Science Fiction Films

Top Ten Chart - 2006/7

Concatenation's annual calculation looking at the 52 UK weekly film charts up to Easter 2007 that accounts for only fantastic films (SF and fantasy).

Remember, this is the UK public's box office we are talking about and not fantastic film buffs, consequently below this top ten we have included at the end a few other notables worth checking out as well some warnings-to-avoid. Also note that this chart compilation calculation did not include DVD sales or spin-off product earning, and our chart is also subject to weekly vagaries. (In some weeks most of the entries do not gross much but at other times (for example public holidays) overall box office takings are higher.) This means that the chart reflects on-going cinema attendance throughout the year and it is not a strict annual list of the year's high box office earners. So standby with the pop corn, here we go...

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest


This is the second in the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' comedy adventure fantasy trilogy with more swashbuckling action and ghosts than you can unbuckle without a tot of rum. Oooh arrr.   Jack (Johnny Depp) Sparrow races to recover the heart of Davy Jones to avoid enslaving his soul to Jones himself.   This film was hugely popular at the UK box office. You may say that this is obvious coming no.1 in our top 10, but what you do not know is that it scored 50% more on our tally system than the number 2, X-Men 3, below! Having said all of that this is not what SF afficionados say. So cast your mind back to the 2007 SF Hugo Award nominations and Dead Man's Chest only just failed to get nominated for the Best Dramatic Presentation category short list. Of course we found out because the Hugo administrators that year made a mistake and an incorrect short list was initially circulated for a few days with this film on it before matters were explained. So this one is top of the genre films at the box office, but it failed to get onto the Hugo short list. A fun film, but it is fairly mindless fare. Director Gore Verbinski,

2. X-Men: The Last Stand


The last in the X-Men Marvel adaptation trilogy. When a 'cure' for mutants is found there is an ethical dilema and different people and mutants have different views. So time to settle it all with a grand punch up and lots of SFX with super powers being shown off. Despite Patrick Stewart as Prof Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen as Magneto, this series has been just a little over the top. Even so as superhero action films goes clearly this caught the public's imagination. However, as with our number one film, this too failed to make a showing on the 2007 Hugo nomination short list. Director: Brett Ratner.

3. Children of Men


This is based on the P. D. James SF novel and so has a sure foundation despite Hollywood scriptwriters. Its other saving grace is that it is part British made (same nationality as the book's author) and much of it is shot in London. In these senses the film is true to the book but it also captures much of its flavour. The story itself is set in the near future, 2027, when human fertility has reached zero, hence so has fecundity. No children. No future. No hope.   Wait! One woman is expecting and everyone is after her. Somehow she has to get to the sea and the scientists who may be able to save the human race... Now Children of Men was nominated in 2007 for a Hugo. Michael Caine plays a political cartoonist whose newspaper cartoons (on the wall of his office) look remarkably like those of The Guardian's Steve Bell. On one level this is an action film, but it has a depth and touching moments that transcend such a paltry classification. Director: Alfonso Cuaron. Principal cast: Clive Owen (Theo Faron); Julianne Moore (Julian Taylor); and Michael Caine (Jasper Palmer).

4. Superman Returns


Can anyone equal Christopher Reeves? Well Brandon Routh makes a fair fist of it. After taking a few years out to visit the remains of his destroyed planet Krypton, Superman returns to Earth. However life has moved on, including Lois Lane. But Lex Luthor is still around... Directed by Bryan Singer. Principal cast: Brandon Routh (Clark Kent / Superman); Kate Bosworth (Lois Lane); Kevin Spacey (Lex Luthor); James Marsden (Richard White); and Sam Huntingdon (Jimmy Olsen).

5. Premonition


A housewife learns that her husband died the previous day. The next day she wakes up to find him alive. Sadly the day after she wakes up to find that in this reality he is dead... This is one of those films that may have slipped under your radar, but nonetheless did surprisingly well, albeit it briefly, at the box office. Doubly so as this is not an SFX rich film, nor has it stunning landscape vistas or a proverbial cast of thousands (so a big screen is not necessary). This one came out in March 2007, not too far from our to Easter year end and so who knows may have scored more in this top ten had it come out earlier. Why not give it a whirl. Director Mennan Yapo. Principal cast: Sandra Bullock and Julian McMahon.

6. The Prestige


Based on the Christopher Priest novel, this story concerns two rival stage magicians. When one perfects the ultimate trick the other is desperate to find out how it is done. This one was also nominated for a 2007 Hugo. Director Christopher Nolan. Principal cast: Hugh Jackman (Robert Angier); Christian Bale (Alfred Borden); Michael Caine (Cutter); and David Bowie (Tesla).

7. Scary Movie 4


This is the fourth in the spoof comedy horror series. This time Cindy finds out that the house she is living in is haunted by a young boy who was murdered. She has to solve the crime and in doing so will save the Earth from extraterrestrial tripod invasion. There are references to War of the Worlds, The Grudge, The Village, Saw and Saw II and Million Dollar Baby. Better than Scary Movie 3. Director David Zucker. Principal cast: Anna Faris (Cindy); Regina Hall (Brenda); Craig Bierko (Tom Ryan); Bill Pullman (Henry Hale) and Leslie Nielsen (President Baxter Harris).

8. Deja Vu


Apart from Children of Men this is the other 'hard SF' film in this year's top ten (the rest being science fantasy, fantasy or fantasy horror other than perhaps The Prestige which you might possibly view as 'mundane SF'). It is also an action romance. In the not-too-distant future observing the past is possible. Then someone works out how to travel back in time and so an agent goes back to prevent a murder. The trouble is that the agent falls in love with the potential victim... Director Tony Scott. Principal cast: Denzel Washington (Doug Carlin); Paula Patton (Claire Kuchever); Val Kilmer (Andrew Pyrzwarra) and Bruce greenwood (Jack McCready).

9. Ghost Rider


Based on the Marvel comic character, Johnny Blaze exchanges his soul to be a vigilante. But there are demons around who want to encourage evil. The film is possibly a little silly but also rather fun in a comic book superhero way. Director Mark Steven Johnson (who also did the screen story and script). Principal cast: Matt Long (the young Johnny Blaze); Nicholas Cage (Johny Blaze / Ghost Rider); Peter Fonda (Mephistopheles);Donal Logue (Mack) and Wes Bentley (Blackheart).

10. The Illusionist


Set at the very beginjing of the 20th century, this is a romance drama in which a stage magician uses his powers to win his love, a woman far above his social standing. Excellent performances and good camera work. Jointly made between the Czech Republic and the US. (Unfortunate that it came out so close to The Prestige above whose protagonists are also stage illusionists.) Director Neil Burger. Principal cast: Edward Norton (Eisenheim); Paul Giamitti (Inspector Uhl); Jessica Biel (Sophie); Rufus Sewell (Crown Prince Leopold); Aaron Johnson (young Eisenheim) and Elanor Tomlinson (Young Sophie).

And the worthies that slipped through the net...

V for Vendetta (15)
This is based on the Alan Moore graphic novel. It is the very near future and disease has undermined much of the world. Global society is disrupted and Britain descends into economic chaos. Order is restored through a right-wing government and there is oppression. Nobody is speaking up for the people. But there is one man, V, who is prepared to challenge the authorities. Caped and wearing an actor's mask (a bit like Guy Fawkes), he wages a vendetta but nobody knows whether he is a terroist or an insane lunatic... This is a modern 1984 (the 1984 film adaptation of which also starred John Hurt) and was inspired by the impact Margaret Thatcher had on working class British in the early 1980s. (Do read the graphic novel which is substantilly different but whose message is the same.) This was nominated for a Hugo in 2007.   Screenplay by David Lloyd, directed by James McTeigue. Principal cast: Natalie Portman (Evey); Hugo Weaving (V); Stephen Rea (Finch); Stephen Fry (Dietrich); John Hurt (Adam Sutler); Tim Pigott-Smith (Creedy) and Roger Allam (Prothero).

Pan's Labyrinth.
Set in World War II, a little girl finds an enchanted world. Event in both worlds intertwine in this superb (fantasy) fairy tale for adults. Brilliant photography. This was also nominated for a Hugo in 2007 which it won. Screenplay by Guillermo (Hell Boy) del Toro. Directed by Guillermo del Toro.

A Scanner Darkly (15)
This was also nominated in 2007 for a Hugo Award and is based on the book by Philip K. Dick. A cop, Bob (Reeves) Arctor, goes into deep cover to investigate (futuristic) drug (substance 'D') crime. (Substance 'D' is also known as 'Death'.) However Arctor is taking sustance 'D' and begins to lose his sense of identity. So who is investigating whom? The film is not quite as dark as Dick's novel (but then none of Dick film adaptations to date are, except perhaps for Screamers). However it has been often been cited as being the closest to capture a Philip Dick story (but then you can say the same for Screamers). It has also been filmed unusually. Though the actors were shot live, this was then converted into animation in a process that gives a look to that of the animation film Wizards and the cartoon film Lord of the Rings.   A Scanner Darkly has also been said to be, for some, a little difficult to follow unless you have read the novel. This is perhaps a little unfair. Certainly a number of director Rick Linklater's films demand you have your wits about you, and this is no bad thing. So this is not a film to watch after a heavy evening, but certainly a film around which to centre an evening. One for the SFDA. Note: When Arctor is sitting on the stage waiting to give his speech, one of the pictures on his scramble suit is that of Philip Dick. Director Rick Linklater and screenplay by Richard Linklater (but of course based on the Philip K. Dick novel). Principal cast: Keanu Reeves (Bob Arctor); Rory Cochraine (Charles Freck); Robert Downey jr. (James Barris); Mitch Baker (Brown Bear Lodge Host) and Winona Ryder (Donna Hawthorne).

The Fountain (15)

This is a science fantasy romance and a quest for immortality in a tale spanning a thousand years and told in three parallel stories: past, present and future. You really do not need to know any more about the plot than this. This went on general release in Great Britain in January 2007, however it did appear in the US in a number of film festivals in 2006 but was not on general release until 2007. It therefore should be eligible for a Hugo nomination in 2008 as a Best Dramatic presentation Longo Form of 2007: whether it will be or not depends on whether there is any justice in this world. This won a prize for the best film portrayal of science in 2006 (based on its film festival screenings). There is also a graphic novel of the film (which is actually a bit pointless as graphic novels do not add to films, whereas film adaptations of graphic novels can add to the visualization). Director (and story and screenplay writer) Darren Aronofsky. Principal cast: Hugh Jackman (Thomas / Tommy / Dr Tom Creo); Rachel Weisz (Queen Isabel / Izzi Creo); Ellen Burnstyn (Dr Lillian Guzetti); Mark Margolis (Father Avila); Stephen McHattie (Grand Inquisitor Silecio); Fernando Hernandez (Lord of Xibalba); Cliff Curtis (Captain Ariel) and Abraham Aronofsky (lab technician 1).

For forthcoming SF film premieres then see the Concat' Science Fiction diary.

For forthcoming SF film news then see our seasonal Science Fiction news page.

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