THE BEST AND WORST OF
1999 will probably be remembered, when it comes to sci-fi movies, as a year of a lot of hype and very little glory. Come to think of it, that same tagline can be applied to most of the year's cinematic output . .
While the traditionally lucrative summer movie season in the States provided the usual slew of sci-fi offerings, it wasn't a particularly good year for the genre. In contrast, audiences displayed a sudden desire to be scared out of their wits and the horror movie came back with a vengeance.
Perhaps it was the huge financial success of The Blair Witch Project that reminded Hollywood producers that horror movies can be made for very cheap (no need for huge armadas of spaceships battling it out) and show huge box office returns; and Hollywood thus provided audiences with what they thought they wanted, namely lots of horror movies. However, this particular lesson didn't prevent special effects driven horror movies like Deep Blue Sea and The Haunting from being made.
The year saw the return of three legendary movie directors after absences spanning decades, namely Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut), Terrance Mallick (Thin Red Line) and of course George Lucas (Phantom Menace).
The biggest hype of course surrounded the Star Wars juggernaut. No surprises there. But what was surprising was that Phantom Menace was hardly the best movie of them all. Nor was it Eyes Wide Shut, the director of
2001 and Clockwork Orange's swan song as he unexpectedly died after showing a final cut of the misjudged mess starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman to Warner Bros., the studio that bankrolled it. In fact, Phantom Menace wasn't even the best science fiction movie of the year . . .
While it may have made a killing at the box office, Phantom Menace I'm afraid, didn't
it . . .
The Good . . .
*BEST OF THE YEAR*
Honest, I would have wanted The Phantom Menace to be the best science fiction offering of the year. I really would have - and so would a lot of other
Star Wars fans have . . .
But it simply wasn't - even though at one stage I tried to convince myself and others that it was, except I couldn't. With its frenetic comic book style action,
The Matrix burst onto the scene out of nowhere, dazzling both sci-fi and action movie fans with its sheer style. More 1990s than any of the year's other genre offerings,
The Matrix was destined to become a hit on the big screen and on DVD . . .
The Phantom Menace
Not as bad as many critics and oversensitive fans made it out to be,
The Phantom Menace proved to be hugely entertaining and fun. Better than previous years' box office hits
(Armageddon, Independence Day) it however simply could not satisfy huge fan expectations. Take another look at this one: it's not
The Empire Strikes Back (then again, what is?) but it's actually better than
Return of the Jedi . . .
The Unexpectedly Good . . .
The Iron Giant
Is the only way for an animated movie to make any money at the box office for it to be Disney cookie cutter fare with cute furry animal sidekicks and sappy life-draining songs? It would seem so when one looks at the disappointing box office returns of
The Iron Giant, a movie that archaeologists in the future will undoubtedly declare it the timeless classic it is . . .
With a whole slew of virtual reality movies out in 1999, eXistenZ proved to be second only to
The Matrix. The usual David Cronenberg weirdness combined with a clever storyline made for one of the year's most underrated science fiction offerings . . .
The Bad . . .
Universal Soldier - the Return
*WORST OF THE YEAR*
Isn't it time someone kicked Van Damme's sorry ass back to the video rubbish heap from whence it came? How did this piece of excrement even make it onto the big screen?
*ALMOST WORST OF THE YEAR*
"We wanted to make Das Boot in space," the director of Wing Commander said in interviews. And they did! Replete with sonar in space, crews manually loading missiles into firing docks, etc. making for one of the most unintentionally absurd movies of the year . . .
It isn't the story you're telling, but how you tell it. This exact duplicate of
Deep Rising showed how it shouldn't be told. Whereas Deep Rising had some sense of tongue in the cheek fun,
Virus slogged through its uninspired storyline with dull predictableness . . .
The Mediocre . . .
The Astronaut's Wife
"We wanted to make Rosemary's Baby in space," said the director of The Astronaut's Wife. No, he didn't actually admit to it. If it had been half an hour shorter, it would have been less of the butt numbing torture it turned out to be . . .
My Favorite Martian
Could have been more than just "something for the kids" . . .
The Thirteenth Floor
The third virtual reality movie of the year, by the producers of
Godzilla. Not too bad taken on its own terms, but pales in comparison to
The Matrix, eXistenZ and Dark City . . .
Wild Wild West
"We wanted to rehash the success we had with Men In
Black," the producers admitted in an interview. Okay, so they didn't say so, but we all knew: except Men In Black never had an unfunny script and murky-looking special effects.
The Unreviewed . . .
Cast of TV space opera gets mistaken for the real item by aliens and are recruited by them to help against alien aggressors. Stars Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver.
Data, er sorry, this other android (played by Robin Williams) tries to become human throughout its 200 years life span. Let's hope the movie itself feels shorter than that . . .