From the return of ‘War of the Worlds’ to Sci-fi Week on SBS World Movies and more at SBS On Demand, August is full of unexpected encounters.
By
Travis Johnson

3 Aug 2021 - 2:44 PM  UPDATED 5 Aug 2021 - 10:48 AM

Science fiction is a broad church. From the dizzying derring-do of space opera to the cerebral ruminations of Isaac Asimov and his cohort, to the cynical post-modern worlds of cyberpunk and the 70s New Wave, all the way back to the scientific romances of the 19th century – it’s a big, sprawling genre.

SBS World Movies knows this, that’s why we’re getting Sci-Fi Week from Monday 31 August, a cavalcade of mind-bending masterpieces including Under the Skin, Transcendence, Marjorie Prime and more. But science fiction is too vast a genre to be contained to one week – SBS has a wealth of speculative drama on offer.

It may be hard to pick out the commonalities – what does The Infinite Man have to do with The Handmaid’s Tale, or Twelve Monkeys with Vagrant Queen? Simply, it’s all sci-fi and, if you take a punt on any of these, you can rest assured that you’re in for a stimulating time. 

Look out for these on NITV, SBS World Movies, SBS and SBS On Demand in August and September.

Children of Men

Saturday 14 August at 9.40pm on NITV

UK/US/Japan, 2006
Language: 
English
Director: 
Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: 
Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine
What's it about? 
In the not too distant future, when the world is ravaged by both the global refugee crisis and a mysterious infertility pandemic, morose civil servant and former radical Theo (Clive Owen) is tasked with escorting refugee Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey) to safety. The twist is that Kee is pregnant, and so is a pawn many factions will kill for. Cuarón’s dour, thoughtful dystopian sci-fi is both a thinker and a thriller, forcing us to explore themes of hope in the face of extinction while delivering bravura action set pieces, all anchored by Owen’s nuanced performance.

Why 'Children of Men' remains relevant with each passing year
Director Alfonso Cuarón revisits 'Children of Men', his 2006 masterpiece, which screens on NITV on August 14.

 

War of the Worlds

Season 2 premieres Wednesday 18 August on SBS and SBS On Demand.

UK/France, 2020
Language: 
English and French
Created by:
 Howard Overman 
Starring: 
Gabriel Byrne, Elizabeth McGovern, Lea Drucker
What's it about?
 
Based on the seminal novel by sci-fi forefather H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds moves the action to modern day France and Britain and dispenses with the initial alien attack to put us in an immediately post-apocalyptic setting, wherein a large ensemble of survivors, including Gabriel Byrne as scientist Bill Ward and Elizabeth McGovern as his ex-wife, Helen, must struggle to survive in a world that is fast becoming as alien as the creatures who invaded it. Downbeat in tone but epic in ambition, this version of the oft-told tale eschews spectacle for grim human drama and is all the better for it.

Who's who in gripping sci-fi series 'War of the Worlds'
Meet the people fighting for their lives in the new drama series based on the timeless H.G Wells novel.

Season 1 is streaming now at SBS On Demand:

 

Twelve Monkeys

Thursday 19 August at 9.30pm on SBS World Movies

US, 1996
Language: 
English
Director: 
Terry Gilliam
Starring: 
Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt
What's it about? 
Sent back from a post-apocalyptic future ravaged by a pandemic (sounds familiar), Cole (Bruce Willis) sets out to find a sample of the original virus so scientists in his time can devise a cure. Unfortunately, the pressures of time travel are too much for the human mind and he finds himself in a psychiatric institution. While Dr Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) slowly comes to believe him, deranged but charismatic animal rights activist Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) may be the one responsible for wiping out humanity. Director Terry Gilliam brings his trademark dense visual style and off-kilter camera to this elliptical tale of fate, destiny and disease.

 

The Infinite Man

Available at SBS On Demand.

Australia, 2014
Language: 
English
Director: 
Hugh Sullivan
Starring: 
Josh McConville, Hannah Marshall, Alex Dimitriades
What's it about? 
Scientist Dean (Josh McConville) has invented a time machine and wants to use it to recreate a cherished weekend with his girlfriend, Lana (Hannah Marshall) at a remote motel. His plans are disrupted by both the appearance of Lana’s boorish ex-boyfriend, Terry (Alex Dimitriades), and multiple versions of Dean himself, time travel being tricky like that. Working from a tiny budget, director Hugh Sullivan relies on clever writing and strong performances to give us a thoughtful sci-fi rom-com with more than one twist in the tail.

Review: 'The Infinite Man'
"One of the smartest Australian films ever made": A young inventor tries to engineer the perfect romantic weekend with his girlfriend.

 

Dredd

Available at SBS On Demand.

UK/South Africa, 2012
Language: 
English
Director: 
Pete Travis
Starring: 
Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey
What's it about? 
In the vast urban sprawl of Mega City One, the law is enforced by a ruthless police force called Judges. When drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) takes over an entire tower block, veteran Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie psychic Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) must fight their way through hordes of gangbangers to deliver justice. Adapted from the bleak, satirical strip published in Britain’s venerable 2000 A.D. comic, this is a blistering, violent and stylish urban nightmare, with Urban absolutely nailing the iconic character.

 

Under the Skin

Thursday 2 September at 9.40pm on SBS World Movies.

UK/Switzerland, 2013
Language: 
English
Director: 
Jonathan Glazer
Starring: 
Scarlett Johansson
What's it about? 
Scarlett Johansson is our nameless, voiceless protagonist, who may be an alien, wandering Scotland and seducing various men who she… absorbs? Devours? Transports to another dimension? It’s hard to say, and that’s not the only difficult thing about Jonathan Glazer’s wilfully opaque, allegorical arthouse sci-fi. It may be about rape culture, or the immigrant experience, or simply uninterested in providing us with a recognisably human point of view for the story it’s telling. Challenging and unforgettable, this is a film designed to provoke fierce post-viewing conversation.

Also streaming now at SBS On Demand:

 

Vagrant Queen

Available at SBS On Demand until 31 August 2021.

US, 2020
Language: 
English
Creator: Jem Garrard
Starring: 
Adriyan Rae, Tim Rozon, Alex McGregor
What's it about? 
In a distant galaxy, exiled Princess Elida (Adriyan Rae) and her spaceship crew scrape out a living as scavengers and smugglers, until the villainous Commander Lazaro (Paul du Toit) turns up to try and snuff out the royal lineage for good. Pulpy sci-fi adventure in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy and Firefly, Vagrant Queen distinguishes itself with its irrepressible sense of fun, a refusal to let a limited budget thwart its ambitions, and by being defiantly queer and inclusive. It only went for one season, but what a season.

 

Dark Matter

Seasons 1–3 are streaming now at SBS On Demand.

Canada, 2015–17
Creators: 
Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie
Starring: 
Mark Bendavid, Melissa O'Neil, Anthony Lemke, Alex Mallari, Zoe Palmer
What's it about? 
Six strangers wake up on the spaceship Raza with complete amnesia. With no idea who they are, they assign themselves numbers instead of names, they set about trying to figure out who they are and discover they have a cargo hold full of weapons and are headed to a colony world for some yet unknown purpose. This intriguing inciting incident adds a unique flavour to what could have been a pretty standard spaceship + crew set-up, offering up meditations on identity and morality along with the standard lasers and androids.

 

Future Man

Seasons 1–3 are streaming now at SBS On Demand.

US, 2017–20
Language: 
English
Creators: 
Howard Overman, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir
Starring: 
Josh Hutcherson, Eliza Coupe, Derek Wilson
What's it about? 
Janitor Josh Futterman (Josh Hutcherson) is leading an aimless life but excelling at his favourite video game, when the main characters from said game, Tiger (Eliza Coupe) and Wolf (Derek Wilson), appear and tell him the thing was a test, having been sent back in time to try and locate the one person capable of saving the world. Can the hardened future warriors shape the shiftless Josh into the hero the future needs? Or will the banality of his life drag them all into irrelevance and mediocrity? That’s a riff on 80s sci-fi staple The Last Starfighter, but Future Man riffs on everything it can lay its hands on, the result being a wildly meta-textual, geeky comedy that revels in showing its nerd credibility.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale

Season 4 is streaming now at SBS On Demand.

US, 2017
Language: 
English
Creator: 
Bruce Miller
Starring: 
Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski
What's it about? 
Adapted from Margaret Atwood’s essential novel, The Handmaid’s Tale is set in Gilead, a near-future US transformed into a fascist religious fundamentalist state partly in response to plummeting fertility rates. Fertile women, called Handmaids, are enslaved. One of these, June Osborne (Elisabeth Moss), is our protagonist, and over the course of four seasons we follow her increasingly punishing travails as she attempts to both escape Gilead and reunite with the daughter who was stolen from her. Extremely discomfiting viewing, The Handmaid’s Tale is nonetheless a vital piece of allegorical sci-fi.

Dive into Season 4:

Want more? Look out for these films in SBS World Movies Sci-fi Week:

The Fifth Element, Friday 27 August at 9.30pm; Alone in Space, Monday 30 August at 9.30pm; Marjorie Prime, Wednesday 1 September at 9.30pm; Transcendence, Thursday 3 September at 9.30pm. 

Explore the SBS On Demand Science Fiction movies collection or dive into these 10 great sci-fi series, streaming now at SBS On Demand:

Escape to the unknown with these 10 sci-fi series
Settle in for endless hours of viewing: these new and classic sci-fi series are streaming now at SBS On Demand.

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