the critics dumped all over it. Judging by the Rotten Tomatoes scores, a lot of other fans felt the same way.

Rescheduled from the First Half

That’s it for science fiction movies in the first half of 2019. Out of 12 movies, three were rescheduled for later in the year and one flamed out while a new arrival gave us a pleasant surprise. I will follow up, as usual, with a list of the upcoming science fiction movies in the second half of 2019. One can only hope things will improve.

spaceship crashing, crash and burn

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About Aline Kaplan

Aline Kaplan is a published author, a blogger, and a tour guide in Boston. She formerly had a career as a high-tech marketing and communications director. Aline writes and edits The Next Phase Blog, a social commentary blog that appears multiple times a week at aknextphase.com. She has published over 1,000 posts on a variety of subjects, from Boston history to science fiction movies, astronomical events to art museums. Under the name Aline Boucher Kaplan, she has had two science fiction novels (Khyren and World Spirits) published by Baen Books. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies published in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. Aline’s articles have also appeared on the Atlas Obscura website. She has been an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America since 1988 and is a long-term member of the Spacecrafts science/fantasy writers’ group. As a tour guide, Aline leads architectural and historical walking tours of the city for Boston By Foot, ghost tours for Haunted Boston and historical bus tours of the city. She lectures on Boston history and has appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as on TV for Chronicle, an award-winning television program that broadcasts stories of New England. As a lecturer, Aline has spoken at Brandeis and Tufts universities for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She has also addressed as service organizations and local meetings. She is a graduate of Northeastern University in Boston and lives in Hudson, MA.

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