MindFood: Sci-Fi to Be Thankful For

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I don’t know what it is about the Thanksgiving holiday that has people giving thanks, but I figured I might as well join the club. However, instead of being gracious to supportive loved ones or being thankful for the fact that I have any job, let alone an awesome one, I’ll give some thanks to the few films and filmmakers that made sci-fi worthwhile in 2010, because, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s been kind of a crappy year for sci-fi. (Then again, 2009 was a pretty hard act to follow.)

Book of EliI am thankful for The Book of Eli vicariously bringing my dreams of a Fallout movie to life.

Until someone with a lot more money and influence than I realizes that the Fallout series of games is rife with cinematic potential just waiting to be tapped, the best any of us PIPBoy-loving geeks can hope for are other movies that feel like they could exist within the Fallout universe. And no other post-apoc movie could have made for a better Fallout chapter than the Hughes’ brothers’ Book of Eli. Not only did they nail the look of a pervasive and stunningly destitute future, but they filled it with gorgeous bloodshed and situational humor– and that is exactly what Fallout represents to me: a straight-faced sitcom set in the wastelands. Sure, it’s not strictly a comedy, but it’s got a great sense of humor about the end of the world all the same, and I love that about it.

SpliceI am thankful for Vincenzo Natali being such a weirdo.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Splice got shafted. The marketing campaign hung it out to dry as a paint-by-numbers Species-knockoff, when in reality it’s a genre-bending creature feature that makes some bold decisions. Unfortunately, everyone who groaned at the trailers for being too Species-like but still saw the movie anyway hated it because it wasn’t actually what they were expecting. It sucks that that crippled the movie at the box office, but I still love knowing that Splice disgusted and confused people with equal measure, and there just aren’t enough filmmakers these days, at least in the sci-fi genre, who are willing to do that.

Jonah HexI am thankful for Jonah Hex failing at the box office.

If I’m sad that Splice flailed around like a slippery eel with audiences, I’m at least relieved that people treated Jonah Hex like it was the bloated corpse of a whale that the eels slithered out of. It’s such a slapped-together, creatively disparate movie that it would have physically pained me had it succeed where Splice failed. Thankfully, it didn’t. Though both were box office disappointments, Vincenzo Natali’s bizarro creature feature managed to rake in a cool $7M more than Jimmy Hayward’s goofy superhero flick, so hopefully that at least tells some suits at Warner Bros. that had they kept the original Crank duo (who are similarly weird filmmakers as Natali), maybe their movie wouldn’t have been so dull.

IncepionI am thankful for Inception.

Inception arrived with such emboldened fanfare that it was met with a not unsurprising air of derision by those who are eager to say that Christopher Nolan is overrated no matter what he does. But screw that noise. Nolan made an original, big-budget, high-concept sci-fi flick with a tremendous cast and a fistful of indelible moments — and I’m thankful for that.

I am thankful for Jon Favreau, Neill Blomkamp and Duncan Jones being such geeks.

Sure, 2010 was kind of a lackluster year for sci-fi, but at least Favreau, Blomkamp and Jones are giving us a number of reasons to geek out about what 2011 has in store…

Cowboys and Aliens

On the Favreau front, we’ve got a movie called freakin’ Cowboys & Aliens that, judging from the trailer, looks to take everything about itself seriously. Blomkamp may not have a film, at least that we know about, on the docket for 2011, but he’s making new waves on the Internet with what looks to be the beginning of a series of viral videos — and as much as I’d love to see a new movie from the guy who made District 9, I’m perfectly happy to watch him get back to his short-film roots. And then there’s Duncan Jones, whose new film Source Code looks to be a pocket-protector-wearing dorkfest, and I mean that in the most loving way possible. The trailer makes it out to be two parts Deja Vu, one part Groundhog Day and one part Quantum Leap, which I think we can all agree is a pretty nerdy brew, and I am all for sci-fi flicks that don’t give a damn about being macho.