We all hear about blockbusters like Avatar, Lord of the Rings, or movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some are great, some meet our expectations, and some are just entertaining enough to ignore their shortcomings. There are many sci-fi and fantasy movies that any fan could readily name. But what about the less known titles? They aren’t necessarily worse, and sometimes they offer some fresh ideas, because they aren’t bound by the blockbuster requirements of how the story should be written.
I’m sure there are many great ones out there, but today I’d like to share three that I really liked. They aren’t without flaws, and they aren’t the most recent blockbusters, but they all provide decent entertainment and some inspiration too.
I was never a big fan of Heroes and only started watching it long after it ran its final episode, and gave up in the middle of the first season. I liked the idea of people having different powers, but the story itself and the characters failed to engage me enough to keep going.
And what Heroes failed to deliver, Push gave me aplenty. Likable characters, who aren’t without their flaws and shortcomings, an interesting plot, and plenty of action. Also, the setting: Hong-Kong with its oriental flavor is a much more interesting place than “somewhere in America”.
The story seems simple. Nick (Chris Evans), whose special abilities make him hide from the sinister agency, is one day visited by a young girl claiming to be able to see the future. With her irresistible charm (and skill to get in trouble), Cassie (young Dakota Fanning) forces Nick to take part in a plot that would get them a lot of money… or result in both of them dead. After all, the future can be quite hazy.
I think what also works in this movie is that everything is clear in the beginning: the viewer isn’t left guessing, but has all the pieces of the puzzle already… Except that PUSH is a heist movie with a secret evil organization on top of that, so not all the things are as they seem. The final sequences of the movie, when all the plotting and characters’ actions come together, are a lot of fun to watch.
I came across WOOCHI by accident. I saw a trailer somewhere online, and it got me interested enough to get the DVD. This Korean action fantasy isn’t very unique when it comes to the plot or characters, but it uses the known tropes well (a stranger from another time, a cheeky magician who needs to find his inner power and assume a savior’s role, love across time, and so on) and never fails to entertain.
The main character is a young Taoist apprentice, Woochi from Joseon era. He’s a trickster and a womanizer, interested in making a name for himself. When a series of events connected to a powerful artifact lead to the death of Woochi’s master and his own imprisonment in a painting, the Taoist-in-training will find himself fighting demons five centuries later, in modern Korea, where old foes and love reborn await him.
What’s also interesting about the movie is the Korean lore itself. Myths and legends might be similar across the globe, but local cultures and history makes things taste different depending on the story’s country of origin. So instead typical European magicians, we get to watch Taoists and their art. What’s also different from the medieval European culture is that Taoists don’t have to hide. They’re part of the society, and not the persecuted evildoers or at least recluses. The monsters also have an Asian feel to them, with the rat and the rabbit demons being as commendable foes as western werewolves and orcs would be.
There are two trailers, Korean one and English one. They’re quite distinct in the narrative, so I decided to share both.
In my opinion, this is one of the undiscovered gems. It isn’t a movie without flaws, but it shows how much more there is to explore in the speculative cinematography. Even the trailer itself, part-steampunky, part-contemporary, suggests a complex story, and indeed, Franklyn is a bit like a puzzle.
For that reason, I can’t say much about the story without spoiling it, but it revolves around four people and two cities. They all share connections: sometimes very thin and vague, but nevertheless affecting their lives.
As I mentioned before, the movie is not without its flaws, but its structure and a story that is very personal, make up for its shortcomings. It’s not the typical “saving the world flick”. Addressing intimate problems many people might be struggling with is what makes FRANKLYN so interesting. On top of that, it still manages to be an entertaining movie
Sadly, my copy of FRANKLYN got lost during my move to the U.S. At some point, I’ll definitely be getting that movie back into my collection.
Any other sci-fi and fantasy movies?
These are my recommendations when it comes to less known speculative movies. Have you heard about them? Maybe you’ve watched some or all? What would be your recommendations?
And if you’re looking for something shorter to watch, check my 5 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Animations Worth Your Time post.