Ron Swanson scans the tentpole horizon
You know, if you like comic book movies, this must be a pretty great time to be alive. 2017 has three new films featuring DC characters, and four that originated from Marvel characters, although only three made by Marvel studios.
Chronologically, the first film to hit our screens is The Lego Batman Movie in February. A spin-off from the wildly successful The Lego Movie, the film has some A-list voice talent, including Will Arnett as Batman, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Michael Cera as Robin and Zach Galifianakis as The Joker. This will almost certainly be the most fun Batman movie ever made.
Released in March comes Logan, the final film in Hugh Jackman’s storied X-Men career, which sees the character finally able to unleash the blood-soaked uber-violence that fans of the character have long sought. The film will follow in Deadpool’s footsteps and be rated higher than a 12A, so those claws could end up pretty much anywhere. The story involves a much older Logan trying to protect his friend and mentor Charles Xavier (still Patrick Stewart) from the onset of dementia and a horde of military types desperate to get their hands on him. The reaction to the trailer was monumentally positive, but that may just be because they scored it to one of the most iconic songs in recent memory, even so, this won’t be your every-day X-Men movie.
April brings us a sequel to the surprise smash-hit Guardians of the Galaxy, again directed by James Gunn and starring Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana and the voices of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, who will never be as cute as he is as Baby Groot. The first trailer seemed to hint at a touch of laziness, but the second is miles better, and looks to have recaptured the spirit of the original film.
In June, Gal Gadot stars as (and in) Wonder Woman, directed by Patty Jenkins. There’s no doubt that in last year’s aggressively boring Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gadot stole the show, and the hope is that the freshness and charm she brought to that film will survive intact in this one. DC’s track record post-Nolan is not very good, so far. They desperately need to buck that trend while the films are still taking money.
In July, Tom Holland stars as the masked avenger in Spider-Man Homecoming, directed by Cop Car’s Jon Watts. Holland made quite an impression in Captain America: Civil War, and provided this film doesn’t show him being bitten by a spider (for what would be about the nineteenth time in fifteen years of Spider-Man movies), there’s an opportunity to really hit a home run with Spidey, at last. The supporting cast includes Robert Downey Jr (as Iron Man), Donald Glover, Michael Keaton and Marisa Tomei.
In September, taking a break from Marvel and DC, you can see Taron Egerton and Colin Firth return to the world of the Kingsmen, in a sequel that sees them travel to US to work alongside their equivalent agency The Statesmen. Kingsman: The Golden Circle has certainly attracted some excellent talent, with Julianne Moore playing the baddie, and Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum amongst the ranks of the Statesmen. Matthew Vaughn is back in the director’s chair.
In October, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo return to the Avengers fold in Thor: Ragnarok, having been absent in Captain America: Civil War. They’ll be joined by the newest Avenger, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange, as well as Sam Neill and Cate Blanchett. Excitingly, the film will be directed by Taiki Waititi, whose last two films were the critically acclaimed Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows. If he can bring some of that sensibility to the Marvel universe, it would be very welcome.
The last comic book movie of the year is probably the one with the most red flags – Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Snyder’s Man of Steel and Batman v Superman haven’t really convinced most neutral cinemagoers that he’s the right person to creatively lead the DC cinema project, and you have to think he has to deliver a film that gets good reviews, this time, or the WB powers that be will panic that they’re teetering on the edge of ruining these characters for an entire generation. The film unites Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Wonder Woman, Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) for the first time, and it simply has to deliver.
If comic book movies aren’t your thing, well, good luck, see you in 2018.
Or, you could hold out hopes for Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Kong: Skull Island, which has assembled a great cast (Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, John C. Reilly, John Goodman) and looks like it could be spectacular. I was less impressed by the trailer that featured a lot of John C Reilly’s performance, but hopefully that will be less grating in the final film. Certainly the trailer and poster suggest lots of beautiful images to go along with the carnage and mayhem, and it’s an interesting first post-Oscar film for Larson.
Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe and my man-crush Jake Johnson star alongside Sofia Boutella in The Mummy, directed by Alex Kurtzmann, the writer behind the Transformers franchise and the Star Trek reboots. The film is set, at least in part, in modern-day London. I would have said that Cruise was on an excellent run, but I saw Jack Reacher 2.
That’s not all! There’s a fifth Transformers. This one is a knight, I think. There’s a Fifty Shades of Grey Sequel – Fifty Shades Deeper Darker, a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film, in which Johnny Depp fails to make up for his disgusting abusive behaviour towards his wife, Amber Heard. There’s another Saw film, Power Rangers are a thing again, another Despicable Me, another Cars, a film about emojis, which showcases the kind of originality in coming up with the idea by calling it The Emoji Movie.
It’s not all bad, here are the six blockbusters I’m most excited by, in some kind of reverse order:
Red Sparrow is a sexy spy thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian spy. The links between the US president-elect and the Russian government should add a touch of frisson to what could have been a very ordinary film elevated by the traditionally engrossing Lawrence performance.
Baywatch stars the very likeable Dwayne Johnson and the very funny Zac Efron as lifeguards investigating a crime on their beach. They’re joined in the cast by Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra and the great Hannibal Buress. Both Johnson and Efron are absolute pros at this, and I’m dreaming of Jump Street style laughs.
Alien is one of my favourite ever films, so hearing Ridley Scott say that his intention with Alien: Covenant is to scare the shit out of people is like catnip to me. I’ve been burned before, hence the cautious placement on this list, but if he delivers on that promise, it will be thrilling.
No current franchise delivers the thrills that Fast and Furious does, and the new instalment The Fate of the Furious has got me fully invested once again. WHY HAS DOMINIC TORETTO GONE BAD? Ahem, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren have joined the cast, because of course they have, and this is the starting point for a new trilogy inside the franchise. Straight Outta Compton’s F. Gary Gray directs.
I absolutely adored Paddington, so the sequel (currently called Paddington 2) from the same director (Paul King) and production team should be an absolute delight. It will release in time for November, and has added Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson to the cast.
Really, though, the most likely blockbuster to get people’s juices flowing is the last one that will hit cinema screens, Star Wars: Episode 8 – Why Luke on a Mountain, though? (title still unconfirmed). Rian Johnson eases into the director’s seat, off the back of the muscularly excellent Looper. He also directed my 2nd favourite episode of Breaking Bad – season 3’s Fly. The main cast from Episode 7 all return, which means we’ll be in the charismatic company of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver once more. It’s a sign of how many wrongs Episode 7 and Rogue One have righted, that I have no worries about Episode 8 whatsoever.