“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
It’s January and thus time for my mostly annual collection of science fiction movies that are due to be released this year. To keep the list to a reasonable size, I include only the first six months. Besides, release dates get squishy after that. A second post in July will follow up with the second half of the year.
As I have said in the past, 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.
What’s On the List of Science Fiction Movies in 2017
My annual list does include movies that fit into a number of standard science fiction tropes: space travel, time travel, alternate future, aliens, robots, “what if” scenarios, future technology run amok, save the world, etc. This year will see a couple of blockbusters as well as some possible sleepers.
I, like a lot of fans, am continually disappointed by movies with big stars, high production values and compelling trailers that turn out to be real bombs. To be a good science fiction movie, it has first and foremost to be a good movie. That means a solid script, and engrossing plot, good pacing, good direction, and a sound ending.
That said, here’s my list of upcoming science fiction movies in 2017 given in order of their announced release date.
First Quarter 2017
- Release Date: January 17, 2017
- Starring: Manu Bennett, Malcolm McDowell, Marci Miller
- Director: Roger Corman
“The year 2050 the planet has become overpopulated, to help control population the government develops a race. The Death Race. Annually competitors race across the country scoring points for killing people with their vehicles.”
My take; We’ll probably skip this one. The 1975 original got higher Tomatometer scores from critics than likes from audiences. The science fiction element probably won’t overcome my aversion to violence for the sake of violence and a demolition derby in the future is still just a demolition derby. If i don’t watch car races now, why would I like one in the future? It’s a mystery.
- Release Date: January 20, 2017
- Starring: Rooney Mara, Riley Keough, Jesse Plemons
- Director: Charlie McDowell
“A love story set one year after the existence of the afterlife is scientifically verified.”
My take: A lot depends on how good a movie this turns out to be.I’m skeptical. Will this turn out to be Flatliners meets Patch Adams in Beetlejuice or something better? Hollywood has a bad track record when it comes to the afterlife: they just don’t trust that it could exist or that it could be good. So afterlife movies tend to go over the top. Hmm.
- Release Date: February 3, 2017
- Starring: Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, Asa Butterfield
- Director: Peter Chelsom
“The first human born on Mars travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl to discover how he came to be.”
My take: This could be good but I wonder. After growing up on Mars with gravity 38% that of Earth and four years, give or take, in weightlessness on the way here, Protagonist Asa Butterfield had better do some serious weight training before he undertakes his adventures. Or will he get off the shuttle and start bounding down the street, high on all the rich atmosphere? Good science or bad science? I’ll keep Neil DeGrasse Tyson on hand for the play by play..
- Release Date: February 17, 2017
- Starring: Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Dane DeHaan
- Director: Gore Verbinski
“An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps but soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem.”
My take: We’ve seen the trailer for this film several times and it has possibilities. On the one hand it seems to have some innovative ideas going for it. On the other hand, it could be an amped-up version of The Lobster: better production values but just as grim and joyless. We’ll watch the reviews for guidance.
- Release Date: March 24, 2017
- Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson
- Director: Daniel Espinoza
“An international space crew discovers life on Mars.”
My take: This could be as exciting as watching cultures grow in a Petri dish. Or the crew could be like the team in the Europa Report, who assumed no life on other planets could be bigger. They discover otherwise the hard way. Given Hollywood’s need to drive ticket sales, I think Life will lean more toward big drama than small science. Still, it looks promising.
- Release Date: March 24, 2017
- Starring: Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Banks, Bill Hader
- Director: Dean Israelite
“A group of high-school kids, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.”
My take: On the face of it, this plot is so hackneyed I yawn just reading the synopsis. On the other hand, we have seen the actual trailer and it looks pretty good. Will it be one of those bait-and-switch deals where the trailer has all the good scenes and the movie ends up a big “meh?” Time will tell.
- Release Date: March 31, 2017
- Starring: Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Rila Fukushima, Scarlett Johansson
- Director: Rupert Sanders
“A cyborg policewoman, the Major, a special-ops, one-of-a-kind hybrid who leads the elite Section 9 task force, attempts to bring down a nefarious computer hacker. His goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.”
My take: We’ll see. Task forces and hackers can go either way. If it’s good, we’ll go see it. Bad reviews and we stay home.
Second Quarter, 2017
- Release Date: April 28, 1017
- Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Karen Gillan, John Boyega
- Director: James Ponsoldt
“A woman lands a job at a powerful tech company called the Circle, which links users’ personal emails, social media, banking and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in a new age of civility and transparency. She becomes involved with a mysterious man.”
My take: It’s a big leap to go from connecting our online presence to a new age of civility. Unless The Circle starts controlling people and imposing that civility regardless of how we feel about it. I reserve the right to be uncivil to people I don’t like. It could be good, though.
- Release Date: May 5, 2017
- Starring: Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel (voice) , Bradley Cooper (voice)
- Director: James Gunn
“Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord, and his band of misfits continue their cosmic adventures as protectors of the galaxy against new threats, including Ayesha and the Ravagers, as their team grows. Peter learns about his father, Ego the Living Planet, and his true heritage.”
My take: Okay, it’s a marvel super-hero movie—but they’re in space, not destroying New York with their internecine squabbles so it gets a pass. I enjoyed the first one but I watched it on TV. Let’s see if this one is good enough to get us to the theater.
- Release Date: July 14, 2017
- Starring: Judy Greer, Woody Harrelson, Andy Serkis
- Director: Matt Reeves
“A nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar becomes embroiled in a battle with an army of humans.”
My take: Wait, wasn’t that the plot of the last PotA movie? Aren’t we getting little redundant, here? Still, this franchise reboot is head and shoulders better than the original films. The trailer looks good and who doesn’t love Andy Serkis as Caesar? Let’s see if they can keep up the quality.
- Release Date: July 19, 2017
- Starring: Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Katherine Waterston
- Director: Ridley Scott
“The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape.”
My take: This is one of the year’s biggies: Ridley Scott driving another Alien movie. On the other hand, it’s the sequel to Prometheus—and we all remember what happened in that one. Oh, wait, we have no idea what happened in that one. We just left the theater scratching our heads. I re-watched Prometheus last year and found that it made more sense the second time around. (Except for those idiot scientists. They’re still idiots.) Let’s hope the sequel, like Aliens, is sharper, more focused and better than the original. The release date may slip to October, though.
- Release Date: July 21, 2017
- Starring: Cara Delevigne, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, John Goodman, Diane DeHaan
- Director: Luc Besson
“Time-traveling agent Valerian is sent to investigate a galactic empire, along with his partner Laureline.”
My take: The plot synopsis is a real snooze. No originality and the woman is relegated to partner status, which usually means eye candy and/or a damsel in distress. This movie is based on a comic novel series, which treads close to my “no comic book movie” rule but it’s got a good cast and a good director. M. Besson promises to take the material in a dynamic new direction. Let’s see if he can deliver or whether he’ll get trapped in worn-out tropes and stereotypes that are just unfamiliar to him.
- Release Date: July 28, 2017
- Starring: Idris Elba, Katheryn Winnick, Matthew McConaughey
- Director: Nikolaj Arcel
“Gunslinger Roland Deschain roams an Old West-like landscape in search of the dark tower, in the hopes that reaching it will preserve his dying world.”
My take: What took them so long? Really. The book was published in 2004 and Stephen King followed it with seven more books in the series. Plus it’s a retelling of “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning, published in 1855. How successful does a book have to be before Hollywood actually delivers a movie? Well, they got a good actor to play Roland Deschain and I’m hoping Idris Elba’s casting is an indicator of a good movie. He’ll have to ditch the English accent, though. I’m looking forward to it.
- Release Date: August 2017
- Starring: Lara Rossi, Vladimir Burlakov, Kit Dale
- Director: Timo Vuorensola
“A follow-up to the film Iron Sky (2012) in which Nazis plan to take over the world after lying dormant in a secret military base on the moon.”
My take: This falls into the WTF category. If the cast and director didn’t do it for you that plot synopsis should have closed the door. Oh, and then there’s a still of a Nazi officer riding a dinosaur. In the swamps of the moon, presumably. The original movie got a 36% Rotten on the Tomatometer and only a 37% Liked audience score. Yet somehow this execrable film warranted a sequel? Are you kidding me?
And that’s the news for the first half of 2017. There’s some good stuff in the pipeline for later but you’ll just have to wait for details and release dates.