The Best (and worst) of 2009 Sci-Fi Films

by Irma Arkus

It was hard compiling the list of what we loved and didn’t this year. First I tried the top 10 list. 10 of what? Quite honestly, when I realized that I didn’t even love 10 films this year, I gave up and decided to just list off what I loved, hated, enjoyed…

So this is our 2009 list.


This year marks a new chapter in sci-fi cinematography. One in which Duncan Jones and Neil Blomkamp successfully carved out a place for science fiction in theaters, something that came from a left field, and left us truly excited.

Moon (2009) has been a great film to watch. Smart, dramatic, inspired by classic science fiction films such as Odyssey 2000, Moon manages to propel hard science fiction elements and tell a human story of Sam Bell, a mining worker stuck with a solitary 3-year contract on our moon. After an accident, Sam finds out that neither the corporation he works for nor himself may be what he initially assumed.

Fans of the film were so rabid in their support that they actively pursued Oscar noms from audiences in form of general pestering and petitions. Sam Rockwell’s performance can be only admired and the film does seem to have gained an Oscar push.

District 9 (2009) has been a smart action film with bold political overtones. Delivered by Neil Blomkamp, the film takes us to a parallel world in which aliens live in South African apartheid conditions. Stranded on earth, the alien species struggles with corporate and political interests. Wikus, a mid-level bureaucrat becomes affected by a compound that transforms him into an alien, having to fight for his own survival. A must-see, the film has done remarkably well in theatres, ensuring that Blomkamp’s next project will receive millions of audience members.

9 (2009)
The animated feature by Starz Animation has been received relatively well, but not spectacularly so. The feature does deserve your attention though, if for nothing else then for the endearing character of 9, a humanoid creation that fights for a new vision of the world devastated by environmental hazards.

More successful than Terminator Salvation, 9 depicts the post-apocalyptic world with a tangible, emotional story, of a devastated world in which this new creation is grasping for a life beyond war.

Yesterday Was A Lie (2009)
James Kerwin’s project that introduces a smart mix of genres bringing us a thinking sci-fi noir. Quantum physics meets film noir, the film oozes with beautiful characters and female lead Hoyle, who delivers us a non-linear storyline and fantastic performances by Kipleigh Brown and Chase Masterson.

This independently produced gem was struggling to find its feet, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you get a copy, stat.

I also suggest you keep an eye on Kerwin and this bunch. They mean trouble, and many exciting sci-fi projects are in planning stages.

Avatar (2009)
Cameron’s baby has been touted to have such magical powers that it will literally change the world as we know it. That may have been an overstatement, as the screenplay written by Cameron revealed a more of a Lucas-angle than we ever thought possible. But the technology and the animation are so amazing that the film is worth viewing, even if you hate the smurfs.

Watchmen (2009)
When Zach Snyder announced that he’ll attempt to cramp the entirety of Watchmen into a single feature, we knew that many, many would be leaving the theatres unhappy, no matter how brilliant the film would be. And truly, the film has left a lot of anguish and disappointment amongst fans, but at the same time, Snyder’s filmmaking abilities are undeniable and Watchmen, for what it is, gets to the heart of Moore’s story: if superheroes would exist, ours would be a sad world, full of fascism. Then again, we may be getting there anyways. Watch the Watchmen.

Pandorum (2009)
While reviled for its nudge towards horror, this sci-fi film does offer an intersting storyline, good acting and plenty of boohs. Resemblance to Event Horizon is touted to be accidental, yet it is inescapable to compare the two. Still, it has been a while since we’ve seen such a stylish Event Horizon.

Coraline (2009)
I secretly (alright, maybe it’s not such a big secret) believe that all Neil Gaiman books should be made into films. Coraline is just such an example of story of a girl who walks off into a better, more attentive universe, one in which mom and dad are quite a lot of fun. The downside is they are a little bit different, sporting buttons for eyes. Not all that starts well, ends well, learns little Coraline who must fight the dark forces to retain her lovely peepers.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Lovely interpretation of what I hope will rise into a franchise of fun, X-Men based films, Wolverine’s story includes, and successfully so, some major X-Men characters that most have been hankering after – Gambit, Deadpool and more. I refuse to wax poetics about Wolverine, considering that it is an exploitation of well true, tried techniques, and that it is based on a rather extensive comic book line. But for what it is, it is good.

Land of the Lost (2009)
What’s a Will Ferrell movie doing on my list? Well, you should watch this then. Not only is this most loosely-based film on popular Jules Verne story, but it contains a great deal to glamor sci-fi of the 60s and 70s. Ferrell plays a professor who…oh, what does it matter…he is a great, fluffy scientician, and they end up fighting off dinosaurs as well as the Sleestack race intent on conquering the universe and time as we know it. Also stars the most excellent Danny McBride. I laughed a lot.

Zombieland (2009)
This film taps into the recent trend of combining comedy with horror, and does very well as such. Gun-toting Woody Harrelson meets a survivalist Jesse Eisenberg, who gives us his list of techniques on how to survive a zombie-ridden world. But Eisenberg is also going through adolescent growing pains, and the list must be forsaken if he is to fight for his new love. It’s about friendship, twinkies, and most importantly, Bill Murray.


Star Trek (2009)
I get it. It was a fun romp. An adventure through the stars. Like watching the old faces but new and young. And I still hated it. Why? Because somewhere down the line, I was cheering for Nero. Replacing decades of Star Trek morality tales that made fans look to a better, fairer future, was replaced by something akin to popcorn action in which the good guys are actually not that good. I already live in a world like that thank you very much, and I don’t need you to rub it in.

In other words, go Nero!

The Surrogates (2009)
We have been thirsting for a film that would combine action and science fiction. We watched District 9 and it was good. The Surrogates on the other hand, did very little of that, settling for an execution of a mediocre, Hollywood-polished production telling a tale of a world occupied by avatars, except with very little action, and even less story. We wanted to see Bruce Willis suffer, and instead, we just got to see him walking around. Dull.

Gamer (2009)
This horrible attempt at giving us a world full of people, poor or convicted used as avatars for play of the rich and…rich, is actually one film that left me on the sidelines. The reason why I hated it is not the lack of action, which it has plenty of, or acting, that too is fine, but for this crude depiction of…yes, gamers. It crossed a line by insulting and caricaturing its very own audience. Still, I would catch it on DVD.

Knowing (2009)
While the cinematography of Knowing is surprisingly good, this Nicholas Cage film is one film I loved to hate this year. Heavy Christian overtones are threwn around the film in which a time capsule reveals the date of the end of the world. Cage, a single father, realizes that his son is “chosen.” In other words, we get to see the Rapture with a sci-fi twist.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
We already got to see this version of Romeo and Juliet as the story of doomed lovers is glimpsed by the viewers in the previous, second film in the Underworld franchise. Why for the life of me this deserved a full feature, I don’t know. The film isn’t any worse or better than its predecessors, and it does make for a light piece of entertainment, but I cringed at the thought that the makers of the popular vampire-action films could not dedicate their time to a new story that would actually capture our attention, rather than just retell what they already successfully did in the previous film.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Instead of cheeky characters, bad lines, and a guy with a funny Cobra head, we got this sleek, fast, heartless monstrosity, aimed only at 13 year-old-boys who have an hour to spare. G.I. Joe was supposed to appeal to our inner nostalgia, and instead it just ended up disappointing multiple generations. Do not, under any circumstance, bother wasting your eyes on this.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
I think that Michael Bay is a very, very ill man, who has some kind of hyper-HDD condition. He lack the ability to focus so very much that he created two full hours of non-stop commercial in which cars transform, die, and rise again. Unless you are on drugs, or watch this in tiny, 5-minute incremental snippets, you will suffer the consequences of the atrocity that is the sequel to Transformers. Watching is like having your brain on fire with stupidity.