January is here and it’s time for my annual roundup of science fiction movies that will be released in 2015. Some of them are eagerly anticipated while others will be complete surprises. Of the six, only three are original stories, not franchise sequels, reboots or re-imaginings of previous movies.
In today’s post, I’ll cover the ten biggies, movies that are receiving all the hype and social media buzz. As per my usual rules, the 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. The reason is simple: I don’t consider those genres science fiction.
Here are the top ten science fiction movies in 2015 in chronological order of their release dates:
Jupiter Ascending (February 6, 2015)
This is the movie I’m most looking forward to as it is an original story that offers a spectacular dose of space opera with lush sets and amazing special effects. It’s a Cinderella meets Harry Potter story that takes us out into space and beyond to another planet. “In the future, a young destitute human woman gets targeted for assassination by the Queen of the Universe, and begins her destiny to finish the Queen’s reign.” This is a movie for those of us who have ever looked at the stars and felt we belonged there.
Jupiter Ascending looks like a big, wonderful story that, in print, would take up at least 400 pages. @JupiterMovieUK stars Mila Kuniss with Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Channing Tatum, and Gugu MBatha-Raw. I hope Eddard Stark is more politically savvy here than he was in Game of Thrones.
Andy and Lana Wachowski both wrote and directed, bringing their experience from the Matrix Trilogy to bear. It’s a big budget spectacular ($175M) and it will give the Wachowskis a chance to regroup after the disappointing box office of Cloud Atlas. To fully appreciate the lush visuals of Jupiter Ascending, you have to watch the official trailer. It’s better on the big screen, though.
Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15, 2015)
I enjoyed at least two of the earlier Mad Max movies but I have severe reservations about this one. Having seen the trailer, I know that @MadMax4FuryRoad includes a truly horrific level of violence. What I saw in just a few moments of coming “attractions” instead totally repelled me. It reminded me of the second half of 28 Days Later, which started as a good, creepy, post-apocalyptic zombie movie and morphed into a psychopathic blood bath that physically turned my stomach.
The tag line for Mad Max: Fury Road is, “A world without hope . . . without law . . . without mercy.” It also appears to be a world in which big burly men commit a lot of murder and mayhem. Which raises the question, “Where do law, mercy, and hope come from?” Mad Max movies have always been pretty violent but if Director George Miller (who produced Beyond Thunderdome) has ramped this re-vivication of the franchise up to bloody carnage levels, I’ll pass.
Tomorrowland (May 22, 2015)
Although this movie comes to us from Brad Bird, creator of Ratatouille and The Incredibles, it is not an animated movie. Starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie and Judy Greer, Tomorrowland tells the story of a magic button that instantaneously transports anyone who touches it to another world. This is a world “somewhere in space and time” that looks really cool—at least from a distance. Imagine traveling into a book cover designed by Michael Whelan and you get the idea. Or just watch the trailer for @Tomorrowland.
There have, of course, been good trailers for awful movies and bad trailers for excellent movie so it’s difficult to get the whole picture from this snippet. Still, Tomorrowland is an original story—not part of a movie franchise—so I’m inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Jurassic World (June 12, 2015)
This is another franchise reboot and it takes place 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park. The park’s novelty has worn off, and visitor rates are declining. What to do? Get a new attraction, of course—something really big and nasty. What could go wrong? Just ask Seaworld.
The trailer for @JurassicWorld replicates the sense of wonder combined with sheer terror that we got from the original movie. Our eyeballs weren’t accustomed to visions of the impossible made real as they are now. I left the theater with the amazing feeling that I had seen real, live dinosaurs. Special effects and CGI have come a long way since, so the idea of seeing dinosaurs in the flesh isn’t as shocking. But Jurassic World has possibilities. The cast is good and competent—including the marvelous Irrfan Khan—but not really A-List. Director Colin Trevorrow, who is also one of the writers, has mostly documentaries and TV movies under his belt. The success of this movie is a tossup. But, as the tagline says, “The park is open.”
Terminator Genesis (July 1, 2015)
Once again we go back to the future with a new time line in which Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese join up with the original Terminator to stop Judgment Day. In this installment, we get Emelia Clarke—Khaleesi of the Dothraki tribes—as Sarah Connor. This is an interesting swap as Lena Headey, who once had same the role in the TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles, currently plays Evil Queen Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones. If only Director Alan Taylor had hired Jason Momoa as a new Terminator. Khal Terminator—now there’s a thought.
I really want this installment in the franchise to live up to several of its predecessors and the trailer rocks. It could go either way. Arnold returns in his original role and James Cameron has taken the unusual step of explaining why the cyborg has wrinkles. Do we care? I’m keeping my fingers crossed for @Terminator5News and hoping that it turns out well.
Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (September 18, 2015)
“The Gladers have escaped the Maze, but now they face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a world ravaged by solar flares and disease.” That’s all I need to know. We enjoyed the first movie, based on the novel by James Dashner, and were intrigued by the ending. Now we get to move out into a dystopian world that is willing to sacrifice the lives of teen-aged boys in a twisted trial of intelligence and endurance. The survivors have returned in their previous roles. I’m in, too.
The Martian (November 25, 2015)
I wrote enthusiastically about this book in a previous post and I’m seriously looking forward to the movie. Put Ridley Scott together with Matt Damon and the planet Mars in a high-tension story of survival and you’ve got some serious science fiction. Better yet, even people who are allergic to SF can watch this one because, like Gravity, it’s not set that far in the future. This story of an astronaut, part of a Mars landing team, who is accidentally stranded when his team is forced to evacuate is riveting. It could happen. It could happen in our lifetimes. Be prepared.
If @TheMartianMovie does the book justice, science teachers across America should make going to see the movie a class assignment. They’d be fools not to. The science is fascinating—I found it the most interesting part of the story—and even Neil DeGrasse Tyson shouldn’t be able to find fault with it.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (November 2015)
It’s a good thing this film ends the franchise because the titles are getting too long to handle. If you read the books and saw the previous three movies, you’ll see this one, too. If you didn’t, you won’t because Part 2 won’t make any sense. I expect Jennifer Lawrence to do her usual superb job of acting supported by the same cast of good guys from the Districts and bad guys from the Capitol. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman is listed in the credits as Plutarch Heavensbee so I assume they are using footage already in the can to patch him in.
I found the book rushed and crowded, with author Suzanne Collins cramming an awful lot of action between those covers. So I was glad when Producer Nina Jacobson and Director Francis Lawrence decided to break the book into two parts. Part 1 spent a lot of time on Katniss’s angst at becoming the Mockingjay so @Mockingjaypart2 will get down to the action of destroying the Capitol. The big dramatic theme is, “Let’s go get Snow.” Us girls get to watch Katniss kick butt and boys of all ages can watch a lot of stuff get blown up. May the odds be ever in our favor.
9.Insurgent (Undated 2015)
This is the film version of the second book in the series by Veronica Roth and starring Shailene Woodley. In this one, “Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side.” Controlling inner demons doesn’t make for a lot of action so the success of Insurgent depends a lot on how well the writing team of Veronica Roth, Akiva Goldsman and Brian Duffield do with the script and how well Director Robert Schwentke handles his cast of thousands.
As before, if you liked Divergent, you’ll probably see @InsurgentMovie. I plan to go.
10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (December 15, 2015)
This is easily the most anticipated SF film of the year and everything about it has made news in the science fiction world. This includes the return of stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker, reprising their original roles. Sir Alec Guiness, alas, has gone far, far away.
- J.J. Abrams is directing instead of George Lucas.
- Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams are writing the screenplay—in addition to George Lucas.
The official trailer went viral instantly and within days had spawned an un-official George Lucas version that added in all the extraneous stuff Mr. Lucas loves and that spoiled the three prequels—including JarJar Binks. (It’s quick but he’s there.) You only have to watch one and then the other to see the difference.
When The Force Awakens is released in December, fans will be camping out on the sidewalk to score advance tickets for opening night. It’s easier to get them online but there’s no romance in that. I fail to see any romance in camping out on the sidewalk in December, either, but it takes all kinds.
I feel compelled to note that we also eagerly awaited the first three movies in the series, prequels to the original Episode 4, and look how well that turned out. I’m guardedly optimistic, though. Which means that I really, really want this movie to be much better than Episodes I, II, and III.
More to Come
A lot more, but less-notable, science fiction movies are in the pipeline for 2015 and I’ll cover those in another post. In the meantime, mark your calendars if you like outer space, time travel, dark dystopian worlds, or dinosaurs. The Force is with us this year.
Related Post: The Martian: Survival on the Red Planet