The following are my choices for the five best and the five worst science fiction and fantasy films of the past year. This list only contains titles I actually saw during 2017. A short explanation for my choices follows each title along with a link to a review if I created one.
Best of 2017
Wonder Woman: Though not a flawless film, Wonder Woman gets top honors for what it represents — the first great superhero movie from the DC Extended Universe. The DCEU’s inability to craft a single film that didn’t feel like a hot mess has become both an ongoing joke and a self-fulfilling prophecy in nerd circles, and thus the success of Wonder Woman tastes ten times as sweet. Admittedly, I was one of the movie’s biggest skeptics (see my blog Waiting for Wonder Woman) — and I’m delighted to admit I was wrong. Wonder Woman was not just an excellent film, it was a hope for the future of the entire DC franchise. Read my review.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2: Director James Gunn delivers a superior sequel to 2015's Guardians of the Galaxy. In this outing, Starlord (Chris Pratt) discovers the surprising identity of his extraterrestrial father. But, as is often the case with family matters, disappointment and potentially cosmic destruction follows. Funny, often touching, and with another great soundtrack, Volume 2 was a keeper from beginning to end. Read my review.
Thor: Ragnarok: Although the flicks featuring the God of Thunder have been the weakest in the Marvel pantheon, Ragnarok comes out swinging and is definitely the best of the Thor series. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston reprise their roles as Thor and Loki, adding more comedy with some help from Jeff Goldblum for his stand-out role as the Grandmaster. Even if you didn't care for the first two films, do yourself a favor and see this one. Read my review.
Logan: No actor is probably more closely associated with a superhero role than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. For his final outing as the indestructible introvert, we jump forward to the year 2024 for this dystopian view of the mutant's future. Jackman and Patrick Stewart (again as Dr. X) share a wonderful chemistry onscreen for their mutual swan song. It's an amazing, stylish and emotional film.
Blade Runner 2049: Filled with stark visuals and a story which wraps up the greatest mystery of the first film, Blade Runner 2049 is the most artistic of my choices. Ryan Gosling does a great job as a replicant / blade runner who's struggling to repress / find his humanity. Although the film plods along at a snail's pace, it's worth hanging in there just for the sheer beauty of the thing. Read my review.
Worst of 2017
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: Based on a popular graphic novel series, this gaudy science fiction romp was one of several huge missteps from a renowned director in 2017 — in this case French filmmaker Luc Besson (The Fifth Element and La Femme Nikita). The leads, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne, are so miscast that they are both unlikeable and unwatchable. To paraphrase The Bard, Valerian was a tale about idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
The Mummy: Universal’s Dark Universe was to be launched with this Tom Cruise vehicle, but it turns out the flagship film of the monster-centric franchise was just a shambling corpse. The baffling plot was not helped by yet another attempt on Cruise's part to convince us he's still in his 20s and that CGI effects are a suitable replacement for plot and character development. The film was so badly received that it single-handedly killed the Dark Universe concept. Read my review here.
Atomic Blonde: Like Valerian, Atomic Blonde was based on a graphic novel. Set during the height of the Cold War, Charlize Theron turns in a forgettable performance as a platinum haired MI6 agent. Although the flick had some good action scenes, the plot was unfathomable and Theron’s performance was so wooden it would float on water. The film was directed by David Leitch, who’s best known for being a stuntman and has few directing credentials.
Alien: Covenant: It may be time for Ridley Scott to give up on making more Alien movies and get on with his life. Following on the heels of the hideous Prometheus, Alien: Covenant is marginally better but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. Although Scott claimed it would tie up some of the loose ends from its predecessor, it just muddied the water more. The only stand-out moments are provided by Michael Fassbender, who reprises his role as David the psychotic android. Read my review here.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword: Charlie Hunnam stars as the legendary king in this fanciful retelling of a fable we’ve seen on film no less than sixty times over the past century. Expect Hunnam to take his shirt off and sweat a lot — something I’m pretty sure is written into his movie contracts at this point — but other than that there’s nothing worthwhile in King Arthur. It’s a big miss for director Guy Ritchie, who previously gave us the very enjoyable Sherlock Holmes and Man from U.N.C.L.E.