Science Fiction tends to stick in the mind more so when there are a lot more standard movies at the cinema, and 2013’s offerings were varied and impressive. Thor: The Dark World was released after Avengers: Assemble impressed cinema-goers who enjoyed how much was put into the special effects and one-liners from bulked-out Thor and tricksy anti-hero Loki. Star Trek: Into Darkness had a similar double act of a young Tiberius Kirk against Khan in a reworking of Star Trek: 2 The Wrath of Khan. This time around the story is changed, as with Total Recall, this makes it a completely different movie, especially for those who remember the original. Gravity was a bottle show in space with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and was better than his previous sci-if movie, Solaris, while Tom Cruise enjoys more sci-fi fun in Oblivion, a complex tale of a man stuck in a serious rut with only one means of getting out of it.
Thor: The Dark World
This movie continues from where Avengers: Assemble left off with the trickster, Loki being captured and carried off to a jail cell on Asgard. One would think that would be the last we would hear of him, but as the character who has been better liked than Thor, the fans might have been unhappy at his absence. Former Dr. Who actor, Christopher Eccleston takes his turn as the baddie again, this time playing pointy eared Malekith, a Dark Elf who wants to get his hands on a powerful substance called Aether which could destroy the world if Thor doesn’t intervene. Thor does, but only when his former squeeze, Jane Foster comes into contact with it, and it consumes her. He has to take her back and try to get his best surgeons to remove it from her body, but when they find they can’t, he has to protect her but at the same time prevent Malekith from destroying Asgard. This would be a tough job for anyone, and even Thor has a hard time when he has to employ Loki’s help in driving the Dark Elves away from his home. Tom Hiddleston reprises his role as Loki and you can see he loves every minute of it, but he does have a rival in nastiness with Malekith who tries to overshadow Loki’s comical evil throughout the movie.
Star Trek: Into Darkness
As the first Star Trek movie remake had changed Trek history, viewers wondered if the same would apply to the second one. Would it be a different movie, or a remake of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan? Fans of the franchise might be happy to find it is a different movie, one with a character who would soon turn out to be Khan himself, played by Sherlock Holmes star Benedict Cumberbatch, who tries to destroy Starfleet back home, causing Kirk to set out to find him and bring him to justice. Benedict plays a perfectly flamboyant Khan who also happens to have the strength of ten or more men while Chris Pine cuts a fine Kirk.
It might be unlikely to find an acting couple like George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, but these two do go well together in this movie. Dr Ryan Stone is one of the best medical engineers out there and she is on her first mission in space along with astronaut Matt Kowalsky. While she is only starting out, Matt has a deeper knowledge of what life is like in space, and how lonely it can be. This turns out to be Matt’s last flight before retirement, but their bravado is cut short when the shuttle is destroyed and Matt sends Ryan to safety while he risks death floating aimlessly in space with hardly any oxygen left. Gravity is a nail-biting ride with endless scenes of Matt and Ryan floating around in space, and when he is gone, presumed dead, Ryan has to keep her wits about her if she is to survive the lack of oxygen in her space suit and get back to the safety of an escape pod. There are several movie references if you can find them, and other than that, it is an almost accurate movie of what could happen if the slightest thing went wrong on an important space mission.
Tom Cruise likes his sci-fi movies; Minority Report and War of the Worlds were a couple of his successes, but this one could give mixed opinions as to how good it is for various reasons. Jack is a drone repairman assigned to Earth in 2077 after a devastating war had destroyed most of it, leaving it uninhabitable. One time he is out routinely repairing drones when he finds a woman left over from a ship’s crew after a massacre, and realises she is the woman of his dreams. The big question throughout this movie is whether Jack is still traumatized by the war’s effect on him, or has he really met this woman in the past and she’s real, and there are secrets being kept from him. As far as he is led to believe he is a happy man with a steady job, a loving partner, and a clean, sanitised place to live. As it starts slow at first, dropping little clues as to what is real or dream, it is easy to think that the movie is confusing, but you can’t help but get caught up in Jack’s day to day activities once he discovers that the war was a lie and he could change his destiny if he wanted to.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
With a predominantly British and Irish cast, the second epic installment of The Hobbit (prequels to The Lord of the Rings trilogy) came to our screens at Christmas. Bilbo and the dwarves set out for Smaug’s lair after Thorin Oakenshield has his heart set on obtaining a rare and precious blue stone. The dwarves also want to reclaim the stolen gold Smaug had previously taken. On their way, they get to Mirkwood, home of King Thranduil and Legolas. Legolas is a different character here, he acts as though he’s had a personality bypass before Gimli got friendly with him and melted his mistrust of others. King Thranduil isn’t the sort of pure elf we have come to know, there is something odd and mysterious about him as though he has been touched by evil. There are some nice touches to this movie, one is where Bilbo encounters a huge nest of spiders on the outskirts of Mirkwood, and when he stabs one of them with his trustee sword he hears it scream that “it stings” leading us to think that is where he got the sword’s name from. When Bilbo puts on the ring, he sees the Eye of Sauron and we also get to see what is actually inside the eye. Director Peter Jackson has taken everything into account to impress us, and this marks a very satisfying end for 2013. Who knows what lies in store for the new year?
Reviews by: Sandra Scholes