Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, adapted from Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, is an animated epic fantasy film. Nausicaä has only a shadow of the impossibly beautiful animation of Miyazaki’s later and better financed films, and it wears its obvious narrative shortcomings on its sleeves, but none of its flaws distract from its immense charm, energy, depth, and urgency.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
2001: A Space Odyssey is an epic science fiction film. 2001 is self-indulgent and nihilistic. Cynicism is easy and it appears deep, but it is the opposite of meaning and the opposite of art. 2001’s impressive technical achievements are a shiny shell that covers an empty interior of pretension and half-baked philosophy.
Would not see.
Directed by Spike Jonze
Her is a romantic science-fiction drama about a man who falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system. Her is a first-rate film. The movie’s visions of the future, technology, and life are refreshingly free from cliché, deeply engaged, and moving. It is the rare science-fiction film that fully succeeds in using its premise to illuminate what it is to be human.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Directed by Michel Gondry
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a science fiction film about a man, a woman, and a company that erases memories. The film’s eloquent, complicated writing and ambitious directing easily survive the uneven acting to result in a film that is both heartfelt and intelligent.
Star Trek Beyond
Directed by Justin Lin
Star Trek Beyond, based on Gene Rodenberry’s 1966 television series, is a science fiction action film that recounts an adventure of the USS Enterprise and the third movie in the reboot series. Star Trek Beyond admirably resists J. J. Abrams’s Star Treks’ irritating attempts to create realism and dramatic stakes through an artificial gritty darkness, but it still feels like film by numbers. The tin-eared dialogue, unevenly gifted cast, and mostly perfunctory action sequences make it difficult to appreciate Star Trek Beyond’s occasionally inspired set pieces and return to the franchise’s original optimism.
Would not see.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Directed by Wes Anderson
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou follows the eponymous oceanographer on a quest of revenge against a jaguar shark that ate his friend, Esteban. The film, like most Anderson, has a meticulous aesthetic and an intentional distance. Like all the best Anderson, beneath the highly crafted visuals, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is filled with a strong core of human emotion.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Directed by J. J. Abrams
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh installment in the Star Wars series, is an epic space opera. The film is slickly well made with a retro aesthetic designed to provoke nostalgia for the original trilogy. The action is choppier than in the first three films, but Abrams still easily clears the low bar he set himself.
Children of Men
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Children of Men is a science fiction thriller set in a dystopian 2027 future where no one can have children and the United Kingdom, the last functioning government, has instituted draconian laws against immigration. The cinematography is often impressive and the scenes are sometimes striking, but the tension between the film’s desire to be exciting, its low-key banter, its obvious political messages, and its heavy handed imagery make it neither enjoyable nor illuminating.
Would not see.
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
The Lobster is science fiction comedy drama set in a dystopian future where single people are taken to a hotel and given forty-five days to find a mate or be turned into an animal of their choice. The Lobster is sometimes funny, often bleak, and almost always inscrutable. There’s not much like it around now, and it probably won’t have many imitators.
Directed by Alex Garland
Ex Machina is a science fiction thriller about artificial intelligence. At turns funny, thrilling, and thought-provoking, Ex Machina is, at all times, more entertaining than profound.