The greatest (and not as great) sci-fi and fantasy of 2022

Hey sci-fi people! I’m finishing up my end of the year roundup, right under the wire. I haven’t seen everything, obviously, and other than lack of time, the main reasons for that are: I don’t really love horror (in case you’re thinking, “What about ‘Nope’?”) and also, I don’t subscribe to every streaming service. It’s getting a little out of hand, all these increasingly expensive streaming services, am I right? But that’s a complaint for another post.

Wakanda Forever!

Here are my awards for sci-fi and fantasy films of 2022:

Favorite Movie of the Year: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” Was it perfect? No. Is it going to win Best Picture award at the Oscars? Probably not. But I loved it. It was beautifully done, and after the disappointments that were the Thor and Doc Strange sequels, “Wakanda” was just what I needed. It was exciting and unpredictable without being too silly (“Love and Thunder”) or too creepy (“Multiverse of Madness”). It was a great tribute to Chadwick Boseman and a great addition to the MCU, but also a good movie in general.

‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ lives up to its title.

Wackiest movie: “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is getting all kinds of nominations for the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice awards, which is cool, and I love Michelle Yeoh; she’s one of my favorite actresses. This absurdist movie about parallel universes was so frenetic and crazy I don’t think I will watch it again, but it was definitely something, even if it wasn’t my favorite.

Favorite dance scene: “After Yang.” There were a lot of good dance scenes in movies and TV this year. I loved the dance-off in “Umbrella Academy,” and Frenchie and Kimiko’s old-timey musical number in “The Boys.” Wednesday Addams’ self-choreographed goth dance on the Netflix series even went viral. But the one that gets my vote is the family dance competition in the opening credits of the Colin Farrell film “After Yang.” I like funny, what can I say? Unfortunately, there isn’t much humor in the rest of the film, about a family dealing with the loss of their humanoid robot companion. Quiet and melancholic, “After Yang” is the polar opposite of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” in its pace.

This is not the happy-go-lucky genie from Aladdin’s lamp.

Movie that Put Me in a Funk: “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” Speaking of melancholy, this movie about a djinn (Idris Elba) released from his bottle by a professor (Tilda Swinton) gave me the sads. It didn’t earn big box office bucks, which I suspect may have been due to poor marketing, but also the way the story is framed: The bulk of the film is taken up with the djinn telling the professor stories of how he ended up in the bottle. I love Swinton and Elba, and I wanted to love this, but the djinn’s stories aren’t all that interesting, and they take up the whole movie so there’s no depth to the relationship the djinn and Alithea have with each other. I want more from a movie that’s supposed to be about magic and storytelling. What can we learn from a being that has been alive for thousands of years? Humans are awful, and loneliness sucks? I already know that. When the credits rolled, I didn’t feel charmed. Just depressed.

Most impressive effects: “Avatar: The Way of Water.” I just talked about this film in my last post, so I won’t go into detail. I also recently found out it’s being boycotted, and perhaps justifiably so. A topic for a different post. I’ll just say the controversy doesn’t change the fact that the effects are indeed impressive and leave it at that.

Sci-fi and fantasy series

I watched more series than films this year, and there were a lot of good ones. There were also some that were OK but could have been better. Here we go:

‘Andor’ – the best thing to happen to Star Wars since baby Yoda.

Started Out Boring but Turned Out to be the Best New Series of the Year (aka “The Expanse” award) goes to “Andor,” on Disney+. I think a lot of Star Wars fans got burned out on the barren desert boringness of “The Book of Boba Fett” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Expecting us to get excited about a prequel of a prequel was a big ask. The first couple episodes had me feeling “whatever” about it, but by the end, I was blown away by this series. Diego Luna earned a nomination as the title character, and Andy Serkis was intense as Kino Loy, a floor manager in a prison complex. And I’m still thinking about that Stellan Skarsgård speech. Great writing, great acting. More Star Wars like this, please!

‘Undone’ – doing the time warp again.

Season 2 Which was Even Better than Season 1: “Undone,” on Amazon Prime. I have sung the praises of this awesome show multiple times, so I won’t go on and on but if you haven’t watched it yet, this is your reminder. It has cool animation and time travel and Bob Odenkirk. Runner-up: “Russian Doll” on Netflix.

Series That Should Get a Season 2 but Was Cancelled: “Paper Girls.” The Amazon Prime series is an adaptation of a comic book by the author of my favorite comic, “Saga,” Brian K. Vaughan, who describes “Paper Girls” as a cross between “Stand by Me” and “Terminator.” Four paper delivery girls living in 1988 are swept up in a time travel conflict and transported to the year 2019. One of my favorite comedians, Ali Wong, plays one of the girls as an adult in 2019. I really liked this one; it’s too bad it didn’t get the marketing or renewal it deserved. (I assume it’s because all of Amazon’s marketing budget went to the next series on this list.) Maybe “Paper Girls” will get picked up by another streaming service. Fingers crossed.

Most Expensive Series that Should Have Been Better: “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” on Amazon Prime. This wasn’t really bad, and in fact I will watch Season 2 since I did like the last couple episodes. But overall, it was a bit of a snooze fest, which it shouldn’t have been, considering it cost more than all the LOTR movies combined. The total reported price tag for Season 1 was $715 million. Yikes. Runner-up: HBO’s “House of the Dragon.”

Joseph Quinn mastered that Metallica cover.

Best Musical Scene: Everyone’s favorite dungeon master Eddie Munson on “Stranger Things” playing “Master of Puppets” to lure the demon bats away from his friends – the ultimate guitar hero! The actor who plays Munson, Joseph Quinn, is really playing the guitar in that scene; he practiced the Metallica song for months.

That’s it, folks! Happy New Year.

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