The plainly titled Star Trek is the eleventh film that has spun from the much loved science-fiction television series franchise. This new film depicts the origins of the original crew of the starship USS Enterprise who featured in the original 1966-1969 series and starred in the first 6 films. Resurrecting these characters was a risky venture as the original Star Trek series does come with the baggage of its questionable colonist politics, very questionable gender politics and an aesthetic that seems very kitsch by today’s standards. The good news is that this new film manages to keep a slightly retro look, which is more cool than camp, while combining it with an edgier visual style. The production design and handheld cinematography seems to owe much to the look of the recent Battlestar Galactica series, although it is not nearly as visually or thematically dark. The better news is that this new film has enough nods to the original series and films to keep the casual fans happy without compromising the degree in which non-fans will be able to enjoy it. Judging from the reaction of people dressed in Star Trek uniforms during the advance screening, there also seems to be a number of in-jokes and references to really delight the hardcore fans. Finally, the best news of all is that this new film is a wonderfully entertaining blend of melodrama, comedy, action and science fiction.
In 1959 a troubled young schoolgirl compulsively writes down a series of numbers, which is then buried in a time capsule. 50 years later, the time capsule is dug up and the series of numbers find their way to Astrophysicist Professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage). John believes that life is random and his explanation for why things happen the way they do is, “Shit just happens”. So it’s particularly startling for John when he starts to realise that the series of numbers includes the dates of various disasters plus the number of people who died in each disaster. How is John supposed to respond to the events that are yet to come? What happens when the numbers run out? Who are the mysterious guys who look like members of a 1980s New Romantic band who have been injected with Rutger Hauer’s DNA?
The original 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of the all time great classical Hollywood films. It was the first significant Hollywood science fiction film and one of the first films to ideologically engage with the political climate at the time by tackling anti-Communist/Cold War paranoia. Despite its big budget it was a narrative driven film with more emphasis placed on dramatic action rather than spectacle and effects. The eclectic and reliable director Robert Wise, who began his career in film as the editor for Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941), directed the film and the legendary film composer Bernard Herrmann wrote the music. Herrmann’s use of the theremin for the music in The Day the Earth Stood Still was hugely influential, making the theremin the standard sound for all science fiction soundtracks throughout the 1950s. The idea of remaking such a definitive and important film seems at first glance to be incredibly foolhardy, however this new 2008 film should not be automatically dismissed. It is by no means as good as the original but by taking the central premise of the original and maintaining its core ideology in order to address contemporary issues, this remake becomes a film that is worth considering.
Adapted from the novel by Jeanne DuPrau and directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House), City of Ember is a family orientated science-fiction/fantasy about an underground city powered by a dying generator. While trying to save the generator, teenagers Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan from Atonement) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway from Control) discover that the inhabitants of Ember were supposed to have returned to the surface long ago. However, the city’s corrupt officials have a vested interest in keeping such information quiet.
Tony Scott films tend to be a hit or miss affair. Deja Vu does not miss completely but it certainly isn’t a hit either. Denzel Washington plays AFT Agent Doug Carlin who is convinced that an investigation into the recent murder of a young woman will reveal the mastermind behind a horrific terrorist attack against a New Orleans ferry carrying returning servicemen and their families. During his investigation he is recruited by FBI Agent Andrew Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) into a special task force that has the technology to see into past. Before too long Carlin discovers that this technology may enable him to do more than simply look into the past.
The original Donnie Darko is a wonderfully atmospheric film that explores reality and insanity within a psuedo-science-fiction/teen-film framework. Writer/director Richard Kelly’s ambiguous debut film is a clever and moving story about troubled teenager Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) who may or may not be delusional and receiving commands from a prophetic giant bunny rabbit.
With Solaris the diverse and talented director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Out of Sight) has commendably tackled the philosophical potential of the science fiction genre. George Clooney plays a psychiatrist who must question his understanding of reality after being sent to a space station to discover what has happened to the crew, only to find that his dead wife has inexplicably materialised from his memories of her.