Upcoming sci-fi films show there's still plenty of originality in Hollywood

By Jeff Peterson

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 26 2013 3:00 p.m. MDT

Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket and Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ sci-fi action adventure "Pacific Rim."

Kerry Hayes

The complaint that originality is dead in Hollywood has become old hat.

To be fair, it’s pretty tough to argue otherwise when every day seems to bring word of brand-new sequels, prequels, sidequels, remakes, reboots, reimaginings and spinoffs — including recent announcements of a third movie version of Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and a sequel to "Oliver Twist."

Believe it or not, though, Hollywood isn’t completely out of fresh ideas. Not when it comes to sci-fi, at least.

Thanks to the box-office success of original properties like “Avatar” and “Inception,” the science fiction genre has, in an industry characterized all too often by its aversion to financial risk, managed once again to become a haven for creative filmmaking.

And the best part is, you don’t have to like laser guns or aliens to enjoy most of the novel concepts currently in the pipeline, just great filmmaking.

Here are nine upcoming sci-fi movies that show originality isn’t dead in Hollywood:

'After Earth'

Hitting theaters in June, “After Earth” is a sci-fi adventure film from M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” “The Last Airbender”).

Set 1,000 years after mankind has abandoned Earth, it stars Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden as a father and son who crash-land on the now-hostile planet and must contend with dangerous local fauna in order to escape.

Shyamalan’s star has definitely fallen in recent years, but it’s hard to deny the talent he showed in many of his early directorial efforts. With a more stripped-down plot and two of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood in the lead, “After Earth” could turn out to be a breath of fresh air for audiences.

'Pacific Rim'

Having helmed comic book adaptations like “Blade 2” and “Hellboy” and being credited as a co-writer on “The Hobbit,” few directors have as much geek cred as Guillermo del Toro. With his upcoming feature — his first directorial effort in five years — del Toro is not only taking a dive into full-on sci-fi, but a specific subgenre that has yet to really catch on in America.

“Pacific Rim” is basically a love letter to Japan’s long tradition of movies about giant manned robots battling monsters. Think something like “Power Rangers” with a $200 million budget.

So far, the buzz from test screenings has been extremely positive, and with a sequel already in the works, it seems like Warner Bros. is confident it has a hit on its hands.

In terms of box-office potential, “Pacific Rim” could easily turn out to be the next “Transformers” when it opens in July. But with del Toro in charge, moviegoers can expect more than just big explosions and eye candy.

'Elysium'

After things fell apart on a Peter Jackson-produced “Halo” movie back in 2006, Jackson and first-time director Neill Blomkamp recycled some of their ideas and instead released “District 9.” Now, with “Elysium,” Blomkamp’s sophomore film, the South African director is building on the same kind of socially conscious sci-fi that made “District 9” so successful.

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