Disney+ is of course the streaming home of Star Wars and Marvel movies, but if you fancy something slightly different it’s also home to a great selection of sci-fi movies including some recent romps and many stone-cold SF classics. The search engine isn’t brilliant – as I’ve noted before, searching for “sci-fi” brings back results including Finding Nemo – but it’s worth browsing through the listings to uncover the gems. If you haven’t already seen these movies I think you’ll enjoy them immensely. The first is big, loud fun; the second eye-popping and thought-provoking; and the third gut-busting.
Do you have Netflix as well as Disney Plus? Then be sure to check out this cool new feature update that's just dropped on the streaming service.
Alita: Battle Angel
You’d expect some serious eye candy from a collaboration between James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez, and Alita: Battle Angel definitely delivers on that front: it’s a visually spectacular dystopian epic featuring battling cyborgs and lots of the old ultraviolence. It suffers from the same issues that affect many of Cameron’s later movies, which is a polite way of saying the story is underpowered and the dialogue isn’t brilliant, but as a popcorn SF movie it’s tons of fun: it’s a giant cyberpunk cheeseburger of a film, immensely enjoyable while it lasts and better than many other manga-to-movie attempts such as Ghost In The Shell. Rosa Salazar is brilliant as the titular cyborg
Hopes were high for this sci-fi epic from Alien director (that's the director of Alien, not a director who's an alien) Ridley Scott – but anyone expecting Alien 2 from this kinda-prequel would be disappointed. Prometheus was a very different kind of movie. It has a lot in common with 2001: A Space Odyssey, not least its relatively languid pace: if you want a rollercoaster ride, a monster movie with HR Giger jump scares, this isn't that film.
Prometheus is a slow burner that takes time to unveil the story before things get scary and gory, and it wants to make you think as much as it wants to make you jump. That makes it a very 1970s kind of SF movie, even though it was made much more recently, and that really divided audiences: some praised it as an unusually cerebral piece of SF; others thought it was a bit of a let-down. I'm in the former camp, and I think now the film is freed from its pre-launch expectations it stands up as an important part of the Alien canon.
Ron's Gone Wrong
Some of the best SF is of course about the here and now: the robots and tech stuff just make the pill a little easier to swallow. And that’s definitely the case with Ron’s Gone Wrong, which on the face of it is a cute film about a funny robot but which has Something To Say about social media and its negative effects on kids and teens. The titular Ron is a distinctly Apple-esque personal companion who becomes connected to a social world with an equally distinct whiff of the Mark Zuckerberg to it.
The film pulls its punches a little bit, presumably because school-age kids probably wouldn’t want to be hectored too much about the evils of social media, and it reminded me a lot of E.T. with its boy and his friend learning valuable life lessons while trying to evade the authorities. If that makes it sound a bit po-faced I promise you it isn’t: it’s packed with daft gags, slapstick and plenty of belly-laughs, and it amused me as much as it did my primary and secondary school-aged kids.