Are we witnessing a new sci-fi dawn in cinema? Last year, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar made headlines for its spellbinding black hole visuals—while sparking debates about its scientific accuracy. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy scored big at the box office, raking in an impressive $94M in its first weekend.
Now in 2015, a number of hotly anticipated science-themed films have caught our eye, so here’s our preview:
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig
Release Date: November 25, 2015
Based on the well-received debut novel by Andy Weir, The Martian revolves around an astronaut who is stranded on a Mars colony while NASA tries to orchestrate a rescue mission. In addition to the usual sci-fi tropes, the film delivers a political message by examining the inner workings of the space agency.
4. Beti and Amare
A sci-fi offering set in 1936 Ethiopia—and shot on a reported shoe-string budget of $7,000 (!)—Beti and Amare tells the heart-wrenching story of a young girl who escapes Mussolini’s troops only to encounter the violent advances of the militia that guards the place where she sought refuge. All is upended when a visitor from another world arrives in a most unusual conveyance: a spaceship.
A thrilling approach to bioethics, this drama features the king of cinema Ben Kingsley as a wealthy man who’s dying of cancer. Attempting to achieve a level of immortality, he undergoes a medical procedure to transport his consciousness to the younger body of Ryan Reynolds’ character. Chaos ensues.
2. Jurassic World
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson
Release Date: June 12, 2015
Paleontology nerds are already disgruntled by the inaccurate dinosaur designs, but maybe geneticists will be satisfied? As one scientist in the movie puts it, “We have learned more in the past decade from genetics than a century of digging up bones. A whole frontier has opened up.” And just what would that frontier be? The “first genetically modified hybrid” dinosaur—or, as Chris Pratt puts it, the first dino “cooked up in [the] lab.” The genetic tinkering—as you’ll know, if you’re familiar with novelist Michael Crichton’s ideas the movie is based on—is a disaster in the making. And it takes a brooding, bearded Pratt with a pith helmet and gun to save the day.
1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver
Release Date: December 18, 2015
Sci-fi purists may point out that the Star Wars franchise is more like space fantasy than hard science fiction. But given that even just the brief shot of a new lightsaber design sparked a flurry of lightsaber engineering analyses, we think the film will provide an excellent opportunity for applied science nerdery. We definitely have a new hope for this sequel—it’s not like Jar Jar Binks is returning or anything.