In recent years summer schedules have been dominated by comic book heroes and sequels to established franchises, but 2013 has seen an explosion in stand alone sci-fi.
We’ve already had the likes of Oblivion, Pacific Rim, After Earth and World War Z and there’s no slowing down this September with a fresh blast of original titles.
by Christopher O’Keeffe | Above image: Tao Okamoto and Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine
The Wolverine – out Sept 13
Arguably the most popular X-man, Wolverine benefitted from a strong screen presence in the form of Hugh Jackman up until his first solo outing, the disappointing X-men Origins: Wolverine. This latest effort, The Wolverine, hasn’t had the easiest time in development, the original director Darren Aronofsky dropped out after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, causing delays, but Wolverine’s finally back – claws sharpened and ready.
Based on a popular 1982 storyline, the film sees the feral Wolverine come right here to Japan to face off against old friends and enemies and inevitably battle a few samurai and ninja along the way. The film has an abundance of Japanese talent in the cast, headed by love interest Mariko, played by popular model Tao Okamoto (who we met earlier in the year), and deadly assassin Yukio (fellow model and actress Rira Fukushima). James Mangold – the prolific filmmaker behind such hits as Knight and Day, 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line – was the man to take over in the director’s chair.
Elysium – out Sept 20
Elysium is the long awaited second feature from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp. In the year 2054, the overpopulated and ravaged Earth is orbited by the space station Elysium, home to the super wealthy that can afford to leave Earth behind.
Matt Damon stars as Max, a man belonging to the lower classes who takes on a mission that will take him to the space station and possibly bring it down. To do this he’ll be up against Jodie Foster’s Elysium minister, Delacourt, and District 9 breakthrough star Sharlto Copley, an immigrant hunting mercenary. Blomkamp scored a huge hit with his politically conscious, apartheid-referencing debut feature and Elysium promises to tread similar ground. With its themes of class and immigration, this could be the thinking-man’s hit of the summer.
Upside Down – out Sept 7
Exploring similar themes to Elysium, though in a slightly different context, Upside Down sees the rich and poor separated onto two opposite planets with gravities that pull in opposing directions. Living on the lower, poor world is Adam, who as a youth falls in love with Eden despite their living a world apart. Their love is doomed to fail, but years later, when Adam catches a glimpse of Eden on television, he promises to do the impossible and enter the affluent upper world to find his love.
This romantic science fiction was written and directed by Argentinian Juan Salanos. Upside Down offers a softer, romantic alternative to the explosive action of Elysium.
Unforgiven – out Sept 13
There’s a history of Japanese and American cinema inspiring and borrowing from each other dating back to Kurosawa’s John Ford homages and the subsequent remakes they inspired.
This grand tradition is continuing today, as this month sees the release of the Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s classic Western, Unforgiven (Japanese title Yurusarezaru mono). The original saw aging former outlaw Clint drawn out of retirement and a peaceful farming life to take on one more job.
In this new version, the action is transplanted from the old West to feudal Japan where, in northern Hokkaido, Ken Watanabe’s reclusive swordsman is forced by poverty to once again take to action. Eastwood has given his blessing to the project, the man having worked with Watanabe before, in Second World War drama Letters to Iwo Jima. Unforgiven is a remarkable film and if history is anything to go by this could become a classic in its own right.
Strutter – out Sept 14
Strutter made an appearance the Tokyo International Film Festival nearly a year ago, and if you didn’t catch it back then it’s well worth a look now it has arrived on general release.
The film completes a trilogy from writer-directors Alison Anders and Kurt Voss that started back in 1987 with a film called Border Radio. Strutter is a film of two halves; in the first we meet musician Brett as he slides into despair when his girlfriend leaves him and his band disintegrates. The second becomes something of a road movie, as Brett travels across California with his former love rival, local hero Damon, and free spirited sometime-stepfather Frank. This is a very hip tour of the bars, record shops and desert areas of California – shot in stark monochrome it’s a very cool journey, channeling the spirit of Graham Parsons along the way.
Byzantium – out Sept 20
Byzantium is the latest from Academy Award winner Neil Jordan and is set in a run down coastal town, where two mysterious women take shelter in an old guesthouse. The women are 200-year-old vampire-like creatures who come to reveal their complicated past.
The film stars excellent up and coming actress Saoirse Ronan, who first impressed in 2009’s The Lovely Bones and former Bond girl Gemma Arteton. The director is not a complete stranger when it comes to the bloodsucking undead: he was the man behind Interview With a Vampire.