2000 A.D. - ANNUS
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
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
. . .
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 . . .
*"BEST" OF THE YEAR*
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 . . .
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 . . .
Not as good as it could have been (Superman - the
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 . . .
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 . . .
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 . . .
*WORST OF THE YEAR*
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
*ALMOST WORST OF THE YEAR*
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 . . .
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 . . .
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
The trailer didn't promise more than your average sitcom
and since I don't really watch sitcoms I gave it a skip.
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.
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 .