Lists are for suckers – so here’s another one, this time a gleaming cavalcade of cinematic entertainment.
An intriguing selection of delights, if you happen to like off-centre sci-fi and films by treasured geek auteurs. I didn’t see “Gravity“, so I can’t speak to whether Alfonso Cuaron‘s science factual two-hander is the real deal or not. Worrying talk from the blogosphere of the film’s spiritual underpinnings was sufficient to make me pass on seeing it at the cinema, a fate which also befell one of Autumn 2013’s other sci-fi offerings, the Vin Diesel-starring “Riddick“.
I’m usually well up for any film set in Diesel and David Twohy‘s grim-dark sf dystopian universe, but the advanced reviews and their decrying of the film’s dubious sexual politics had me skipping one of the films of last year that I was really looking forward to. The loss, in that case, may be mine but I’ll probably be checking it out on Blu-Ray to see if it really was as objectionable as Empire magazine‘s queen geek, Helen O’Hara would have me believe it was (She has become my go-to critic for things science-fictional, fantastical and wholly nerdsome…)
As for the films I did love last year? “Elysium” is a damn good try at putting social sci-fi on screen, fatally undone by a script which barely skims the surface of the complex political issues it covers and substitutes kick-arse sci-fi weapons to distract you from the story careering off the rails towards the climax. I loved the terrifying plausible barrio future and wondered where the bloody hell Jodie Foster‘s character was supposed to be from (a hitherto unknown Parisian enclave of the Hamptons? Islington-Sur-La-Mer?).
Edgar Wright‘s “The World’s End” is an acute, unsparing and honest look at male friendships and made me redouble my efforts to avoid typically British town centres on a weekend evening. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have never been better, playing against type and headlining a killer ensemble which included Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine and secret weapon, Rosamund Pike. I loved the ending, too, which had the courage to be a (slight) downer but was all the better for it.
“Iron Man 3” is a surprisingly funny, always entertaining third outing for the world’s most goateed tinkerer-in-chief and proved to me that giving Shane Black the freedom to make his film was a damned good idea. Your mileage may vary, of course, if you really love the Stark of the comics and his rogue’s gallery – the film’s playing of arch “Iron Man” villain, The Mandarin, was one of 2013’s more divisive acts in the geek community.
In 2013, Joss Whedon‘s made a black-and-white, modern dress adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and delivered an object lesson in how not to be pigeon-holed. The cast were sublime, the photography was gorgeous and Nathan Fillion delivered the year’s most scene-stealing performance as the buffoon’s buffoon, Dogberry.
Finally, and most ridiculously, Guillermo Del Toro actually made one of the 987 films he currently linked to – what larks! As giants robots versus bigger monsters movies go, Del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” was a great big heap of fun if you could get on board with the wartime propaganda vibe that the director went for. This was not a film where subtlety had much place, unless that place was to be squished under the titanic toes of lead robot Gipsy Danger. “Pac Rim” had some of the best character names of the year, too – Stacker Pentecost, Mako Mori, Hercules Hansen were just some of the names I’ll be pillaging for RPG characters in the near future.