Tuesday, June 11, 2013

2013 F/SF Movies on the To-See List

Those who know me know I rarely go to the theater for movies anymore.  There's hardly any point.  Unless the film is an epic, sweeping visual masterpiece, it's not worth the arm and leg for tickets, artery-clogging butter popcorn, gallon o' soft drink, and junior mints.  Especially when I can watch it in the comfort of our family room on a large screen, eat whatever I wish, and maybe even enjoy a couple of Pacific Northwest microbrews with it.  And I don't sit there all movie wishing I could crack a shoe over the heads of the teenie boppers constantly texting and talking in front of me.

Besides, spending all that cash on a gamble that Hollywood will actually invest more in plot and well-rounded characters instead of cool visual effects and explosions isn't exactly a safe bet.  And if there's one thing that turns me off quicker than anything else, it's a poor story disguised with glitz and plot Spackle, but let's not get me going off on that tangent!

This year, however, there are a few fine films that appear worth the price of hassle and admission, just to see them on a larger-than-life screen.  And they're movies I really don't want to have to wait a few months more to see.  Sure, you can bet on the danger of glossing over important story elements with special effects, but sometimes it's worth risking it to get the full effect.  There are three in particular I'm looking forward to, three that I have read the books to already, and in some cases several times.  So let's discuss.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Part One had its strengths and weaknesses.  Gravity certainly wasn't the cruel mistress in the movie that she is in real life, but there were better parts throughout too.  I didn't especially like the fact they stretched a rather short novel into three epic movies, and the stretching shows at times, but it's still interesting and visually stimulating enough to be enjoyable.  On the whole, it seems to fit well with the LOTR trilogy, especially in terms of feel and visuals, which it was supposed to do, and Jackson seems to be doing fair justice to the story.

They are adding new characters to the film that weren't in the book.  I'm really not sure how I feel about this.  On one hand, there's so much more added to the story already, that extra characters, especially ones that hopefully round the story out a little better, are probably a good thing.  But they're not staying as true to Tolkien's work as I'd have liked to see.

They teased Smaug during the first one, but never really showed more than a fleeting glimpse.  In the second round, Bilbo meets him, up close and personal, so he should get plenty of screen time.  I'm certainly looking forward to that.  I mean, the whole story centers around this magnificent dragon.  Isn't that what people are going to the movie to see?

It opens in the United States on December 13, 2013.  You can visit the official Hobbit website for more hobbitsy stuff from Middle Earth.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Sure, this is a young adult series, and we're all grown-ups here, but remember:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
― Madeleine L'Engle
This is a great series, intellectually.  It makes you think, makes you mull over situations you ordinarily wouldn't give a second thought to.  The series may be criticized for not having an entirely original concept, but no story is ever completely original.  With most stories, one can find another, earlier story that mirrors it almost exactly.  This one is original enough, and provides a very fresh twist on one of the more interesting dystopian fiction tropes.

The first movie held up well in comparison to the books.  My daughter also read the books before we went to see the first movie, so it was a neat experience to have someone to talk to about the differences, and what we liked and didn't like about each.  That usually doesn't happen for me.  We had a great literary discussion that bored the hell out of the rest of the family.

It will be interesting to see where this series goes from here.  The stakes are higher, and the danger greater.  Without giving away too many spoilers, the books left something to be desired with some readers because of the way they turned out.  I thought it ended quite well, though, and I'll be watching closely to see if they pull any punches with the movies, as they so often tend to do.  Hollywood evidently thinks moviegoers are a weaker, more dim-witted breed than book readers.  Often they're the same people, so what gives?

It opens in the United States on November 22, 2013.  You can visit the official Hunger Games website for more Capitol directives regarding Panem.

Ender's Game

The book, no matter what one might think of the author, was fantastic.  The immediate sequel, Ender's Shadow, was even better, in my opinion, but only because we got to see the behind-the-scenes action that tied the whole story together better, and from a better narrator.

The movie, we're told, will be much different than the book.  It really has to be, which is one of the reasons it's taken so long to be translated from the written page to the silver screen.  And I'm okay with that.  The movie version of a book doesn't have to be the identical story for it to be a good story.  They're two different storytelling mediums, and one often can do things the other can't.  Sometimes there is merit in producing two very different versions of the same story to take advantage of the strengths of each storytelling medium.

One of the things I already like about the movie was the casting, which is a key difference between the movie and the book.  The actors are older - in their early teens, as opposed to around six - but appear to be well suited to the characters they are portraying.  That's an important aspect of a movie based on a book.  While the reader has to conjure an image of the characters in the mind's eye, a movie can give a thousand-word description in a single frame.  The problem lies when the characters in our mind's eye look nothing like their counterparts on the screen, because the producers failed to come up with the right actors.

It opens in the United States on November 1, 2013.  You can visit the official Ender's Game website for more tech from the International Fleet.

There are a number of other movies I'm looking forward to this summer.  These are but three of the ones I'm most anxious to see.  Others include Elysium, Oblivion, and World War Z.  What speculative fiction movies are you most looking forward to seeing this year?


  1. Its kind of fitting you did not mention any of the predicted blockbusters which so far all fell flat on their rear. Where as the from the ones you have mentioned all have done well so far. WWZ specifically. Pacific Rim, Lone Ranger (not of this genre but still...) both did not meet expectations. I Think Elysium will knock it out of the park.

  2. In fairness, these three are pretty hyped blockbusters, two of which follow already-established blockbusters. I'm not really a fan of "big" movies unless they tell a great story. Both the sequels above are part of great stories, both in print and on the big screen. Ender's Game was a great book that I've been wanting to see as a movie for a long time.

    Pacific Rim, I think, did a little better, but it was a fairly original story. And I could have told you Lone Ranger and some of the other big movies would flop. We audiences may like great special effects and explosions, but when that's all there is, it's going to hurt the movie. We're seeing it more and more.

    And I think (and hope) you're right about Elysium.