This week sees sci-fi films ranging from instant cult classic to disappointing mess released in the cinema and on DVD.
First out of the traps is Under the Skin. You would have thought that getting stopped by Scarlett Johansson driving a transit van around Glasgow has to be pretty high up the list of unlikely events. Yet that is just what happens in Jonathan Glazer’s sinister and seductive return. Johansson plays a taciturn alien who lures strangers into her van before taking them back to her flat where a less than pleasant end awaits. It’s a deeply unsettling experience and a deeply unique one.
It’s a franchise that has already managed to spawn more games than are strictly necessary. For a reason unknown to most, the venerable Need for Speed series has now stumbled onto the big screen fronted by a Breaking Bad-less Aaron Paul. Having concluded one of the most acclaimed TV shows of recent times only last year, it’s safe to say this is something of a step down. He plays a street racer hell-bent on avenging a friend after being released from prison. It’s all a bit Fast and Furious. Except worse. Oh dear indeed.
If Under the Skin is taking sci-fi to ambitious new places, The Zero Theorem is tepidly re-treading old ground. A poorly conceived story mars Terry Gilliam’s dull film. He does at least create a visually interesting world but little else. There was a time when Gilliam used to be pushing boundaries in the way Glazer has done this week. This effort, wasting an always excellent Christoph Waltz, is just sci-fi by numbers.
Let’s stick with sci-fi for this week’s DVD release. Falling somewhere between the disturbing excellence of Under the Skin, and the horrid awfulness of The Zero Theorem is Ender’s Game. It’s not a patch on the awesome book, and it disintegrates terribly at the end, but there are some impressive moments of scale, not least the battle room. It may be run of the mill but at least its watchable run-of the mill.
That’s sci-fi done. Expect romance and prison next week. See you then.