It’s finally time for me to reveal my Top Ten Movies of 2017 here on Plot and Theme. I know, everyone settle down. Now, in previous years this piece has come out sometime around the middle of January, as I hastily throw together a Top Ten list ASAP. Usually, this means that a few films that graced the coastal elites in the latter half of December don’t get consideration because they don’t show in whatever Podunk I am currently populating. By waiting a few months into the next year, I get to add more sweet flicks to my list, plus I was able to watch some of the older films a few more times. It should turn out well.
Most years have a few high-quality genre pieces to offer, some years see the release of a genre-defining film and a solid collection of supporting movies, and every now and then there are collisions where two absolute classics are released side-by-side (see: 1968, 1977, and 1982). But, there’s nothing quite like what happened 20 years ago. Eleven science fiction films of note were released in 1997, spanning all subgenres. This piece will discuss each of these films, heralding 1997 as a seminal year for cinematic science fiction.
The Terminator (1984) is a better film than Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The three other movies in the franchise are utter garbage and will not be discussed further. And, if you’ll lower your pitchforks for long enough, this piece will provide several arguments asserting the superiority of The Terminator. I’ll compare three aspects of the films and explain how The Terminator bests Terminator 2 in each: 1.) The overall plot-theme of the story, 2.) The structure, pacing, and the effectiveness of the storytelling, and 3.) The characters and their respective arcs. I will show that the first film showcases a stronger and more original plot, streamlined structure, and more interesting characters. After remarking on the sequel’s deserved accolades, the stark verdict will follow: Terminator 2 is exemplary, but The Terminator is the greater film.
It can be incredibly difficult to get a feel for the “critical consensus” for a new film, if there even is such a thing. But, online review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic do their best to provide their readers with a general idea of the quality of a film, which I have discussed at length before. Today, I’d like to show a crystal clear example of why another metric, the User Ratings from IMDB.com, borders on absolute uselessness. Put bluntly, the site does not require that a person giving a rating has even seen the movie. The result is blatant vote-brigading, either artificially elevating a substandard film through the sheer size of the fanbase of its underlying intellectual property, or unjustly punishing a film for its perceived transgressions that are unrelated to the quality of the filmmaking. In the former case, we’ll look at Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and in the later, the more recent A Dog’s Purpose.
Elle Fanning isn’t exactly a new kid on the block. In fact, her first film was a full 15 years ago, when she was the two-year-old version of Lucy Diamond Dawson in I am Sam. Since then, Fanning has often portrayed younger versions of her older sister Dakota, but her filmography extends well beyond playing second-fiddle. Her breakout role was likely her turn as Alice Dainard in J.J. Abram’s Super 8, which I enjoyed just fine. But, it is her most recent work that augurs greatness. Maleficent was a strong performance, and she also managed to be the second best actor in Trumbo, behind the Oscar-nominated Bryan Cranston. Then there was The Neon Demon. After gushing about this film, I decided to look more closely at the career of Fanning, and I was surprised to find her starring in seven films between now and the end of 2017!
You know the feeling when someone claims to have a super-cool list of the best-of-the-best-of-the-best, sir! (with honors!), and all you can think about is what your list would look like? When it is me, I immediately start composing my very own list before even reading the original. It’s partly for comparison, and partly just to get a feel for exactly how challenging putting together these kinds of lists can be. Imagine my delight when I heard that the BBC had crafted a list of the Greatest 100 Movies of the 21st Century! By compiling the rankings of 117 critics from around the world, the BBC came to a “consensus” of what kinds of films would be seen as “modern classics” in a few decades from now. It was with that spirit that I set down with a few sheets of paper and my own personal Google machine and attempted my own version of the list, truncated to a mere 21 films (because that’s the century it is currently).