Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
8. I Origins
Another independent film which I first saw at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year. Please ignore the awful title — Mike Cahill‘s I Origins might be the best “science vs faith” movie I’ve seen since Robert Zemeckis’s Contact. That is a very huge compliment coming from me, as Contact is one of my favorite films. I Origins, a haunting film that explores the idea of a supreme maker, the afterlife and the concept of souls through the eye of a science-grounded sceptic, delivers successfully on that mind-bending premise. I urge you to stay away from the reviews or trailers as the film is a hard sell without spoiling some of the adventure it provides. I Origins is the kind of movie that will leave you in profound conversation well after leaving the theater. If that sounds like the type of movie you want to experience, go into it with some friends so you won’t be alone on the other side.
The Host director Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer is a science fiction film filled with political satire and great contained world building. At times its exciting and violent and other moments bizarre or absurd, but the story never fails to keep you interested of entertained. The gritty steampunk-like post apocalyptic future setting is nothing we’ve ever seen before, without breaking the bank — cleverly using the contained story to create a richly imagined world and fun surprises. My one complaint is that the film does suffer under its over two hour running time — the final 30 minutes could use some trimming.
6. Edge of Tomorrow
I’ll admit, I didn’t love Edge of Tomorrow as much as most people I know. While most of the film is awesome, the first and last 15 minutes of the film are pretty bad in my opinion. I absolutely loved the Groundhog Day-like timeloop concept at the core of this film. The mech-suits are cool, but I feel the marketing focused on the imagery rather than the high concept story, which is one of the reasons why the film was not a bigger success. There are so many great ideas in this film, and it was fun how they played with the stakes which are usually disconnected from a story of this type. I just wish the finale could have been set within the same time period as the rest of the film — it seems like that would have provided a symmetrical conclusion more in line with the story at hand. Here’s my pitch, highlight the invisotext to reveal:
So the movie gets up to the point where Tom Cruise’s character Cage realizes that he can’t take Rita (Emily Blunt) any further on the adventure as all avenues result in her death. The next day Cruise loses the timeloop ability and must stop the alien core before the established point in this battle where (without Cage’s assist) Rita must die. So we not only have the stakes of this being “for real” with no “do overs” but you have both events going on at the same time. Cage is going into the Alien’s central HQ and the same battle we have seen many times throughout the film, leading up to Rita’s death. That ticking time clock would have made the sequence more dramatic, and the moment when Cruise destroys the Alien HQ would be met with a spectacular shot of the aliens fizzling out on the battlefield mid-fight (much better than what we saw, the aliens dropping into the puddles in the dark and dreary exterior of the louvre. And don’t get me started on the post-climactic sequence which brings Cruise’s character back to the beginning of the story. But hey, if you want to use that cheap gimmick ending, why not at least end on Cage calling Rita by her “real name”?
Okay, I’m done. I really loved a lot of this movie but my problems with the opening and conclusion prevent it from being higher on my list.
5. How To Train Your Dragon 2
How To Train Your Dragon was one of my favorite movies of 2010, so its no surprise that it makes this list. Actually, I imagined it might be higher. Dean DeBlois‘ sequel is more Star Wars than the Star Wars prequels, and offers a rich beautiful expansion of this world. The story is more mature than the previous installment, and packs a more emotional punch. The action is bigger, soaring to greater heights, and while the story is not a retread on the first film, it offers some great symmetry in its structure and theme. All of that said, I somehow expected more. There was no one sequence that topped that first ride with Hiccup and Toothless, which was so elegant — making us question whats up or down.
I am however very disappointed to see this film underperform at the box office as its a really great animated film which deserves to be owned by every family. Hopefully by the time the third film in the trilogy is released the series will have a bigger fanbase from home video and create more of a splash at the box office.