Narrative in Charlie Jane Anders’ “Best and Worst Science Fiction/Fantasy Movies of 2012” «selections»


☞ Another list of 2012’s films. This time listing both the best and worst science fiction films of the year. Again, narrative plays a prominent part in determining the quality of the films. All other aspects of cinema should contribute to the narrative if the film is to be regarded as successful or well executed. Science fiction movies are clearly not an exception to this rule. Curiously, Cloud Atlas is found in both the best films and worst films lists, which perhaps indicates the ambivalence that many people feel towards its narrative complications.

The Best (Selections)

Cloud Atlas

David Mitchell‘s centuries-spanning novel, with its six interlocking stories, poses a nearly impossible challenge for a movie adaptation. But the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer found a way to create a complex structure in which the six time periods dovetail together and create resonances and harmonics, almost like the piece of music that gives the movie its name.”


“There’s nothing about this film that you haven’t seen a million times before: the “found footage” camerawork, the story of people who get uncanny mental powers and abuse them, the downward spiral, etc. But this film still felt amazingly fresh, because of some really clever storytelling choices and some amazingly strong performances. It was also really refreshing to see a movie conveying superpowers in the brisk, matter-of-fact way this film does. Most of all, though, Chronicle creates fully realized teen characters with real emotional lives, and uses its mysterious psychic powers to tell a great story about the nightmares of high school social life.”

The Cabin in the Woods

“[In its third act…] This movie turns a critique of rote storytelling into something larger and more existential, to the point where it actually earns its massive conclusion — but it also manages to imbue all of these poor saps with life and reality before tossing them into the abyss.”


Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are terrific as a man meeting himself, and between the two of them they manage to create a really complex character who evolves over the course of the film even as he butts heads with himself.”

The Avengers

“This movie accomplished several heroic feats, including bringing together wildly disparate characters and giving them all a worthy storyline — but its biggest accomplishment was probably just recreating the joy and urgency of a great superhero comic on the big screen.”

The Worst (Selections)

Cloud Atlas

“God, what a mess. Adapting David Mitchell’s sweeping novel, with its historical and far-future settings, wasn’t challenging enough — the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer had to add a totally insane additional element, having the same troupe of actors play different roles in each storyline. Which means one thing: hideous, claw-your-face-off makeup, including white actors playing Asian roles.”


“…after months of reflection, we’ve come down on the “Prometheus is a genuinely terrible film” side. The “idiot ball” plotting, the bland characters, the shoehorned daddy issues, and the huge philosophical questions that are raised only to be coated with drool… it’s just a giant ball of stupid. The only really memorable character is the android David, and we wind up with less insight into him at the end of the film than at the beginning. And for all Scott’s feverish insistence that this film isn’t an Alien prequel, any true storytelling potential is hobbled by the OCD need to connect every last dot with Alien.”

The Bourne Legacy

Edward Norton does nothing but stand around discussing obscure plot points from the first three Bourne movies. And meanwhile, Jeremy Renner‘s storyline as an enhanced superspy who’s rushing to hold onto his pill-endowed super-intelligence never quite takes off or achieves any urgency. This film is more interested in establishing its ties to the Matt Damon movies than it is in launching Renner’s character as the new hero of the franchise. And it all culminates in one of the least thrilling final action sequences we’ve seen in recent years. Jason Bourne couldn’t remember who he really was, but this new hero doesn’t have any identity to discover.”

Dark Shadows

“This film has no characters to identify with, no story to invest in, and nothing else that would ground its comedy in any way. It’s gothic in the most pro-forma, stylized manner, and silly without any joy or inventiveness.”

Read more…


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