I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in 2017, where fresh, unique and lesser known properties in the sci-fi genre have been suffering at the box office. Blade Runner 2049 (beloved by critics) was a bomb, Valerian (not so beloved, but I enjoyed it anyway) was a disappointment on global returns while franchises like Transformers and Guardians of The Galaxy continue to dominate cinemas. Why?
So why did films like Valerian and Blade Runner 2049 fail? It’s simple – audiences today aren’t willing to spend money to go to the theater and risk their time seeing something that could turn out to be… “not for them”. That’s why Blade Runner 2049 failed despite glowing reviews and A-List headliners like Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling. In the end – Blade Runner just isn’t as popular as franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek or even Ridley Scott’s other baby – Alien. If I learned anything by going through this list of the more well-known science fiction flicks of 2017, it’s that people are tired of sci-fi movies unless they’re a sure thing. That’s why Marvel Studios can make a wacky outer space film and rake in hundreds of millions of dollars. Marvel Studios has been knocking it out of the park for years now and audiences are always willing to bet on a powerhouse. Audiences however are not as willing to take a risk on something new in the sci-fi genre and that’s a damn shame.
Box office: $100.5 million
Life has the lowest budget of any science fiction flick on this list, but it also had an amazing cast (Jake Gyllenhaal/Ryan Reynolds) and considering its under 60 million price, a profit of 40 million is not too shabby. But, compared to some run of the mill horror movies that cost even less this year, the return just isn’t as impressive and shows that audiences are not flocking to space flicks like they used to a couple years back.
Ghost in The Shell
Box office: $169.8 million
I loved Ghost in The Shell. White-washing controversy aside (because I think that’s ‘mostly’ a bullshit excuse riled up by Anime die-hards on Twitter), this adaptation of the famous manga series was gorgeous and featured a stunning cyber-punk world that I’d love to see more of one day. But I won’t, because it didn’t profit enough considering its intense budget so I doubt we’ll ever see a big-screen sequel to this hidden gem.
Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets
Box office: $225.2 million
Luc Besson might be destined to cult classic status forever. Much like his Fifth Element flick in the 90’s, Valerian is likely to have a long prosperous life on streaming services/Blu-ray. The movie may have cost far too much to make but the results are mesmerising. There is not a better looking movie in 2017, and I’m including Blade Runner 2049 (which was also jaw-dropping). Sure the two leads could have been better cast, but this film is unapologetic eye-candy and features the most beautiful and original creatures of any movie so far this year.
Blade Runner 2049
Box office: $240.8 million
Nobody watched the original Blade Runner in theaters. The original cost 28 million and grossed 33 million. This sequel was greenlit because of an incredible director being brought on board in Denis Villeneuve (coming off Academy Award nods for another Sci-Fi flick in Arrival) and studios are going crazy for nostalgia right now. Blade Runner?!?!? Well that’s sorta like a gritty Star Wars isn’t it?!?! Green light that shit!! Yeah guys, come on. You knew better. I’m happy it was made though – because Blade Runner 2049 is brilliant. But it’s not for everyone – hell – let’s face it guys, it isn’t for most. Film critics are not your typical audience and that’s OK – not all works of art can catch the eye of every single movie fan.
Box office: $142.3 million
Turns out you can actually make an “adult” Power Rangers movie that still appeals to kids who dig those shitty new TV shows that keep coming out year after year. It also turns out that most audiences aren’t willing to pay for a movie ticket to see said Power Rangers movie. I really enjoyed this flick and I hope they make that sequel (they said they will), but when it costs 100 million and only profits 40 million – studios may be hesitant to drop more cash on this sucker. It’s a shame.
Now – you’ll notice I didn’t say ALL franchises are the exception to 2017’s decline in Sci-Fi box office sales: Power Rangers has a dense history and is one of the most globally recognised sci-fi properties – but the movie still didn’t do that well. Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to a movie that is decades old so I understand why it didn’t rule the box office either… However, below are the sci-fi movies of 2017 that succeeded in theaters. Spoiler – they are all franchise properties.
Box office: $240.7 million
I had a lot of fun with Alien: Covenant. Far superior to that bullshit Prometheus prequel, Ridley Scott brought back the Xenomorph to do some serious damage to some of the dumbest human survivors yet. Add Michael Fassbender as the coolest android of the year and you have a space horror movie that shows this fanbase is still very strong and willing to hit the theaters.
War For The Planet of The Apes
Box office: $489.5 million
Yes I know this isn’t an outer space movie – but tell me that Planet of the Apes ISN’T SCI-FI…. Moving on… For a dark as hell movie that is essentially 2.5 hours of a prison camp for apes, I’m happy that it made as much money as it did. Andy Serkis is a strong name and it shows that audiences respect his motion capture performances as an award worthy acting platform. Plus the Apes franchise has always had serious legs. One of the first great Sci-Fi movies of all time and all these years later, even in such a different form, it still slays at the cinema.
Transformers: The Last Knight
Box office: $605.4 million
This is the fifth Transformers movie and these stupid things are still making hundreds of millions of dollars. Script/acting be damned – Michael Bay just needs to blow a bunch of shit up and keep pumping out one of these things every two years. I actually enjoyed The Last Knight quite a bit, but I know I’m being extremely generous and I’ll blame my childhood love of the Hasbro property for swaying me. Because this is far from a good film – it’s borderline blasphemous to be honest. But I’m a sucker… I’m a sucker for robots fighting robots.
Guardians of The Galaxy Vol.2
Box office: 863.6 million
Marvel Studios is the king of the box office. As Disney continues to remain the strongest media company on the planet, these films will always reign supreme. It just so happens that Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 actually deserves this much success. It’s a brilliant, hilarious and remarkable film. James Gunn is one of the best directors of our generation and I credit his successful run with Marvel to his humble beginnings as a genius indie filmmaker/writer.
Box office: 439 million & growing
The third and greatest Thor flick yet, is so silly, so weird, so funny and so…. perfect. Ragnarok feels like it was made for every kid who grew up loving ridiculous B-Movies like Masters of The Universe. Featuring aliens, space vikings and blending inter-dimensional concepts with Norse mythology is so bizarre that predicting this as a global money-maker a few years ago would have been considered insanity. 2017 shows you just how brave and powerful Marvel Studios has become. They listen to the fans, they hire great directors like Taika Waititi and they produce stellar popcorn flicks multiple times within the same year now. Their domination will go down as legendary when the dust settles and audiences finally grow tired of comic book adaptations. (will that happen though? ever?)