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The best sci-fi/fantasy TV and film coming in 2021

The best sci-fi/fantasy TV and...
Years in the making, 2021 will finally see the first adaptation of Issac Asimov's seminal sci-fi classic, Foundation
Years in the making, 2021 will finally see the first adaptation of Issac Asimov's seminal sci-fi classic, Foundation
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Sweet Tooth, based on a graphic novel series of the same name
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Sweet Tooth, based on a graphic novel series of the same name
The Last of Us is a TV series based on a the popular video game
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The Last of Us is a TV series based on a the popular video game
Halo is one of several big video game adaptations hitting TV screens in 2021
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Halo is one of several big video game adaptations hitting TV screens in 2021
After literally decades of attempts a Sandman adaptation will come to Netflix in 2021
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After literally decades of attempts a Sandman adaptation will come to Netflix in 2021
A message from the Twitter account for the new Lord of the Rings TV series
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A message from the Twitter account for the new Lord of the Rings TV series
Keanu Reeves returns as Neo in the Matrix 4
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Keanu Reeves returns as Neo in the Matrix 4
Lisa Joy's debut as writer/director
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Lisa Joy's debut as writer/director
Karen Gillan (seen above in Jumanji) will fight a clone of herself in Dual
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Karen Gillan (seen above in Jumanji) will fight a clone of herself in Dual
The TV series will tell new stories in the same world as the 2004 series
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The TV series will tell new stories in the same world as the 2004 series
The live-action remake of the cult anime stars John Cho
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The live-action remake of the cult anime stars John Cho
Years in the making, 2021 will finally see the first adaptation of Issac Asimov's seminal sci-fi classic, Foundation
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Years in the making, 2021 will finally see the first adaptation of Issac Asimov's seminal sci-fi classic, Foundation
View gallery - 11 images

The next 12 months promise a huge assortment of treats for fans of science fiction. Here are our picks for the most anticipated upcoming projects, including new TV adaptations of classic oft-told stories and a long-awaited new cinematic entry in a classic sci-fi franchise.

It is probably no surprise that many of our entries on last year’s list have been delayed due to the 2020 pandemic. To avoid repeating ourself, check out last year’s list to get a reminder of some strong titles that are still to come (Dune is perhaps the most anticipated holdover).

Foundation (Apple)

Foundation — Official Teaser | Apple TV+

We first flagged this big-budget TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov's seminal book series two years ago. And after a long production path a trailer finally appeared a few months ago, offering the first look at what is clearly a super expensive series.

All signs suggest this could be a strong adaptation, however, it is always challenging to make something out of classic stories that have been picked apart and pillaged by countless modern classics. From Star Wars to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, countless modern sci-fi stories have borrowed from Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. Can this adaptation avoid feeling too familiar?

Sweet Tooth (Netflix)

Sweet Tooth, based on a graphic novel series of the same name
Sweet Tooth, based on a graphic novel series of the same name

Based on a graphic novel series that has been succinctly described as “Mad Max meets Bambi,” this post-apocalyptic story follows a half-human/half-deer hybrid named Gus who “joins a ragtag family of humans and animal-children hybrids like himself in search of answers about this new world and the mystery behind his hybrid origins.”

It is difficult to predict exactly what the tone of this very weird project will be, but Netflix bizarrely describes it as a “family-friendly storybook adventure.” Despite being co-produced by noted horror filmmaker Jim Mickle, the project is produced by Beth Schwartz (of DC television shows such as Arrow) and co-written by Christina Ham (a writer on Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), so it is unlikely this will go into super strange or surreal territory.

The Last of Us (HBO)

The Last of Us is a TV series based on a the popular video game
The Last of Us is a TV series based on a the popular video game

It is entirely fair to say film and TV adaptations of video games do not have a good track record. But The Last of Us is not just any video game. This is one of the most popular narrative-driven video game series of the past decade.

And there are plenty of signs this could be a successful adaptation. HBO certainly has a strong track record at shepherding genre adaptions into prestige TV (at least until their creators make a number of terrible decisions ... I'm looking at you Game of Thrones) and the team assembled not only includes the original game writers but many of the creators involved in 2019’s thrilling Chernobyl mini-series.

Halo (Showtime)

Halo is one of several big video game adaptations hitting TV screens in 2021
Halo is one of several big video game adaptations hitting TV screens in 2021

Another big-budget TV adaptation of a very popular video game on its way in 2021 is Showtime’s Halo. The project has been in development since 2013 at Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Television, and despite production being mostly completed in early 2020 before the pandemic hit, reshoots have delayed the final cut.

As with The Last of Us, this project is at risk of the video game adaptation curse, but perhaps most concerning is the fact that the original Halo game was itself a mash-up of sci-fi influences, from James Cameron’s Aliens to a number of iconic sci-fi novels. Hopefully a strong creative team has found a way to present this familiar material in exciting and fresh ways.

The Sandman (Netflix)

After literally decades of attempts a Sandman adaptation will come to Netflix in 2021
After literally decades of attempts a Sandman adaptation will come to Netflix in 2021

Many have tried, and all failed, to mount a film or TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic graphic novel series. There has been talk of a Sandman adaptation since the early 1990s but it wasn’t until 2019 that actual money was put on the table to move this thing into production.

Gaiman himself has been close to the development of this project into a TV series and production only recently kicked off after COVID-19 delays. Despite Gaiman’s promising involvement, the show will be primarily run by Allan Heinberg, an experienced TV producer with credits as diverse as Party of Five, Sex and the City and Gilmore Girls.

The Lord of the Rings (Amazon)

A message from the Twitter account for the new Lord of the Rings TV series
A message from the Twitter account for the new Lord of the Rings TV series

Amazon spent US$250 million in 2017 just to acquire the rights to Tolkien’s classic series so this is going to be as big as blockbuster television gets. At least five seasons are planned, and each season will cost more than $100 million to produce.

It is still unclear exactly what stories this series will tell, but it has been revealed it will be set thousands of years before the events of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Whether this reaches Game of Thrones level popularity or crashes and burns as a costly failure is almost irrelevant. This is going to be a big 2021 event.

The Matrix 4 (Warner Bros.)

Keanu Reeves returns as Neo in the Matrix 4
Keanu Reeves returns as Neo in the Matrix 4

It is always risky revisiting old franchises years later, and the last two Matrix films were certainly a case of diminishing returns after the instant classic of the first. But if anyone can pull it off it is Lana Wachowski, one of the two siblings behind the original trilogy, who returns with star Keanu Reeves.

All we know at this stage is the film is not a remake or reboot but rather it will continue the story from the first three movies. The original films were notable for a landmark reinvention of action filmmaking. Here’s hoping Lana Wachowski can deliver that same thrill of the new.

Reminiscence (Warner Bros.)

Lisa Joy's debut as writer/director
Lisa Joy's debut as writer/director

Best known as co-creator of the HBO sci-fi series Westworld with her spouse Jonathan Nolan, Reminiscence will be Lisa Joy’s debut as a solo writer/director. Although Westworld was by no means a creative success, it certainly was full of thoughtful sci-fi themes and musings.

Starring Hugh Jackman, Reminiscence tells the story of a near-future world where people are able to re-experience key memories … for a fee. Joy certainly has the ability to tell exciting stories with a big budget, and her husband came up with the story for one of the best cinematic games of memory ever made (Memento) so there are high hopes for this one.

Dual (XYZ Films)

Karen Gillan (seen above in Jumanji) will fight a clone of herself in Dual
Karen Gillan (seen above in Jumanji) will fight a clone of herself in Dual

With two small but impressive feature films under his belt, Riley Stearns is a filmmaker on the cusp of something truly great, and Dual just may be that breakthrough work. Shot in Finland during the pandemic this sci-fi film stars Aaron Paul, Jesse Eisenberg, and Karen Gillan.

Playing with the classic sci-fi trope of clones, the story follows a terminally ill woman who creates a clone of herself to help her family deal with her upcoming death. Of course, trouble ensues when she miraculously recovers from her illness. In this future world there can legally be only one iteration of a person alive ... meaning the solution is a court-ordered "dual" to the death.

Battlestar Galactica (Peacock)

The TV series will tell new stories in the same world as the 2004 series
The TV series will tell new stories in the same world as the 2004 series

Considering it hasn’t been much more than a decade since that last TV version of Battlestar Galactica concluded it is fair to say this is a pretty unnecessary and redundant remake. But what is promising about this reboot is the involvement of Sam Esmail (the creator of Mr Robot and director of the first season of Amazon’s Homecoming).

Not all of Esmail’s work is successful, but he always swings for the fences with bold creative choices (like setting half a Mr Robot episode within a perfectly recreated episode of the 80s TV show Alf). Instead of telling the same story, this new series will simply be set in the same universe as the 2004 series and Esmail has already suggested each episode will be dramatically different in style, tone and even duration.

Cowboy Bebop (Netflix)

The live-action remake of the cult anime stars John Cho
The live-action remake of the cult anime stars John Cho

Anyone familiar with the cult Japanese anime will immediately understand how excitingly insane the idea of a live-action remake is, but this could be one of the more incredible surprises of 2021. Starring John Cho, the project shares a similar space western sensibility to The Mandalorian, although things certainly get a little more wacky in the Cowboy Bebop universe.

With Jeff Pinkner co-producing (from Lost and Fringe), and Christopher Yost co-writing, the project also recruited the original anime’s director as creative consultant. Shooting in New Zealand started back in 2019 but was halted for more than six months after Cho injured his knee. Production recently kicked off again so this one should pop up on your Netflix homepage at some point towards the back of 2021.

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14 comments
14 comments
EJ222
No mention of The Last Airbender?

The potential is HUGE either way. It could be utterly brilliant, or it could be the flop of the decade, surpassed only by the original adaptation.

To be fair, its not exactly on track for 2021, but we don't know much yet.
Chris Coles
If the "teaser" for Foundation is anything to go by, then the curse of impossible sound will continue. Movies made with young sound technicians who have spent their entire lives wearing some form of head phone, ear buds; where they never have had to listen to any normal conversation as their ears have yet to age . . . presenting sound effects, (booming so in the teaser above), way above the level of all the normal conversations. Than add that the average so called movie star comes from the same generation, and thus has no concept of clear speech communication; were the old fashioned black and white movie stars were from the stage, were they were taught the hard way, by derision from the audience . . . if they could not make out what they were saying on stage. Ergo, modern movies are constantly delivering impossible to hear dialogue; where we viewers are having to constantly lower the sound levels of the "Booming" . . . often added OVER the inaudible speech of the so called stars. Madness!!! Directors with no understanding what ever of the dreadful dialogue they constantly deliver; sound technicians who have never heard the spoken voice without their headphones on. And they have the brass cheek to call their work progress! Utter madness.
undrgrndgirl
too bad most of these are on platforms i refuse to pay for (i did not rid myself of cable just to $15.99/mo myself right back to the $150.00/mo i paid for cable) as to chris' comment below, that's why i have closed captioning on at all times any more, even my millennial children do the same.
Paul Sharpy
I very seldom comment on these forums, but have to agree with Chris on the audio mixes we get from many sources these days. Take a listen to many of the recent ‘live feeds’ from the super bowl or the like. The audio mix totally is off. They have the finest equipment I could only dream of using, and yet, the mix sucks and is totally unintelligible.

I get the idea of dramatic impact of sudden loudness, but it is used overkill! Let’s hope they are able to get the dialogue right, clean and clear, with speech distinction. Then, add in the additional sound levels such that everything is not a big boom in volume change. Dynamics are great, but often way over-used. Have the audio guy go to the middle of the room, without headphones and listen to what he has done, or better still, someone not involved with the production for a 3rd opinion!

Aross
Many remakes or revisits. Not much new here to interest me except maybe Foundation. As a fan of Isaac Asimov's Foundation books, having read them several times including the prequels I would look forward to this but have reservations that they will do them justice.
Given the number of great books by some fantastic authors I don't understand why they aren't put to film.
Gary Robinson
Still no Elric movie :(
IdealistPragmatist
The Wheel of Time S01 on Amazon, release is still TBD, so I can see why it's not on here. Hopefully it will be as good a production as Game of Thrones
Chris Coles
Just about the best sound experience we get today is from any episode of Inspector Montalbano; and that must also include the long slow pans of scenes by their cameras.. The music was always supposed to lead us from one dialogue to the next; then disappear. Today, Hollywood as completely lost the plot.
ljaques
Who is Hari Seldon? Foundation should have been a series of movies, not TV.
Matrix 4 -- HAYULL YEAH!
Bring on another Airbender movie and more HALO movies!
DITCH TV and its woke sheeitcoms.
Joel Smart
Great list, I think! Fingers crossed for Foundation, which could absolutely suffer the fate of feeling as though it is re-hashing tired tropes, despite the fact that it was the original to many of them. I guess it's a tightrope walk to avoid that while also staying true to the source material. Lord of the Rings may suffer a similar fate, trying to feel authentic to the LotR universe while innovating enough to make the content compelling. Would love to see these all do well, though.