Five Science Fiction Movies to Stream Now
Clones, robots, predators and prey make up this selection of sci-fi treats.
Oct. 28, 2022
‘Seobok: Project Clone’
Considering that it hails from South Korea, home to some of the world’s finest high-octane action movies, and that its title character has telekinetic powers, you would expect “Seobok: Project Clone” to be wall-to-wall mayhem. But the director Lee Yong-ju is more interested in a philosophical inquiry, and his slow-burning film casts a genuinely affecting spell. The former intelligence operative Ki-heon (Gong Yoo, from “Train to Busan”) is hired to look after Seobok (Park Bo-gum), a genetically engineered clone who is so objectified that he is referred to as “the specimen.” Because he could potentially live forever, Seobok forces us to consider what it means to be human: isn’t our awareness of our mortality a big part of it? At first, he seems to have the innocence of a newborn, but we progressively realize that Seobok has a degree of self-consciousness, and is aware of what his existence might mean for others. “I keep on thinking about my fate,” the clone says when asked what he does all day. Because various factions are interested in Seobok, he and Ki-heon find themselves on the run, and the movie becomes increasingly poignant. Don’t be surprised if you shed a few tears.
The latest film in the Predator franchise is among the best, and you can compare because Hulu has five more, including the 1987 original — yes, the Alien crossovers are a legitimate part of the series. Helmed by Dan Trachtenberg (the excellent “10 Cloverfield Lane”), the movie is set in 1719 and follows the young Comanche woman Naru (Amber Midthunder) as she attempts to prove her mettle as a hunter to the tribe’s skeptical men. “Prey” excels at showing the bloody logic of hunting: A small animal is killed by a bigger one, which, in turn, is killed by a bigger one … and so on, until a fearsome creature from outer space lands on Earth with no visible purpose besides annihilating everything and everybody that moves. (Warning: the animal and human death count is high and gruesome.) Like those who have crossed the Predator’s path before — or, technically speaking, after, since “Prey” comes first in the canon timeline — Naru must prove resourceful in her battle against an opponent who is a master of camouflage and guerrilla warfare. Not only that, but she must also face marauding French traders. “Prey” is science-fiction action at its satisfying purest: fast, coherent and to the point. The availability of a Comanche dub is a nice touch.
Made on a smaller budget — much, much smaller — this indie film has quite a bit in common with “Prey” in that it is told from the point of view of Indigenous girls fighting off an extraterrestrial menace. It can be hard for Maika (Tasiana Shirley) and her friends to kill time in their isolated village in the Arctic reaches of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Some dream of escaping to Winnipeg, others wouldn’t mind sinking their teeth into some KFC. (“Ooh, expensive,” one sniffs.) But when their routine is finally disrupted, it’s by a nasty multitentacled monstrosity. At least the girls are better equipped than most teenagers to deal with the new threat — they are, after all, accustomed to a harsh environment in which hunting is an ordinary part of the day and survival can involve shooting polar bears. Does the film serve up the scariest space creature you have ever seen? Not with those special effects, it doesn’t — imagine a rubbery version of the horrid life form in John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” But the director and co-writer Nyla Innuksuk, who grew up in Nunavut, has a keen eye for her heroines’ daily life, and “Slash/Back” has an absorbing near-documentary feel that easily sets it apart.
The title character of “Mister Limbo” (Hugo de Sousa) wakes up in a desert, still attached to a torn parachute. That sky-diving session did not end well. Or at least he gathers, because he can’t remember who he is and how he ended up in that sandy expanse. Dropping a character with unexplained amnesia into a strange locale is a fairly common cinematic premise, and it usually involves a quest for some kind of explanation. (See: “The Bourne Identity” and many, many more.) But the writer-director Robert G. Putka is more interested in what a journey to seemingly nowhere means as Mister Limbo meets a succession of more or less bizarre characters. One who sticks around longer than most is Craig (Vig Norris), as Mister Limbo calls him. He is a big fan of the series “The 4400,” in which a bunch of strangers who had gone missing are suddenly thrown together. Could something similar be happening to the new buddies? Or are they meandering in the netherspace known as Purgatory? Is mental illness behind it all? This open-ended approach can be frustrating at times, like a brew of metaphysical musings, Dollar Store Antonioni and barren “Slackers,” but the film does have an unsettling vibe under its sunny exterior.
‘Brian and Charles’
It’s rare to see a robot film in which cabbage plays as big a role as it does here — I can see you rushing to find out where this gem is streaming already. Then again, the android in Jim Archer’s peculiar take on the Frankenstein myth, “Brian and Charles,” is among the weirdest in film history, high on a list that would also include the food-gathering Box from “Logan’s Run.” The singular Brian (David Earl), who lives in a small Welsh village, keeps coming up with such inventions as trawler nets for shoes. One day he outdoes himself and assembles some spare parts laying around the shed — a mannequin head, a washing machine — into a humanlike creature, and on a dark, stormy night, Charles (Chris Hayward) comes to life. Brian’s first words to him: “Put. The cabbage. Down.” Written by Earl and Hayward, the movie has a surreally comic vibe that is effectively matched by an artistic direction as coherent, in its way, as Wes Anderson’s. Dressed in a cardigan over a button-down shirt — an inspired detail considering that the garments are stretched over, well, a washing machine — the bespectacled Charles looks like your stereotypical odd uncle, or perhaps your stereotypical eccentric, and behaves as such. Those with a low tolerance for British whimsy may find their ceiling quickly here, but the movie can sneak in some sharp edges.