2014 in Review: Another Year of Superheroes and Dystopian Romance

 

– Paulie Spiceflow –

2014 went largely as 2013 went: superheroes, sexy dystopias, and another promotional film for NASA. We are still a month away from the official end but as far as science fiction goes, the year is over. There were a few bright spots but only a couple truly original movies. Hollywood has gone three years in a row without changing their formula. Judging from the box office receipts, they have little incentive to do so.

The top grossing film as of today is Guardians of the Galaxy, pulling in $331 million domestically. However, when it is all said and done, I think Mockingjay Part 1 will be the top grossing film of the year. It’s predecessor, Catching Fire, raked in over $400 million last year. Critical and audience reviews of Mockingjay Part 1 are a little weak for the franchise but probably not disappointing enough to drop it under $300 million.

Captain America: Winter Soldier is currently in second place in the sci-fi money standings, earning $259 million. It easily outperformed its predecessor and received rave reviews. The first avenger got a boost from The Avengers movie and a solid script.

The laughable Transformers 4: Age of Extinction imploded with $245 million, the lowest take in the franchise. While it had a great opening weekend, bad reviews from critics and audience dragged it down. Transformer movies are known for plot holes, nonsensical technology, and cheesy lines but Age of Extinction dropped it down to a new level.

The X-Men came in with a great ensemble movie in Days Future Past. Time loops are a tough to pull off but this one did a reasonably good job. The biggest problems were with its disconnect from other X-Men movies. How is Professor Xavier alive? How did Wolverine get his claws back? Since when does Kitty have time travel abilities? Despite my and others’ nerdy objections, the movie took in $233 million, coming up short to Last Stand by a few million.

In fifth is Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The first one was stunning and definitely brought the classic to life for a new generation. The sequel continues the story and examines common themes with much more insight. The apes brought in $208 million, beating its predecessor.

Box office receipts aside, only a few movies really made an impression on me this year. Here are my top three movies for 2014:

In third place: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The special effects, dialogue, and story were done with great care.

In second place: Interstellar. The Christopher Nolan film was the only one to make a strong attempt at sound science and adult themes. Like Gravity, it uses special effects wisely but doesn’t short audiences on everything else that makes a movie great. It had a few minor bugs but still deserving of this spot.

And the winner is…

Guardians of the Galaxy

I know, it is a superhero movie that is mostly for a younger crowd but this one was a lot of fun. It doesn’t try to do be anything different than what it is: dynamite space opera.

 

– Jacob Foxx –

As a lover of science fiction, I was disappointed in the lack of diversity from Hollywood. Once again, Marvel Comics dominated the box office and the imagination of many across the world. The movies weren’t bad but are beginning to get tiresome. Too much of anything, even a good thing, is bad.

Like last year, Hollywood learned in a couple cases that throwing out a me-too movie isn’t always the way to go. Producers have been desperately trying to follow The Hunger Games model but don’t understand the franchise’s appeal. Last year it was The Host, this year it was Divergent. The Giver was a decent movie but largely missed out on most of Lowry’s powerful source material. All three bombed. Their pathetic world-building and sappy teen romance are doing serious damage to the subgenre.

When explosions aren’t enough, there’s always sex appeal. The producers behind Lucy thought Scarlett Johansson could draw crowds no matter what she did for two hours. They were wrong. A scientifically bunk premise and inferior story doomed it.

Now for the winners:

In third place: Guardians of the Galaxy, head-and-shoulders above the other superhero films of this year.

In second place: Interstellar. Ambitious, thoughtful, and with a tremendous cast.

My movie of the year is…

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

A great cast, awesome yet balanced special effects, and meaningful dialogue. Not only that, the protagonist is a computer-generated ape! In our first year of doing movies reviews together, Paulie and I are in agreement on the top three! As for the worst of the year, I think we agree Lucy and Transformers: Age of Extinction deserve that unwanted accolade.