As I mentioned previously, 2013 is chock full of sci-fi and fantasy movies. Many of last year’s trends are continuing, including fairy tale retelling or reinventions, vampires and supernatural romance, those ubiquitous super-hero movies, and even a new category in the mix: the scorched Earth movie. There are many many 2013 movie lists that you can also Google your way to, but check out this one at Ranting Dragon or this super-thorough one at Dark Horizons.
Scorched Earth movies
Let’s start with films that ponder what we dared not imagine during the recent Mayan End of Days. Typically, Hollywood pits two movies against each other over the same story theme, but this time there are at least three movies to revisit planet Earth after humanity’s long absence. Oblivion (releasing 19 April 2013) takes place 60 years after humanity was attacked by aliens and fled the planet. All that remains on Earth are mechanical drones and the people who maintain them. Tom Cruise plays Jack (think of him as your friendly neighbourhood wall-e repairman) who discovers that maybe the Earth is not so abandoned after all.
After Earth (7 June 2013) stars Will Smith and real-life son Jaden Smith as father-son space travellers who crash on a primordial jungle planet. Dad is seriously injured, so it’s up to junior to survive for the both of them. The trailer reveals that apes walk this planet (thankfully they’re not intelligent or civilized) nevertheless it’s also revealed (as if you couldn’t guess from the title) that the planet they’ve rediscovered is Earth. Considering this movie is directed by disgraced genre fave M. Night Shyamalan (I know, I know, how many chances are we going to give the guy?) I would have expected that tidbit to be revealed at the end of the movie rather than in the advertising. Hopefully better surprises await.
Thirdly, Elysium (9 August 2013), which IMDB tells me is now called “Baja Dunes” (Really? Is that an April Fool’s joke? Maybe they’ll change it back.) is directed by District 9‘s Neil Blomkamp. Set in 2159, on an Earth that is ruined and the rich elite live in a floating space station, it stars Matt Damon as a man on a mission to save himself and bring some equality to this world. One more possible bonus movie in this category is The Colony which stars Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton and features a group of survivors living beneath the Earth during an ice age.
After the quinjets full of cash raked in by The Avengers this past summer, was there ever any doubt that super-hero movies would soar on? This year we have at least five more to look forward to (plus one satire). First one out the pod-bay doors is Tony Stark himself as Robert Downey Jr. returns in Iron Man 3 (3 May 2013). This time he tangles with one of my favourite Iron Man villains, the Mandarin. Disappointingly, he is not being played by a Chinese actor (WTF?). Nevertheless, I can’t get too upset since they have chosen none other than scene-chewing Oscar-winner Ben Kingsley for the role (Who better to shoot deadly powers from enchanted rings than Gandhi himself, am I right?). Next we hop universes over to the umpteenth reboot of the Superman story with (yay!) director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel (25 July 2012), starring recently-buffed-up Brit Henry Cavill as the Smallville farm boy. I am thoroughly besotted by Snyder’s visual flair so I am really expecting good things from this one. I’m a bit nervous that they’re going back to the General Zod well again. It could be interesting, but I can’t imagine Michael Shannon outdoing Terrence Stamp’s campy 80s performance.
One day later (boy this summer is gonna be cut-throat!), it’s back to the Marvel universe for The Wolverine (26 July 2013), where Hugh Jackman reprises his role as the gruff mutant hero in one of my favourite parts of his backstory: his time in Japan as a samurai. Directed by James Mangold (who brought us the recent Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz spy-rom-dram-com Knight and Day), I am not sure if this movie will be good or not, but at least they’ve got some Japanese actors in the cast. What I’m more looking forward to is Thor: The Dark World (8 November 2013), which features Chris Hemsworth returning as the titular thunder god, battling the dark elf Malekith in one of my favourite Thor storylines — I am a sucker for Nordic fantasy epics. Plus, Zachary Levi takes over from Once Upon a Time‘s prince Josh Dallas as Fandral. (Chuck Bartowski as a blond? I’ll believe it when I see it.)
Finally, two more quasi-super-hero sequels — GI Joe: Retaliation (29 March 2013) brings the real American heroes back to the big screen, but you know it’s going to be a more serious affair than the previous movie because they’ve added Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bruce Willis, and 2012 “It Boy” Channing Tatum (Let’s hope he keeps his shirt on!) to the cast. BTW, Storm Shadow vs. Snake Eyes will be wicked! Similarly, they’ve added some cred to Kick Ass 2 (28 June 2013) by including Jim Carrey in the mix as a new vigilante called Captain Stars and Stripes. This time, poor Hit-Girl has got to fight her way through high school, and I’m betting that’s where she meets my new favourite super-villain name, “Night Bitch”. Intrigued?
Other genre pre/sequels
Never passing up on a good thing, Hollywood continues to lure the Comic-Con crowd with more follow-ups and reboots. If this year’s success is any indication, the clean-up hitter of 2013 will be Peter Jackson’s prequel, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (13 December 2013). The second part of the trilogy supposedly concludes the story from Tolkien’s novel, leaving part three for stuff that Jackson pulled out of his Gollum. I thoroughly enjoyed part 1, so I eagerly await Smaug’s desolation. Ironically, before hit-Brit Benedict Cumberbatch gets to taunt us as the voice of Smaug, J.J. Abrams is tempting us back to another much-beloved universe with his sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (17 May 2013) where Cumberbatch plays ???? (maybe Khan?). Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto return with the rest of the Enterprise crew, going where many have gone before (but maybe not so stylishly). Even without director Zack Snyder (and his trademark style), we are journeying back to the ancient world for 300: Rise of an Empire (2 August 2013), which tells the story of the seven-foot-tall king Xerxes before he fought those 300 pesky Spartans. Let’s hope this movie will look as impressive as the first one in the hands of director Noam Murro. If you thought that seven years was long to wait for a 300 prequel, I have been waiting nine long years for Vin Diesel to complete his own sci-fi trilogy with Riddick (6 September 2013), 13 years after that night-vision anti-hero made Diesel’s career in Pitch Black. I’m even more excited that the story finds Riddick back abandoned on a planet, fending for himself against deadly predators and bounty hunters. Another pair of survivors return to the big screen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (22 November 2013). Katniss and Peeta are back for Panem’s take on Survivor: All Stars, pitting victorious tributes against each other in the Quarter Quell while revolution simmers throughout the rest of society. I haven’t yet read the second novel in this series, but I am nevertheless excited to see where the story goes.
With that I have to take a pause. I’ll be back for part two with some fairy tales retold, some great animation, more vampires and witches, and even some (gasp!) original stories coming to the 2013 sci-fi/fantasy box office. Don’t go to the Baja Dunes without me! (…. Baja .. Dunes …. Seriously?!)