There has literally never been a better time to be a genre fan. Sci-fi and fantasy has been a staple of the silver screen since it began but the quality and box office success had always varied tremendously. Now, however, we are swamped with the stuff, in a true golden age, and most if not all is seen as both a critical and commercial success. It can be argued that this is a very specific, 21st Century phenomenon, starting with the huge success of the Harry Potter films that began in 2001, continuing with Spider-Man (2002) and it’s sequels – which brought a certain acceptability to big screen superheroes – and then the start of the Marvel dominance with Iron Man (2008). Sure, there have been occasional misses – any Fantastic Four film for example – but genre has come to dominate a great deal of Hollywood spend and blockbuster output. Would Disney have forked out the $4bn it did for the Star Wars universe if their similar spend on Marvel in 2009 hadn’t proved a worthwhile gamble? Would DC still be building their own Cinematic Universe had the Avengers not shown the way? It’s doubtful.
A quick glance at Coming Attractions for 2016 would see your attention drawn to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool, Star Trek Beyond, Doctor Strange, reboots-of-a-sort Ghostbusters and Independence Day: Resurgence and……well, you’re a fan, you know exactly what’s coming. This is good. This is what we always wanted, for not only are most of what has come and what is to follow big-budget flicks of the sort that couldn’t be imagined only a relatively short time ago, but a lot of it is quality stuff that even the most jaded and cynical will buy a ticket for.
However, you should also cast your eye to the margins, to the smaller budgeted and promotionally-ignored films that are due your way.
Recent years have given us gems such as: Predestination (2014), a sublime time travel yarn that begs repeated viewing; Lucy (2014), the high-octane, batshit crazy Luc Besson offering; Z for Zachariah (2015), a thoughtful, post-apocalyptic three-hander starring Captain Kirk, Harley Quinn and he’s-in-everything-at-the-moment Chiwetel Ejiofor. Here we’ll take you through some future films, none of which come from comic books, Young Adult fiction series or are sequels or reboots that may be worthy of your attention.
“A father and son go on the run after the dad learns his child has special powers. Pursued by both a religious sect and a government agency, the two struggle to stay free and learn the secret of the boy’s abilities.”
What more could you wish for than Kylo Ren and General Zod facing off against each other in a supernatural tale from the acclaimed writer/director of Take Shelter and Mud? Joining Adam Driver and Michael Shannon are Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Sam Shepard and we’re promised, “a full-on chase, the outcome of which could bring about a world-changing event.” With echoes of the superlative Starman (1984), this has supreme pedigree and serious potential.
TBC (expected Spring)
“When a mysterious signal broadcast over the global cell phone network turns the majority of his fellow humans into mindless vicious animals, Clay Riddell and a few survivors must find and stop ‘the pulse’ and the person controlling it, and reunite with his young son before it’s too late.”
Good, big screen Stephen King adaptations are few and far between. Zombie movies are ten a penny. The two together shouldn’t really amount to a hill of beans yet this could break the ‘King curse. The novel on which it is based marked a return to form for the writer, director Tod Williams has flair and style and star John Cusack can always be relied on to deliver the goods. Oh, and it also stars the BMF himself, Samuel L. Jackson. ‘Nuff said
“A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because unlike his peers refuses to eat boys and girls.”
Steven Spielberg directing a Roald Dahl story. His first film as director for Disney. What’s not to immediately get excited by? Well, his most previous forays into adaptations of well-known children’s tales have either crashed and burned with critics (Hook 1991) or been well reviewed but simply not done the business (The Adventures of Tintin (2011)). However, The BFG is live action and looks like it could be a return to whimsical form for Spielberg with insiders whispering of a certain ET: The Extra Terrestrial vibe to the picture.
“A supervirus has turned humankind into highly intelligent, streamlined killers, and an asymptomatic victim who can communicate with the infected must lead the last survivors on a hunt for Patient Zero and a cure.”
You all want more zombie movies right? And Matt Smith (former Doctor Who) as a leading man. Right? Right??? Regardless, you’re getting them. With Natalie Dormer and the always excellent Stanley Tucci, this will win or lose on it’s story which does, to be fair, sound pretty generic.
“A neuroscientists (Keanu Reeves) vows to resurrect his family after they are killed in a car accident, even if it means going up against a top-secret government laboratory, a police task force, and the laws of science.”
Keanu Reeves reunites with the producer of The Matrix Trilogy. Yes! Er…hang on a minute. Not much is yet known about Replicas except it comes based on concept by Reeves and is directed by Tanya Wexler, whose last outing Hysteria (2011) concerned the invention of the first vibrator. Ok then.
A Monster Calls
“A young boy escapes into a fantasy world of monsters and fairy tales as a way to cope with his mother’s illness and bullies at school.”
From the acclaimed 2011 novel of the same name, the director of The Impossible (2012) and The Orphanage (2007), and starring Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell and Liam Neeson as the titular monster, this strikes as one of those ‘kids’ films adults love and kids are thoroughly scared by. Watch the trailer and wonder how low Neeson’s voice can actually go.
Story of Your Life
“An expert in linguistics is recruited by the military after aliens land on Earth and initiate first contact. Do they come in peace or are they a threat?”
Coming across as the polar-opposite of an Independence Day invasion flick, this extremely cerebral-sounding effort from director Denis Villeneuve stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker. If you want ray guns and armageddon look elsewhere. Instead, this will focus on Adams’ Dr. Louise Banks understanding the alien language and its insights into the possibility of an already determined universe. Well, quite. Probably best to skip the pre-theatre beer for this one then.
“A colony spacecraft transporting thousands of people experiences a problem with one of its sleep chambers. As a result, a single passenger is awakened 60 years early. Despondent at the thought of growing old and dying alone, he decides to wake up another passenger.”
From an original script by Jon Spaihts, this is a rare (these days) blockbuster original with big stars. Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star in what could essentially be a two-hander. With director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game, Headhunters) at the helm this has great potential but with a £150m budget will need to do big business.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
“Sixteen-year-old Jacob follows clues that take him to a mysterious island, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores the abandoned bedrooms and hallways, he discovers that its former occupants were far more than peculiar; they possessed incredible powers. And they may still be alive.”
With a title like that, this could only be Tim Burton. Adapted from the 2011 novel of the same name by Jane Goldman and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Green, Asa Butterfield and Allison Janney we can only speculate this far out from release. Burton is quite possibly the most commercially hit-or-miss director there is but his Alice in Wonderland success has buoyed him. Just don’t expect anything boring.
“When the world’s climate-controlling satellites malfunction, the designer has to work together with his estranged brother to save the world from a man-made storm of epic proportions. Meanwhile on Earth, a plot to assassinate the president begins to unfold.”
Ok, hands up, this isn’t out until early next year but as it was bumped from it’s original release date in favour of a small movie called Batman v Superman, it’s worthy of inclusion. Marking the directing debut of Dean Devlin, erstwhile longtime producing partner of Roland Emmerich, it stars Gerard Butler, Ed Harris, Katheryn Winnick and Andy Garcia as the President.