From Blade Runner 2049 to Thor Ragnarök: The 10 top science fiction and fantasy films of 2017
Hugh Jackman’s grumpy mutant returned, Stephen King’s sinister clown terrorised audiences and The Last Jedi mesmerised us. But the dystopian wonder of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 triumphed over all.
It has been an impressive year for comic-book movies. Despite DC’s travails continuing with the misfiring Justice League, the Warner Bros-owned studio finally delivered its first bona fide smash with Patty Jenkins’ vivacious Wonder Woman, while rival Marvel gave us a brace of strong entries in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox hinted that it’s possible to deliver A-grade superhero fare while ignoring the cinematic universe idea, in the form of the sombre and brooding Wolverine endgame Logan.
Such endeavours masked a middling year for mainstream sci-fi, with Alien: Covenant, the ill-advised Ghost in the Shell remake and Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets all failing to hit the target. But enough of the bad news. Without further ado, here are Week in geek’s Top 10 films of 2017.
1. Blade Runner 2049
An epic dystopia … Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049. Photograph: Columbia Pictures/Sony
An epic dystopian portent of the cursed Earth to come. Denis Villeneuve took the world created by Ridley Scott in 1982 and turned it into something far more complex and expansive, without ruining any of its essential enigmas. That it took 35 years to show us more of this fascinatingly creepy vision of an eternally dusky future Los Angeles seems like a tragedy. That it will probably be another 35 before we are given another instalment is an indictment of modern Hollywood’s inability to try something different from the tried and tested without leaving its audience behind.
Finally a Wolverine movie worthy of Hugh Jackman’s excellent work as the grumpy adamantium-clawed mutant. Logan pared down the X-Men to their essentials, reducing Wolverine and Professor X to a shadow of their former selves, somehow making them a hundred times more vital and intriguing in the process. The Tex-Mex badlands, a corner of the world that looked fairly dystopian even before the mutant apocalypse, were a natural setting for this bravura blend of superhero movie, western and noir.
3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
How do you solve a problem like Spider-Man? Could Marvel actually put the wallcrawler in his place at the top of the superhero pile after the Andrew Garfield era ended in such ignominy? The answer to both questions proved to be yes, as Cop Car’s Jon Watts intelligently blended comic-book stylings with John Hughes-esque teenage angst. Not only did Tom Holland’s Spidey slip effortlessly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the new webslinger helped make all previous owners of the famous spider-suit look like dust mites in comparison.
Dark and brutal … Andy Muschietti’s It. Andy Muschietti’s mesmerising horror was as disturbing as its source material, reminding us that the most freakishly awful dreams are always those we had as children. Darker and more brutal than its small-screen cousin Stranger Things, it instantly catapulted Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise the Clown into the pantheon of Hollywood horror and brought Stephen King’s grim tale of curdled small-town America to life with unexpected brio.
5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Rian Johnson’s debut in the Star Wars galaxy is a mixed bag of wondrous moments and shonky plotting. But it features a great performance by Mark Hamill as the titular Jedi master, and now seems light years ahead of its predecessor, JJ Abrams’ zippy but unoriginal The Force Awakens. At times Johnson struggles to balance Star Wars’ fondness for wide-eyed but po-faced solemnity with a few Marvel-style meta-lols, but the space battles, lightsaber duels and hectic ground skirmishes are lovingly curated and miraculously realised.
6. The Lego Batman Movie
Fun comic-book romp … The Lego Batman Movie. Easily the best Batman movie since Christian Bale hung up the cape and cowl, Chris McKay’s comic-book romp was a cine-literate joy for Batfans big and small. A textbook example of how to enhance a well-loved cultural icon even when making fun of them, with in-jokes sharper than the edges of the caped crusader’s Batarangs and zippier than the Batmobile on rocket fuel.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
By almost single-handedly creating the tone and look of the cosmic side of the MCU with the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, James Gunn made it simple for far-out superhero space operas such as Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War to flourish. The second instalment in the continuing adventures of Chris Pratt’s Star Lord and his motley crew was as utterly nuts as its predecessor: my eyes still haven’t recovered from the raging psychedelia of those scenes on board Kurt Russell’s Ego the Living Planet.
8. War for the Planet of the Apes
War for the Planet of the Apes. Photograph: Allstar/20th Century Fox. Anchored by Andy Serkis’ mo-cap performance as king ape Caesar, War for the Planet of the Apes manifested as mainstream sci-fi of the highest order, playing on mankind’s fear of being replaced as rulers of the Earth while bravely intimating that we deserve whatever horrible fate awaits us. Examples of trilogies that stand the test of time are relatively rare, but this one might still be around when monkeys, robots or aliens have actually taken over the world.
9. Wonder Woman
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. All superhero movies struggle, for obvious reasons, to achieve realism. But if ever a comic book flick found the perfect era within which to ground its preposterous conceits it was Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. It used the horrors of the first world war as a backdrop to show the rise of Diana of Themyscira, here shorn of her all-American trappings and restored to her Marstonian roots as a beacon of feminism. Gal Gadot played the Amazonian fish-out-of-water role perfectly, delivering a performance of warmth and splendid humour.
10. Thor: Ragnarok
In which Chris Hemsworth’s Thor somehow found himself reinvented as a comedy superstar. In this rollicking buddy-flick in space, Mark Ruffalo more than held his own as Bruce Banner/the Hulk and director Taika Waititi gave us Marvel’s finest minor character yet, the eternally cheerful rock alien Korg.