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John Scalzi – Science Fiction Summer 2010 (Or Lack Thereof)

Summer is coming, here in the northern hemisphere at least — it’s that whole “tilt of the axis of the planet” thing — and with it comes the Summer Blockbuster Season, in which Hollywood rolls out its big guns in an attempt to lure you and your money into the movie theater to see stars and explosions and lasers and what not. So it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that the other day I was asked which scifi films I was looking forward to this summer.
What was surprising — at least to the person who asked me the question — was my answer: “What science fiction films?” Because between the first of May to Labor Day, there’s maybe one science fiction film coming out each month. Oh sure, there’s lot of other stuff science fiction fans are going to want to see — comic book movies, fantasy movies, animated films, a couple of horror flicks thrown in there — but after a solid science-fictional summer in ’09 with Star Trek and Transformers and District 9, this summer is looking maybe a little more mellow.
Let’s look at what we’ve got on the (still tentative) lineup, and how I think they’re going to fare in the world.
Iron Man 2 (May 7)
This is a comic book novel first and foremost but code-shares with science fiction because, hey, look at the suit. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first film, but I did like it — it was smart and funny and Robert Downey, Jr., was exactly the right guy to play Tony Stark. This time around the canny casting continues with Mickey Rourke as Stark’s nemesis, and at the end of the day I can’t imagine this film blowing the good will and enthusiasm the first film generated.
 Prediction: Iron Man fights with Shrek, Buzz Lightyear and the Twilight vampires for biggest hit of the summer.
(June 4)

Adrian Brody and Sarah Polley star as two genetic scientists who take
playing God too far when they introduce human DNA into their
experiments. Dr. Moreau would be proud! Or maybe not. This one’s been
out to a film festival or two and the early buzz on it is pretty good.
Modestly successful, unless science fiction starved fans push it
over the top.
(July 9)

Steve Carell plays an animated James Bond-style villain, complete with
an host of freeze rays, death rays, and numerous but dim henchmen, whose
plans for global domination are scrambled when he becomes guardian of
three orphaned girls. Clearly this is a case of Child Protective
Services falling down on the job.
Prediction: The presence of
Carell in a family-friendly animated film means this will do pretty
well, especially when the 3D ticket boost is factored in. But with the
Shrek and Toy Story sequels out there, the makers of Despicable Me
shouldn’t hope to be the number one animated film of the summer.
(July 9)

Remember that Predator sequel and those two Alien Vs. Predator
flicks? Yeah, well, the filmmakers of this one kind of hope you don’t,
and will instead consider this flick the true heir to the Predator crown.
In this one a bunch of various bad asses (including, incongruously,
Adrian Brody and Topher Grace) are transported to another planet to be
prey for everyone’s favorite, semi-invisible blade-wielding alien
hunters. One one hand, Robert Rodriguez is producing, and he’s both a
fan of the original and smarter than the average filmmaker when it comes
to action and science fiction. On the other hand, if there was ever an
underperforming franchise, this is it.
Prediction: Big opening
weekend thanks to the fanboys — but whether it has legs after that
remains to be seen.
(July 16)

While his fans are waiting for Christopher Nolan to swing back around to
the Batman franchise, the director keeps them busy with this
very trippy looking science fiction thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio
as a corporate spy who can enter dreams to look for information. So,
basically the 1980s flick Dreamscape, plus a whole lot of money
and style, and, presumably, smarts. I could be up for that.
Nolan’s reputation both with the fanboys and as a director of
smarter-than-average films (see: The Prestige, Momento) bodes
well for the box office, but no one should expect Dark Night
Aaaaand that’s the science fiction we’ve got for the
summer, unless you want to count Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of
Kitty Galore
(July 30), and I think I’d rather scoop out my own eyes
than do that.

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