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John Scalzi – The Ten Worst SciFi Blockbusters of the ’00s

Hey, look, it’s December — and not only are we coming to the end of another year, but we’re also coming to the end of another decade. Oh, sure, the nitpickers will tell you the current decade doesn’t actually turn over until 2011, but those people are no fun and we’re ignoring them, so there.

The end of the decade means — you guessed it! — end of the decade retrospectives. This week, I thought I’d kick it off with my votes for the Worst (Major) Science Fiction Flicks of the Last Decade. For a movie to be eligible here, it has to fulfill three criteria:

1. Released between January 1, 2000 and right this very second;
2. Released to theaters in the U.S. (i.e., no straight-to-video or TV dreck);
3. One of the top 100 money grossers of its year. This last criterion, incidentally, disqualifies the entire Uwe Boll canon, for which I think we are all grateful.

What does this leave us with? My list, in alphabetical order:

Aeon Flux (2005)
Aeon_Flux_125x125_MCDAEFL_EC031_H.jpgAn incomprehensible flick based on an MTV cartoon, which was also incomprehensible but at least stylish. I suspect the entire pitch of this movie was five words: “Charlize Theron! In skin-tight leather!” Doing what? Does it matter? Well, as it turns out, it does. Theron narrowly missed the award for the most embarrassing post-Oscar role with this one, thank you Halle Berry.

Alien vs. Predator I & II (2004, 2007)
It takes a special sort of director to make both aliens and predators boring, but Paul W.S. Anderson was just that sort of director, so well done him, I guess. At the very least he can take comfort in knowing he made the best AvP flick, as the sequel appears to have been written and directed by badgers.

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Chronicles_Riddick_125x125_MCDCHOF_EC041_H.jpgOverstuffed baroque silliness. Give director David Twohy $20 million and he’ll make you Pitch Black. Give him $100 million, he’ll make you Chronicles of Riddick. Lesson: With Twohy, less is a lot more. Rumor has it Twohy is planning a third Riddick flick. Let’s hope he’s making it on the cheap and that he pretends Chronicles never happened.

The Core (2003)
It’s hard to top a Roland Emmerich disaster flick for bad science, but this one, in which the core of the earth has stopped spinning and we have to use nukes as a planetary defibrillator, manages to out-dumb both 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. It’s so bad that scientists don’t mind it, because no one could possibly believe it models reality.

Doom (2005)
Doom_125x125_MCDDOOM_EC014_H.jpgBeyond the movie’s own fundamental badness, which is considerable, Doom is a stand-in for the Worst SciFi Movie Sub-Genre of the Decade, that being the video game tie-in movie. Doom is in fact typical of the genre: Only tangentially related to the video game, substantially less well-written, and apparently assembled on the premise that gamers are too stupid to know a bad movie when they see it. Surprise! They’re not.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
See, this is why steampunks can’t have nice things. Also proof that writer Alan Moore is absolutely correct when he says that Hollywood hasn’t the slightest idea what to do with his work. Moore’s graphic novel series on which this is based is great; this movie is a dank mess.

Mission to Mars (2000) / Red Planet (2000)
Mission_to_Mars_125x125.jpgThe year 2000 saw two competing Mars flicks, which struggled fiercely for the title of Most Likely to Set Back Manned Exploration of Mars by 50 Years. Mission seemed to have the struggle in hand with its “That ‘Face on Mars’ is actually a face!” subplot, but then Red Planet swooped in with its “Hey, there’s an oxygen atmosphere on Mars and we totally didn’t know!” bit. This is why we shouldn’t go to Mars: It makes people stupid.

Star Trek: Nemesis (2003)
A movie so poorly made that it killed off Data — arguably the most beloved character in the entire Next Generation cast — and the audience simply couldn’t muster the will to care. That’s impressive in its way, like the world’s largest bucket of spit is impressive, in its way.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Attack_Clones_125x125_EP2-IA-62783_R_8x10.jpgPhantom Menace missed the list by a year, but Attack of the Clones is bad enough on its own merits, particularly the scenes in which Anakin and Padme attempt to romance each other, which are written in such a way as to suggest that George Lucas has never met a live girl, ever — his previous marriage notwithstanding.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) Loud, obnoxious, stupid and surrounded by lots of cars and money. This is the drunken frat boy of science fiction flicks.

Thoughts on the movies on this list? Have different candidates in mind? Drop ’em in the comments.


Winner of the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, John Scalzi is the author of The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and the novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. He’s also Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. His column appears every Thursday.

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