I noticed by accident that I wrote in last year's Best and Worst of 1999 that the year will "probably be remembered, when it comes to sci-fi movies, as a year of a lot of hype and very little glory."

I take it back: 1999 was sheer brilliance when compared to the dreck sci-fi movie audiences had to endure this past year.  

Growing up in the 1970s a lot of value was attached to the Year 2000. Back then, before environmental concerns took centre stage, people believed in science, technology and progress. They believed in the future. They thought all kinds of wonderful things could be done. Witness the Concorde, that archetype of 1970s technology - they wanted to make a passenger jet that went fast, very fast. So they did - only later did thoughts as to noise, running costs and pollution enter the equation.

Thus environmental concerns eroded our belief in the future. After all, how can one believe in science when that most miraculous of inventions the refrigerator actually gave off CFCs that destroyed the ozone? (Not so impressed by the common household fridge? Then close your eyes right now and imagine how your great grandparents had to do with out one. Or better, imagine that ice cold coca-cola in the fridge; now imagine that you can't have it because you don't have a fridge!)

However, back in the 1970s we still believed in the future as sketched in 2001: A Space Odyssey. How many sentences began with "in the year 2000"? In the year 2000 we'll go on vacation to the moon. In the year 2000 we'll control the weather. And so forth.

OK, so I was a kid and I actually believed all that. How were we know to know? How we were to know that things would somehow remain depressingly the same and the main scientific progress would be nothing as dramatic as a manned landing on Mars, but instead we'd have millions of computers throughout the world linked to one another so that we can download dirty pictures or songs by a pappy boy band prepackaged by huge corporate concerns called The Backstreet Boys?

Whoever knew? Whoever knew that by the Year 2000 our collective sense of wonder would have died off to such a degree that movie about a Mission to Mars would feature nothing but clichés gathered from other movies? Or that a member of a weird nutcase religious cult would persist in bringing to the big screen a movie based on a book by the deceased founder of said cult, a piece of old-fashioned simple minded space opera that would have been laughed off back in he 1930s when this sort of thing was popular.

At least 1999 had one sci-fi classic (The Matrix), one entertaining albeit flawed entry in a popular franchise (The Phantom Menace) and an underrated gem of an animated movie (The Iron Giant). In the Year 2000 we had Battlefield Earth . . .

Maybe it is just me, but in the Year 2000 I suffered from a pop culture overload. Besides seeing some of the worst 2000 SF movies in row, I also sat through 1999's dreck that surfaced late unto these shores (such as the insufferable Bicentennial Man for instance). So I simply skipped some movies (such as Supernova) I was supposed to review for this site. I simply couldn't face the idea of sitting through some more bad SF! Like I said in this site's discussion board - I felt like Swedish movies with subtitles, Mahler symphonies and long dissertations on the Russian Revolution. Anything except the likes of Beowulf, Fortress 2 and so forth . . .

Because it is with a shock that one realizes that the best SF movies of the past year are actually merely enjoyable as opposed to being good. Thus the classification of movies this year:

The Not So Bad . . .

The Cell

Dramatically it plays like TV's now defunct Millennium show - the serial killer of the week. Visually it seems to have been storyboarded by a committee consisting of Salvador Dali, Damien Hirst and Francis Bacon. Think a dark version of Robin Williams' What Dreams May Come weepy and you might have an idea of what to expect . . .


Pitch Black

Predictable plot is saved by not bad production values, interesting cinematography and a star turn performance by Vin Diesel as the baddest of ass anti-heroes since Escape from New York's Snake Plisken . . .  

The So-So . . .

The X-Men


Not as good as it could have been (Superman - the Movie), but not as bad as it could have been (Batman & Robin, Spawn), this movie adaptation of the long-running superhero Marvel series is rather entertaining and not a bad 90 minutes spent in the dark . . . 

Titan AE
After the commercial failure of this animated space opera we'll probably be doomed to Disney fare in which photo-realistically rendered dinosaurs speak American and the plot is stolen from The Land Before Time from here on  . . . 

The 6th Day
Arnie in an enjoyable Total Recall meets Gattaca romp. His best movie in quite a while - then again, he has starred in the likes of Jingle All The Way and End of Days recently . . .

Space Cowboys
Old geezers such as Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones show that they have lots more charisma than most of today's pretty boy poster movie stars . . . 

Muddled time travel story of sorts leaks more holes than the Titanic, but has its moments . . .

The Bad . . .

Battlefield Earth


The movie that makes one cheer for Germany (where Scientology is not considered a religion and is thus banned)! The movie that makes one hiss Quentin Tarrantino for having revived John Travolta's career with Pulp Fiction! The movie that makes one want to go and burn down Warner Bros. who okay-ed this piece of crap! The movie that makes one wants to buy all those copies of L. Ron Hubbard's shitty book and burn them instead of reselling them to the bookshops again like the Scientologists do to make sure that it stays on the best-seller lists! 

Mission to Mars
Stealing from 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a dozen of other SF movies isn't this movie's major sin. Well, okay, that's pretty important too - but Mission to Mars is dull, dull, dull . . . 

Hollow Man
So, you've got some nifty special effects featuring an invisible man - what to do with it? Yeah, why not turn it into Friday the 13th, except make it stupider . . .

Bicentennial Man
OK, so this is technically a 1999 movie (it was released on X-Mas day last year in the States) but the rest of the world saw this piece of overlong schmaltz in 2000. I should just mention it though: if it had been a 2000 movie it might even have beaten out Battlefield Earth. Every time I see this movie's trailer on a video I have rented I want to scream (and sometimes I do).  

The Unreviewed . . .

Universally greeted by bad reviews this movie showed here in South Africa soon after Battlefield Earth, Mission to Mars and Bicentennial Man. To have seen it would probably have been tempting thoughts of suicide . . .

What Planet Are You From?
The trailer didn't promise more than your average sitcom and since I don't really watch sitcoms I gave it a skip.

Highlander - Endgame
There should have been only one! To be honest if you wanted good sci-fi then the big screen wasn't the place to get it. In a future article I'll skim through the best sci-fi I've seen or read this past year.

Red Planet 
Another movie about a manned mission to mars? Two in one year?! Is Hollywood running out of ideas so badly? To be honest, while this one also got mixed reviews, it seems to be better bet than the dismal Mission to Mars . . .


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