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sci-fi | John McDonald

sci-fi

Predestination

September 6, 2014

If you haven’t seen enough of Ethan Hawke in Boyhood, he reappears – and disappears, and reappears – in Presdestination, the third feature by identical twins, Michael and Peter Spierig, who were born in Germany but raised in Brisbane. The film is based on Robert A. Heinlein’s All You Zombies (1959), a short story about … More


Lucy

August 16, 2014

“The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity,” reads the tag line for Luc Besson’s science fiction thriller, Lucy, “Today she will hit 100%.” It’s tempting to explore some variations on a theme: “The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity, but Luc Besson makes motion pictures using only a fraction of this … More


Under the Skin

May 31, 2014

Michel Faber’s novel, Under the Skin (2000), was that rarest of beasts: a science fiction story with real literary merit. I say that as a reader who has dipped into science fiction for decades and identified only a handful of authors – notably Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem – that ever made me feel … More


Godzilla

May 24, 2014

When Godzilla rose out of the ocean in 1954 and proceeded to trash Tokyo, no-one could have foreseen that he would still be wreaking havoc 60 years later. The durability of the “king of the monsters” owes something to the personality he developed in the 1960s, and something to his connections with nuclear energy, which … More


The Zero Theorem

May 17, 2014

After cutting his teeth with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Terry Gilliam is habitually viewed as a maker of dark, fantastic comedies. The truth is that he makes essentially bleak films festooned with comic touches, like Rococo decorations on a coffin. The Zero Theorem has been mooted as the third part of a dystopian trilogy, along … More


Transcendence

May 3, 2014

With poor attendences in the United States and disastrous reviews, Wally Pfister’s Transcendence is set to be the biggest hi-tech, mega-budget, sci-fi flop since After Earth, last year’s misbegotten star vehicle for Will Smith and son. It’s not an entirely fair comparison because Transcendence is a much better film. Its failure is not due to … More


Divergent

April 12, 2014

After spending a couple of hours at The Grand Budapest Hotel any other movie might seem humdrum. Neil Burger’s Divergent has the bigger problem of standing directly in the shadow of The Hunger Games, already an established franchise in the lucrative Young Adult market. I’m beginning to feel I’ve been wasting my life writing film … More


RoboCop

February 22, 2014

RoboCop redux generates seriously diminished expectations. How could one expect anything but a travesty of Paul Verhoeven’s original RoboCop of 1987? The big budget remake of Verhoeven’s Total Recall was possibly the most execrable Hollywood production of 2012, so one could only brace for the worst. It is with relief and surprise that I can … More


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

November 23, 2013

Panem et Circenses was the Roman formula for keeping the population happy. In Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games novels, Panem (bread) is the name of the dystopian society in which the story is set. The circuses are the Games themselves, in which a boy and a girl from each district are chosen by lottery to partake … More


What Maisie Knew & Elysium (+ film festivals)

August 24, 2013

When Henry James published What Maisie Knew in 1897, the straight-laced mores of the Victorian era were already beginning to unravel. The Edwardian period would be more permissive, more prepared to confront social and sexual issues that had previously been taboo. James had a talent for describing scenes of great moral complexity without condoning deviations … More