In 1977, Star Wars made the scifi movie highly bankable, taking the concepts of the pulp serials of the 30s and the B-movies of the 50s into the commercial stratosphere. Almost 40 years later, Star Wars still reigns supreme in the form of The Force Awakens and Rogue One – massive worldwide blockbusters which have captured the imagination of the casual movie-goer.

Perhaps that might explain the presence of two big-name scifi movies in the Christmas lineup as movie studios hope to exploit the public’s fascination with fantastical storylines and special effects. However, as it turns out, both Passengers and Assassin’s Creed may not have justified their backers’ faith in them.

For Sony’s Passengers the premise is simple enough – two people wake up 90 years too soon from an induced hibernation on board a spaceship bound for a new planet. Cast two very popular actors in the lead roles (viz. Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt) and the inherent star power should sell itself. Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward. Although there is a twist in the plot that delivers more dramatic tension, the narrative itself is very very simplistic and relies heavily on the leads and their chemistry. It works, but only just, a mildly satisfying tale that wasted its potential to express something more meaningful. The viewing public seems to agree as the film has under-performed since opening.

After Duncan Jones’ excellent interpretation of the Warcraft video game story concepts, expectations were reasonably high for Fox’s Assassin’s Creed. In a somewhat complicated built-up world, the main appeal of the game was to allow gamers to be an Assassin in different historical periods through the protagonist’s use of the “Animus”, a device that allows him to experience his “ancestral memories”. However, the movie adaptation decided to deviate from the core strengths of the game and the result is a shambles. Even though heavy hitting actors like Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Irons and Marion Cotillard are on board, the storyline is incomprehensible and unrecognisable from the original source material. The film focuses on the way in which the main character uses the “Animus” (like a virtual reality exercise) instead of exploring the time setting or even the character he is experiencing. It fails miserably and like Passengers, has flopped at the box office.

From the studios’ perspective, the wrong lessons learnt might be instead of supporting original scifi content or new video game adaptations, they should continue to invest in sequels/prequels and reboots/remakes of established scifi franchises. The solution is simple – better plots and better characterisations. Hopefully, we will see more of that in 2017!

… still there’s more …

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