M.L. Miller aka the @$$hole formerly known as Ambush Bug here! Sprouting from the success of the Best of the Best in Horror Countdown that ran all last month, I thought we would Countdown the Best of the Best in Sci Fi in 2017. Since my area of expertise is horror, I have enlisted my buddy Matt Adler to come up with the Top Ten Sci Fi films of 2017. Along with Matt’s picks for the top ten, I will be adding a pick of my own that is worth noting. Many of these films are available On Demand, digital download, or on DVD/BluRay and when I can, I’ll try to link to them at the top of the reviews.
As far as how the list was compiled? Well, Matt will explain in each of the review why he thinks this film is worthy of the countdown and why it is where it is in the list. For me, I am simply going to offer lesser known suggestions that may not be blockbusters, but they pack a big sci fi punch despite all of that. Any film released after November 1st, 2016 is game for the list. Look for new countdown entries every Monday, Wednesday and Friday through November.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let us know what you think of the films, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong we are, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
#1 BLADE RUNNER 2049 #1
BLADERUNNER 2049 (2017)
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Written by Hampton Fancher, Michael Green (screenplay, based on characters from the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick)
Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoeks, Edward James Olmos, Mark Arnold, Hiam Abbass, Mackenzie Davis, Lennie James, Sean Young, Barkhad Abdi, Carla Juri, Krista Kosonen, Elarica Johnson, André Lukács Molnár, Vilma Szécsi, Ana de Armas, Wood Harris, David Dastmalchian, Tómas Lemarquis, Sallie Harmsen, Samuel Brown, Kincsö Sánta, Ben Thompson, Suzie Kennedy, David Benson, Stephen Triffitt, Loren Peta, Kingston Taylor
Find out more about this film here, @BladeRunner2049, and on Facebook here
Reviewed by Matt Adler
If you’ve been following this Top 10 list up till now, you may have noticed that a theme running through it has been “questions”. That’s no accident; my favorite science fiction films are ones that really make us think, and don’t provide easy answers. Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to the 1982 cult classic, is just such a film, and it’s all the more impressive for being the rare sequel that goes beyond its predecessor in pushing those kind of boundaries.
I think the most important question this film poses is “What defines an individual’s worth?” It’s a question that the protagonist K (later known as Joe), played by Ryan Gosling, struggles with throughout his journey. K is a replicant (an android meant to appear and behave as much like a human as possible) and on a daily basis his own worth is challenged by those he interacts and works with, with the futuristic equivalent of casual bigotry and slurs hurled in his general direction, which he is expected to have no reaction to. He is, in fact, expected to always obey without question, as that is what he was programmed to do.
Still, perhaps it is inevitable that if you design something to emulate a human, it will eventually take on the most human qualities of all; hopes and dreams. The one person who seems capable of recognizing this in K is his fellow artificial intelligence Joi, played by Ana de Armas, who resides in his home as something like a girlfriend/housewife, yet has no physical existence, appearing only as a holographic image. The two are constantly reminded of the disregard the rest of society has for their existence; everywhere he goes, K is bombarded by advertising for the Joi program, emphasizing how unspecial and replaceable she is seen to be.
Joi herself is dismissively referred to as “product” by the replicant Luv, a Terminator-esque enforcer (played chillingly as the implacable, relentless foe by Sylvia Hoeks) who works for the mastermind behind all this technology, Niander Wallace (Jaret Leto). And yet K and Joi repeatedly demonstrate genuine concern for each other’s feelings, taking actions that would not make sense in any other context, so they simply cannot be as artificial as the world views them.
The other important question raised here is “What is real?”, and that takes on special importance as K, who has always “known” he is a replicant, begins to question whether that is in fact the case, and whether the memories of a childhood he believes were programmed into him are in fact real. In this regard, the movie reminds me of one the best aspects of the oft-criticized “Clone Saga” in Spider-Man comic books. Ben Reilly, Peter Parker’s clone, is programmed with all of his memories, and when he realizes he is not in fact Peter Parker, but a clone, it devastates his self-esteem for a long time, making him feel unworthy and not a “real person”. But does it even matter whether these things actually happened to him, if they did in fact shape what kind of person he is? These same questions apply to K.
Some have criticized the film for its slow, deliberate pace, and the limited use of Harrison Ford, star of the first Blade Runner. I think both of these choices speak to the movie’s strengths, actually. Both Blade Runner movies are thinking man’s sci-fi, and the kind of questions the movie explores would be lost in a film that was caught up in a breakneck, explosion-a-minute pace. And although Ford enters only in the film’s final act, it’s pivotal that it happens in the way that it does. This is very much a story about a child reconnecting with their parent, both in the pain of giving up a child, and the pain of being abandoned. If Ford had shown up too early in the film, this wouldn’t have been earned.
Director Denis Villeneuve (who appeared earlier on this list with another great film, Arrival) takes the reins here from Ridley Scott (who also registered in our Top 10 with Alien: Covenant). As such, this is a somewhat different film than the first, but that just gives it a freshness and vitality that many sequels lack. Ultimately, the film leaves us with many more questions than answers, which is just how I like it. Hopefully the box office will justify another sequel on par with this one, preferably without waiting another 35 years.
THE BEST OF SCI FI 2017!
#10 – GHOST IN THE SHELL
#9 – VALERIAN & THE CITY OF ONE THOUSAND PLANETS
#8 GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Vol.2
#6 ALIEN: COVENANT
#5 KONG: SKULL ISLAND
#4 WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES
#2 STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE
#1 BLADERUNNER 2049
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for more than 25 years, writing about them for more than 10, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of this stuff. He welcomes all feedback.
M.L. Miller goes by many names—Ambush Bug, Mark L. Miller, hey you jerk over there! He’s an original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
I’ve also set up a Patreon Page to help keep this website rolling. It’s going to be crucial in these early stages that we get some kind of funding to keep the lights on, so if you have extra dough, please support me! Also, if there are any people in need of advertising on MLMILLERWRITES, feel free to contact me here and we can talk turkey!