2014 was a big year for science fiction. There were massive blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy and Godzilla that stormed through the box office, but there was also a nice crop of smaller, independent, idea-driven genre films that surfaced. Many of these made the festival rounds, and a handful, movies like TheSignal and I Origins, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The annual gathering has been the marquee American film festival for years, and though it is widely known for a certain free-spirited aesthetic that usually often involves left-of-center interpersonal dramas, there are usually at least a handful of interesting sci-fi pictures in the mix.
If you’ve perused the Sundance lineup, you’ll notice that 2015 is no exception to this rule. Though we won’t be in attendance when these movies premiere in the snowy mountains, we’re keeping an especially close eye on a handful of these titles. And here are five of our most anticipated sci-fi entries in the fest, and you can bet if they build a good head of steam coming out of Park City, we’ll be seeing them in theaters or on VOD sometime later on this year.
Z for Zachariah
With a great cast that consists of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Margot Robbie, and Chris Pine, Z for Zachariah is easily one of the movies we’re most excited to see out of Sundance this year. A good old-fashioned nuclear post-apocalyptic tale—no zombies or global pandemics here—this is the story of a young woman (Robbie) who thinks she’s the last human alive, until a scientist (Ejiofor) shows up and they fall in love. When another stranger (Pine) arrives in their pristine mountain valley, it throws their whole dynamic out of whack and things take a grim, sinister turn. Based on the novel by Robert C. O’Brien, this is more about the power and control people wield over one another than it is about the actual end of the world.
Set in an alternate, post-apocalyptic 1997, an orphan teenager known only as The Kid (Munro Chambers)—no one has a real name after the end of the world—roams the wastes scrounging what he can, until he meets a girl named Apple (Lawrence Leboeuf) and falls in love. When Apple gets kidnapped by a vicious warlord named Zeus (genre icon Michael Ironside), the self-proclaimed leader of the Wasteland, The Kid has to rescue his love. As you can see in the clip below, there is all kinds of craziness and mayhem going on. Turbo Kid is simultaneously a throwback, a spoof, and a gore-soaked, manic good time. Where else are you going to see clans who settle their differences with the most high stakes arm wrestling bout you’ll ever experience? There are maniacs, revenge, comic books, and viscera. What more do you need?
Michael Madsen’s The Visit may be the most unique, interesting take on the alien invasion film you’re likely to come across. It is, after all, a speculative documentary, which is also something of an oddity in itself. Taking an abstract approach, Madsen’s poses a hypothetical incursion from beyond our world to those people who would have to figure out how to deal with such an event. He asks government officials, members of the media, and even the United Nations how they would go about approaching extraterrestrials, and what they would do to avoid the mass panic that the human race is prone to, especially when there is no previous history to look to for inspiration. What do we tell them about ourselves (do we unveil good and bad equally?), what are their intentions, how do we even discern what they want? Gorgeously filmed and methodically paced, this is definitely one we’re intrigued to check out for ourselves.
Based on an award-winning short film, Futurestates, which made the rounds few years back, Jennifer Phang’s Advantageous is set in a near-future metropolis where there is a steep, stark class divide. The lavish wealth outshines the hard poverty and tough economic times faced by the underclass. As is prone to happen in such situations, there is friction between these disparate castes, and within this framework, Gwen (Jacqueline Kim, also the co-writer with Phang) and her daughter Jules (Samantha Kim), must hold onto each other and find hope and joy where they can in this cold, desolate, world as instability shakes their surroundings to the core. This trailer for the short should give you a good feel of what you’re in for, as well as tone and mood. A quiet, introspective kind of sci-fi, this definitely has potential to be something very different.
When a meteor crashes near the town of Troy, New York, it appears that the entire city goes a wee bit loopy. H. follows two different women name Helen, two different Helens of Troy (Robin Bartlett and Rebecca Dayan), who are "grounded in the fears of reality where subconscious tensions collide with the tempestuous forces of nature." While I’m not entirely sure what that means, this film from Daniel Garcia and Rania Attieh looks strange and tense, and that eerie, discordant score certainly ups the creepy factor a few degrees, laying a spooky atmosphere over the top of everything. This is definitely one that doesn’t look like it’s going to be right in everyone’s wheelhouse, but it is unusual and promises to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, or will encounter anytime soon.