From tense horror-thrillers to blockbuster sci-fi romance, the next year of theatrical releases boasts several films featuring science or STEM-related themes. Here’s a preview of six, which bear much nerdy promise for science-loving viewers.
Perhaps the most noticeable absence from the list is a sweeping Hollywood biopic of a scientist. Films such as A Beautiful Mind, The Theory of Everything and The Man Who Knew Infinity, which explored the lives of mathematicians and physicists—have previously received both critical and commercial acclaim—but somehow, haven’t seemed to attract big Hollywood budgets for 2017. Notably, an Albert Einstein biopic was announced in 2011, but sadly, it hasn't appeared.
Until the day when we see Einstein or other previously unexplored science luminaries on the silver screen (the 1994 romantic comedy IQ doesn't count), check out these compelling sci-fi films in the fall/winter movie going season.
Release: November 11, 2016
Written by: Eric Heisserer
Directed: Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario”, “Blade Runner 2”)
Linguists - it’s your time to shine! In the science fiction drama Arrival, a mysterious spacecraft touches down across the globe, and an elite team, led by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate.
The film, which is based on the short story, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang, also stars Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, Avengers) as a theoretical physicist/mathematician as part of the assembled elite team. Renner’s mathematician character makes no secret of his disdain of the ‘softer’ discipline of linguistics. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time to decipher their spoken languages and find answers.
While sci-fi films often use science as a tool for the audience to explore the film’s key themes (biology is used in the Alien franchise, theoretical physics in Interstellar, astrobiology in Avatar, and artificial intelligence in 2001: A Space Odyssey), Arrival heralds the first blockbuster sci-fi film to have linguistics play the hero. It explores the idea that language itself may be more important to cognition than anyone thought. Packed with tense, heady pauses against a backdrop of global war, the film still makes time to explore linguistic science concepts, including linguistic relativity, which states that the structure of any particular language influences the speakers cognition.
The Girl With All the Gifts
Release: 2016, Date TBC
Written by: M. R. Carey
Directed: Colm McCarthy
This is a Zombie movie with brains. The Girl With All the Gifts is British film with all the traits of a post-apocalyptic zombie movie: a disease spread by infection, a civilization that breaks down, and characters learning to adapt to their new, regressed world.. The film stars Glenn Close as a scientist battling a mysterious yet highly fatal fungal infection that has wiped out most of the global population and turned them into zombie-type creatures. Humankind's only hope is a small group of hybrid children who crave human flesh but retain the ability to think and feel, and so Close’s character, Dr. Caroline Caldwell, subjects them to cruel experiments. The film is based on the novel by the same name, written by British writer M.R. Carey.
Release: December 2, 2016
Written by: Ronnie Christensen
Directed: Brad Peyton
A modern-day scientist (played by Aaron Eckhart) possesses the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the mentally ill and cure them. However, he meets his greatest challenge when he tries to help an 11 year old boy, who this time seems truly possessed by a demon. From the producers of Paranormal Activity and The Purge, Incarnate is very much a horror film—but the twist is that the traditional kind of exorcism doesn’t work—the only match for this entity is the scientific mind and cutting edge medicine.
Trailer: Not released yet
Release: 2016, Date TBC
Written by: James Ponsoldt
Directed: James Ponsoldt
The Circle is an American tech-world drama-thriller starring Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega and Bill Paxton. The film follows young female college graduate, Mae Holland (Watson), as she gets an opening position in “The Circle,” a powerful technology company.
While few details of the film’s plot have been made public yet (the trailer has not yet been released) – the film is based off the 2013 book by the same name, written by bestselling author (and founder of the literary journal McSweeney’s), Dave Eggers.
In the book, Mae allows the company to spy on her and eventually her parents (this is conducted by wearable camera, a process called ‘going transparent’) in exchange for moving up the corporate ladder. Eventually, as the company becomes more cult than corporation, and Mae comes to believe that privacy is equivalent to stealing—and secrets are just a form of lying.
Release: December 21, 2016
Written by: Jon Spaihts
Directed: Morten Tyldum
This sci-fi romance stars Hollywood heavy hitters Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt as two passengers aboard a spaceship on a 120 year voyage from Earth to a colony planet. The pair awake early from cryogenic sleep to discover their ship and the lives of some 5000 on board are in serious danger. With it’s $120 million budget, Passengers (from the excellent Norwegian director of The Imitation Game, Morten Tyldum), has big Box Office hopes resting on it.
Trailer: Not released yet
Release: 2017, Date TBC
Written by: Chad St. John
Director: Jeffrey Nachmanoff
Replicas is a sci-fi thriller starring Keanu Reeves as a daring synthetic biologist, Will Foster, who becomes obsessed with resurrecting his family after their fatal car accident. While the field of synthetic biology is still emerging as a scientific discipline; the artificial design and engineering of biological components has been made possible by technologies such as CRISPR. However, the portrayal of synthetic biology has existed in fiction for decades, in films and TV shows such as James Cameron’s Dark Angel, Old Man’s War, and Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park franchise. It will be interesting to see Reeves’s character, Foster, explore the ethics and challenges of this emerging technology.