Sci-fi gets a bad rap. Picture a science fiction devotee, and if you’re not imagining the hackneyed pocket-protector-and-broken-specs nerd, you’re certainly not envisioning an especially cool person.
The image can be off putting, as can some of the more cliched elements of the genre: aliens depicted by bad actors in bad makeup, technobabble in lieu of story, an unwieldy backstory or mythology that acts as a gatekeeper protecting against those looking to join the party late.
Not all sci fi is like this obviously, and there’s the odd Star Wars or Terminator that has permeated the mainstream through sheer quality and slickness. For those who are generally sci fi averse, though, there are loads of great entry points to a genre that can be surprisingly rich and infinitely varied.
These films use elements that are typical of more standard sci fi fare - space exploration, man against machine, sinister corporations - but take entirely fresh approaches that look far beyond what the genre has led the average audience to expect. Would we claim they boldly go where no film has gone before? Perhaps not - but they’re well worth your while.
10. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
The Planet Of The Apes franchise has never been the hardest of sci fi, but as the original series wore on, the films became increasingly submerged in the murk of lame mythology and fantastical gimmicks that put the average viewer off (they also simply weren’t very good).
The new Apes trilogy cast all that aside in favour of more serious, focused storytelling and genuinely incredible effects. Later films brought in action and war genre elements, but the first of the reboot is perhaps the best, at least from a sci fi element.
It’s a timely film: an experimental drug greatly ups the intelligence in apes, while creating a pandemic that quickly sweeps across the human race. More so than its sequels, Rise is perfectly paced - we follow Caesar, a former laboratory chimp who grows to resent humanity and lead his simian brethren to freedom.
The human star of the film is James Franco, but this (along with the other films) is all about Andy Serkis, whose motion capture performance as Caesar is award worthy. Rise builds in tension to an incredible finale on the Golden Gate Bridge which will have you cheering for an army of CGI apes.