5. Jupiter Ascending
The Wachowskis are no strangers to mindbending narratives movies and Jupiter Ascending is their masterpiece, a gloriously jumbled, more-or-less coherent camp classic whose plot includes Channing Tatum as a man-dog hybrid who flies through the air shooting bad guys. Imagine John Candy’s character from Spaceballs with a firearm, and you’re in the right ballpark.
Also around is Sean Bean as a beekeeper (named Stinger, obviously) whose swarm is genetically programmed to recognise royalty. When Mila Kunis learns she can control the bees, it can only mean one thing: she’s genetically identical to the deceased matriarch of a family that owns a string of planets, and is therefore Earth’s rightful owner. Obviously. No other explanation is possible.
Throw in Eddie Redmayne as a villain who wants to “harvest” Earth, add characters with names like Titus Abrasax, then sprinkle with running gun battles and you’ve a movie that audiences will still be watching in 20 years. It’ll take them that long to understand what’s going on.
4. Terminator Salvation
Salvation is unique among Terminator sequels: it has no use for humour, time travel paradoxes or any cast member from the previous films (using Linda Hamilton’s voice and digitally mapping Arnie’s face onto another actor’s body don’t count).
That may explain why it was the first Terminator to miss the #1 spot at the box office and, with takings of $371 million, became the lowest grossing entry in the series (even Genisys made more money). But there’s a terrific cast headed by Christian Bale, the first Oscar winner to play John Connor (and more intense than any of his predecessors), and the movie’s action scenes reward a second viewing.
Special mention must be made of the attack by the Harvester Terminator, which simply put is one of the most accomplished moments in any action movie of the last decade. Buildings are demolished, Moto-Terminators are employed, dragged for several miles and hurled into the air, then once the HK-Aerials get in on the action, bridges are destroyed before Resistance planes engage them in a dogfight.
Tomorrowland is your typical story of a teenager, a disillusioned genius and an audio-animatronic robot who travel into space in a rocket hidden beneath the Eiffel Tower. Arriving in an alternate dimension known as Tomorrowland, they find a tachyon machine that shows the future and upon realizing that the apocalypse is imminent attempt to save the Earth.
Got that? Good. You wouldn’t have known any of it from the marketing because Disney pitched it as a loony hybrid of The Wizard Of Oz and Terminator Genisys, a movie with a ton of explosions and special effects and oh yeah, there’s some stuff about alternate dimensions also. Nobody wanted that, and the film made less than half its $190 million cost in the US.
Tomorrowland has more heart and soul than that and it spins its exciting tale better than most blockbusters, even throwing in some ecological concerns for good measure. If the film has a flaw, it’s that the time-shifting narrative is probably a little too complex for the target demographic.
2. The Incredible Hulk
Released a month after Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk is the ginger-haired stepchild on the MCU, the movie that flopped at the box office, failed to launch a franchise and caused Marvel to recast the lead role for The Avengers. So this must be a coiled and steaming mess that makes even Thor: The Dark World look good, right?
Well, no. It’s a solid action movie in its own right, and the Hulk shown here is meaner, greener and more dangerous than the character portrayed in Ang Lee’s 2003 movie. The movie also excises the psychobabble that weighed down Lee’s version, opting instead for a chase thriller whose lead character happens to turn green when angry.
Lighter on its feet and less crassly commercial than many of the later MCU films, The Incredible Hulk not only clocks in at under 2 hours (a rare thing these days) but being the second movie in Phase One means that characters from future instalments aren’t clumsily shoehorned into the narrative. There is a cameo from Robert Downey, but that comes right at the very end.
1. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
In order to win the heart of Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim has to defeat her seven evil exes, including a skateboarder he tricks into performing a dangerous stunt and a vegan he brings to the attention of the “Vegan Police.” So far out so good, but our hero must also confront a ninja, evil twins and a mystic who can throw fireballs.
This was Edgar Wright’s first American film and it’s a quantum leap from his last movie, the disappointingly one-note Hot Fuzz. Loaded with quick-fire gags and told with such gusto that it rattles along like a freight train, it should’ve catapulted Wright onto Hollywood’s A-list, but when it took less than its $60 million budget worldwide, he returned to the UK to make the equally brilliant (and underrated) The World’s End, which was perhaps a little too English for American tastes.
Wright got the last laugh, though: when Scott Pilgrim reached Blu-Ray, sales went through the roof, and it’s not being unkind to suggest that the movie will stand up to future reappraisal better than two of 2010’s biggest hits, Iron Man 2 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.