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2017 on the Big Screen

If you thought 2016 was full of genre movies, then 2017 should keep you happy. There’s plenty of science-fiction, comic book and fantasy movies on the way, so here’s a little guide to what’s on offer, and an insight into whether it’s suited to your taste:

10 February – The Lego Batman Movie

What it’s about: A spin off from the highly successful Lego Movie last year, incorporating the spoof Caped Crusader, voiced by Will Arnett. It’s a comedy sending up the darker side of Batman, with the lightest of Dark Knights finding the the value of friendship, teamwork, and why it’s useful to have a Robin around, especially when you need help cleaning Wayne Manor. Predictably, The Joker, voiced by The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis, is the enemy, looking to take over Gotham City, unless Batman and his team can stop him.

What to expect: Very much one for the youngsters, you’ll find lots of laughs, jokes and more than likely some product placement for the next wave of Lego Batman toys. Fear not if you’re over 10 years old though, as there’s going to be quite a few nods to the Batman mythos that older fans will catch. Keep your ear out for a top notch voice cast including Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes, and the return of Billy Dee Williams voicing Harvey Dent, who he played in the 1989 live action movie.

3 March – Logan

What it’s about: We’ve speculated in detail about the plot for Hugh Jackman’s last outing as the irascible mutant here, but in short, it’s likely to be an emotional conclusion to his time with the claws. Set in a dystopian future, Logan and a weary Professor X stay off the radar from the mutant-hunting Reavers, who are determined to exterminate them and harvest their powers. Thrown into the mix is young mutant X-23, who has a connection to Logan himself. The Wolverine is then forced to stand up for what he believes one last time.

What to expect: Jackman’s taken a pay cut to ensure the movie’s R-rating, which will put it in the same category as Fox’s last most successful superhero outing, Deadpool. Don’t expect the same type of comedy though. This is a far more sombre occasion, wrapping up Logan’s story that started with X-Men in 2000. It’s also likely to signal the end for Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier too. There won’t be too many connections to the younger generation of X-Men, or Deadpool. It’ll be a stand alone movie, and when Fox tends to do that, they’re capable of producing something special. They’ve learned from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Get ready to wave goodbye to Logan.

10 March – Kong: Skull Island

What it’s about: Explorers anger giant monkey. Ends in tears. Pretty much the plot of every King Kong movie that focuses on the big ape’s origin, which this will do. It’s the same story that’s been done before, this time with an expedition to a tropical island looking for the mythical beast, who turns out not to be so mythical. Plot details are still scarce beyond the initial premise, with much of the attention on Legendary Pictures’ decision to tie this in with their Godzilla franchise – more about that below. A high quality cast led by Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson should ensure it’s a good adventure.

What to expect: Lots of foundations laid for the eventual meeting between Kong and his scaly counterpart from Japan. Legendary Pictures have Godzilla in their stable too, and they’ve confirmed the two will meet in a joint feature in 2020. With Skull Island being set in the 70’s, it’s possible he’ll meet Godzilla before the events of his 2014 reboot. The fictional evil company Monarch, which features prominently in Kong, will also have ties to Godzilla, and a promotional poster for this movie showed Skull Island sitting atop the skeleton of a Godzilla-like creature. How they’ll make it a fair fight when Kong is around 50 feet tall and Godzilla is about 300 feet tall remains to be seen.

24 March – Power Rangers

What it’s about: A reboot of the popular children’s TV show of the 90s, where five teenagers uncover ancient alien technology that gives them access to increased strength and senses, as well as colourful suits of armour and giant robotic dinosaurs. With that, combined with their innate martial arts skills, they combat the nefarious Rita Repulsa, her monstrous lackey Goldar and her clay army the Putties.

What to expect: Produced by the creator of the show, Haim Saiban, this is a project that he’s wanted to get off the ground when no major studio will back him. The problem is the story’s been done on the big screen a couple of times recently, with varying degrees of success. Chronicle and Fox’s ill-fated Fantastic Four reboot followed the same lines, but with the same washed out palette as this looks to have. Add a pretty unknown cast (apart from Bryan Cranston’s voice and Elizabeth Banks), and the fact that a pretty good fan film that came out last year (which the producers were so eager to shut down, it achieved cult-status in a matter of weeks), this could turn out to be an expensive flop. If you want a nostalgia trip into the franchise then it might be worth your time, but if not, then there might not be anything for you here.

31 March – Ghost in the Shell

What it’s about: Based on the Japanese Manga story of the same name, Scarlett Johansson takes on the role of The Major, the head of a special police unit tasked with tracking down the mysterious Puppet Master. In this futuristic environment, he induces people to commit crimes by hacking into the cybernetic implants in their brains. In this future, most people have those implants, including The Major herself, meaning anyone could be the person behind the next crime to take place.

What to expect: A very stylised experience for fans of Manga, it’s a story steeped in the seductive cybernetic heart of that genre. Ghost in the Shell is one of the most famous Manga stories, featuring a strong female lead character, who’s strong because of her actions, and not just because she’s a woman. That led to a huge controversy over Johansson’s casting, with accusations of whitewashing in what’s always been a role portrayed as Asian. That wasn’t helped when there were trials of altering actors’ appearances during filming to make them look more “ethnic” – something the studio said never reached the latter stages of development, and had never been done for the lead actress. All that said, the film has attracted unwanted attention, and while it’s sure to be a visual spectacle, it may have lost some of its goodwill – as well as a mainstream audience struggling to adapt to a relatively unknown genre in Western culture.

5 May – Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

What it’s about: The sequel to Marvel’s 2014 hit which grossed nearly £800m at the worldwide box office, this brings back the motley crew of chancers, assassins and loners for another adventure. This time, Peter Quill (or Star-Lord – even though people are still struggling with that), takes Gamora, Drax, Rocket and the now infant Groot on a search for his real father, who turns out to be the film’s big bad, Ego, played by Kurt Russell. Returning are Michael Rooker as the Ravagers’ leader Yondu, Karen Gillan as Nebula and Glenn Close as Nova Prime.

What to expect: There’ll be more connections to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, as this movie is due to introduce another Infinity Stone, which will in turn play a wider part in Thanos’s plans for the massive Infinity War movies coming up. Aside from that, the comedic elements of this franchise are there for all to see from the trailer. There’ll be lots of laughs, lots of action and plenty of Marvel’s hallmark nods to other characters – it wouldn’t be a surprise if there were a few references to the upcoming intergalactic outing for Thor later in the year (see below).

19 May – Alien: Covenant

Image via 20th Century Fox

What it’s about: The sequel to the visually stunning, but messily scripted Prometheus, Alien: Covenant examines the aftermath of that movie, finding out the fate of the android David, played by Michael Fassbender, and the scientist Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace. They survived the first film to set off on a journey to discover the identity of the enigmatic Engineers, who were said to have created humanity, and by the looks of things, the infamous Xenomorphs (the aliens from the Sigourney Weaver movies). A new crew discovers the fate of Shaw and David, and they might not like what else they find.

What to expect: So after much ballyhoo about making Prometheus some form of bizarre non-Alien, Alien prequel, Ridley Scott has now made a big deal of making this movie heavily connected to his original concept. The title card even has the same typeface as the 1979 film. Prometheus was a muddled mess that suffered for it’s links to Alien that Scott went to great lengths to distance it from – that approach, either for editorial or financial reasons, has now changed, and the Xenomorphs are taking a much bigger role. Given the criticism of Prometheus’s plot, it’ll be interesting to see if Scott reverts to the simplicity of the first movie, which would undoubtedly benefit this sequel.

26 May – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

What it’s about: The fifth in the seemingly endless tales of Captain Jack Sparrow, who is now some kind of rum-swigging-James-Bond-esque-swashbuckler. This one centres around the ubiquitous captain trying to track down the Trident of Poseidon, in an effort to halt the relentless advance of Javier Bardem’s ghost pirate Captain Salazar. Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Kevin McNally all reprise their roles from the previous films, and, despite steering clear of the last instalment, Keira Knightley looks like she has a role in this – if set photos are to be believed.

What to expect: For a film franchise based on a theme park ride, it’s sure managed to keep scraping the bottom of that barrel of rum. In truth, Captain Jack is the glue that holds these things together – without him it all becomes a bit melancholic and ten-a-penny. Efforts to move things away to Will Turner’s story have been scuppered by the fact Orlando Bloom is always overshadowed by Johnny Depp, and even the regular addition of Geoffrey Rush didn’t make On Stranger Tides any more or less impressive than previous outings. The Pirates franchise now seemingly just exists, and as long as Depp keeps audiences entertained as Jack Sparrow, the cash will keep rolling in. In short – more of the same.

2 June – Wonder Woman

What it’s about: Another superhero origin story, this one features Gal Gadot’s titular character, who you no doubt will already have seen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. As she’s much older than she looks, this tale is set around the time of World War I, when US fighter pilot Steve Trevor crashes on the Amazons’ island of Themyscira. A race that has stayed out of the affairs of men, and therefore the rest of the planet, it’s queen, Hippolyta, gives Trevor short shrift when he tells them of the conflict that engulfs Europe. Her daughter Diana though, is determined to bring peace to the war torn world, and decides to aid Trevor in his return home. From there, she meets an elite team of soldiers from other countries, and sets out to end the war early as Wonder Woman.

What to expect: Much rests on director Patty Jenkins’ shoulders after the dismal response to the previous two entries in the DC Extended Universe. There’s a lot of goodwill towards the movie as it brings one of the few legitimate female “big hitters” of the comic book world to the big screen, but that shouldn’t disguise the fact Warner Bros. has made some missteps so far when it’s come to handling their rival to Marvel’s juggernaut of a shared universe. The studio will desperately want this to succeed, so expect every penny thrown at it to go on screen, in terms of both cast and production. There’ll be lots of action, plenty of “battle of the sexes” references due to the time period, but precious little humour – Warner Bros. will be hoping Wonder Woman isn’t another DC film that reinforces critics’ view that they’re not coming close to Marvel.

23 June – Transformers: The Last Knight

What it’s about: Another sequel in another seemingly endless franchise, the fifth instalment in Michael Bay’s increasingly lamented series based on the 1980’s toyline has managed to alienate core fans due to the looks and behaviour of the movie characters as opposed to their classic incarnations. The movies still continue to make money though, in spite of, and much to the chagrin of, longtime Transformers fans. This latest story sees lead Autobot Optimus Prime searching for an artefact to restore his home planet Cybertron to its former glory. The rest of his crew are on Earth, led by Bumblebee (who’s getting his own spin-off soon too), fending off both human military teams, who are determined to hunt down the Transformers, and the Autobots’ enemies the Decepticons. The artefact Prime seeks though, is buried in Earth’s past – and so he must travel through time, to medieval England and Nazi Germany, to seek it before an ancient threat (rumoured to be the gigantic, planet killing Transformer Unicron), can obliterate his adopted home.

What to expect: Bombs, Bots and Boobs if the previous installments are anything to go by. Bay has sought to make Transformers in his own image, and in doing so has eschewed much of the nobility and heroism of the comics and cartoon series, replacing them with difficult-to-comprehend-what’s-going-on fight scenes, explosions, lingering scenes of hardware on show and lascivious, lingering shots of the female protagonist’s body. Let’s be honest, this isn’t going to reinvent the wheel, and the only saving grace may be the addition of the aforementioned Unicron, but given how Bay treated the popular Dinobots (not well), then it’s not worth getting your hopes up for an improvement.

7 July – Spider-Man: Homecoming

What it’s about: Never has there been a more appropriate title for a movie, as Marvel retake creative control of their most popular and financially viable character from Sony, who had somehow made a mess of one of the easiest superheroes to get right. Out goes Andrew Garfield, and in comes Tom Holland, with more of an emphasis on the moral centre of Spider-Man, than Sony’s attempts to make it a love story. Despite this being a recasting, there’s no origin story here (with only a hint of that being shown in certain flashbacks). It picks up after Captain America: Civil War, with Tony Stark being Peter Parker’s benefactor when it comes to technology – even if he doesn’t want him taking on any Avengers’ level threats. Into the mix comes Michael Keaton’s Vulture, a criminal who gets his hands on some flight-based tech similar to that of the Avenger Falcon, only much more crude. Add to that Bokeem Woodbine’s Shocker (a villain with electrical gauntlets), and Parker will be trying to balance both his high school life, along with fighting this dual threat.

What to expect: Finally, Spider-Man should be done how he should have always been done. Some of Sony’s efforts were good – Spider-Man 2 springs to mind – but the other entries ranged from average to poor. The focus will shift from Peter Parker’s love life, which ended up being a millstone around Andrew Garfield’s neck, despite attracting Sony’s intended audience of 18-25 year old females. Now, there’ll be more about how a 16 year old manages to deal with the powers that make him almost as mighty as the most significant Marvel heroes. Sony still part own the film rights to the character, but their influence, mostly dictated by their diminishing returns on previous movies, will be minimal. Spider-Man is now firmly part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that means, apart from the appearance of Iron Man, there should be more links established to future MCU features. Holland’s Peter Parker has already got the quips and vulnerability of the comic book character spot on – it’s how he performs opposite the charismatic Keaton, and deals with the fact he’s not the doe-eyed Garfield, that’ll prove how good a Spider-Man he is.

14 July – War for the Planet of the Apes

What it’s about: The third installment of the rejuvenated Apes franchise, with Matt Reeves returning to the helm again. This one follows on from the end of 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, where a virus is continuing to wipe out humankind, but they still have enough numbers and hardware to wage an attritional war with the increasingly intelligent primates. Their leader, Andy Serkis’s Caesar, spends the film struggling to not to give in to the baser, animalistic side of his nature in order to fully destroy the humans. They’re now led by extremist military commander Woody Harrelson, who has his sights set on a weapon that could destroy all the apes for good.

What to expect: While it’ll no doubt be another tour-de-force on the CGI front, and the motion-capture work will be first class, the thrill of seeing apes ascend to a position of superiority is now taking it’s time. In the first movie, watching them attain intelligence and be abused to the extent you rooted for them to stand up to their oppressors was engaging. The sequel placed the apes at the heart of the story, with them adapting much better to a disease ravaged world than a rag tag bunch of survivors. Now, a straight out and out fight with military types seems to be the only place this can go before you hark back to the original movies with apes wearing clothes and keeping humans in slave camps. It’s now a question of how often Reeves can keep bringing the same loaf to the table before it becomes stale.

8 September – It

Image via New Line Cinema

What it’s about: A remake of Stephen King’s classic horror, which already made it to screens as a miniseries in 1990 (where you’ll find the terrifying Tim Curry playing the titular character). This movie once again follows the plot of King’s 1986 novel (although the miniseries took several liberties in rigorously keeping to the details), where the murder of a young boy in a storm drain prompts his brother and friends to hunt down the killer the following year. It’s only then they discover that the killer is a supernatural entity that has lived in their town for centuries, taking the form of a sadistic clown called Pennywise, with which it lures children to their deaths.

What to expect: King’s novel is highly regarded, and the miniseries adaptation is still remembered to this day for Curry’s chilling portrayal of Pennywise – as well as the shocking brutality of some of his murders. More easily forgotten is the awful animation of the reveal of his true from – the “It” of the title – and the rest of the cast, who have since faded into obscurity, while Curry’s frightening clown is burned into the memory. Andres Muschietti’s remake therefore has a lot to live up to. As is modern horror’s preference, expect this to be as gruesome, if not more so, than the original depiction. The real test will be if Bill Skarsgård can imbue his interpretation of Pennywise with even half as much of the terror and fear as Curry’s original depiction. If not, his clown will be crying more tears than it expects to.

6 October – Blade Runner 2049

What it’s about: A belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 Magnum Opus Blade Runner, it revisits his tech-noir landscape to carry on the story of Rick Deckard, played by Harrison Ford, reprising another of the roles that made him the A-lister he is today. It’ll pick up several plot threads from the original, including Replicants, the robots who are so lifelike they actually start to consider themselves alive rather than just human slaves. Much of the first movie centred around whether or not these Replicants were sentient, and if they were, did they deserve the same rights as humans? As for this story, it’s a closely guarded secret, suffice to say it incorporates Deckard into a 30 year old mystery being investigated by modern day Blade Runner Ryan Gosling. There’s also the matter of resolving the mystery of whether Deckard was, and still is, a Replicant himself.

What to expect: Scott is still magnificently revered within the film industry, and revisiting one of his classics will undoubtedly garner much media attention and plaudits. That said, it’ll be interesting to see what Scott’s modern vision is, as the mess that was Prometheus (when Scott went back to his Alien franchise), gave some an inkling that maybe everything he touches doesn’t turn to gold anymore. Gosling’s casting is a good one, as he’ll provide a good, charismatic lead in the same way Ford was. Whether Ford wants to pull another Han Solo and give his character a send off is another matter, but finally clearing up the lingering question of his identity would end one of cinema’s great enigmas.

3 November – Thor: Ragnarok

Image via Marvel Entertainment

What it’s about: Chris Hemsworth suits up for his sixth outing as Marvel’s Norse God, this time to depict the Asgardian apocalypse. This one follows on from his vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Idris Elba’s Heimdall informed him of the impending end of the Nine Realms. There’s no detail yet on how this will unfold, but in the comics, it revolved around the appearance of the demon Surtur, destined to end Thor’s life. It’s set some time after Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Spider-Man Homecoming, but before Infinity War Part I. It’s also designed to be a bridge between the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe plots (the disassembled Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the mysticism of Doctor Strange and the bringing together of the Infinity Stones), and the nefarious arrival of Thanos, who’ll provide the opposition in the gigantic Infinity War movies. Also returning are Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Anthony Hopkins’ Odin, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Stephen Strange and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (as well as his green alter-ego). Part of the movie will be set on the planet Sakaar (the setting for the popular comic books story Planet Hulk), and joining the cast are heavyweights Jeff Goldblum (as cosmic being The Grandmaster) and Cate Blanchett (as Hela, ruler of the Asgardian equivalent of Hell). Hemsworth himself has also confirmed much of the film won’t be on Earth – a marked difference from the previous two movies.

What to expect: As mentioned above, the film is acting as a segway between the various threads of the current Marvel movies and the eventual meeting of all-and-sundry (basically every Avenger, Guardian of the Galaxy, Agent of SHIELD and Netflix-hero) and Thanos, who is likely to gain all the Infinity Stones either in the movie, or directly set up his acquisition of them all in the first part of Infinity War. As such, the main plot of averting the demise of Asgard almost seems secondary to the setup of The Russo Brothers huge showdown. That said, there’s also likely to be some kind of resolution for Hiddleston’s Loki, with the actor himself now destined for bigger and better things than being a perennial nemesis for Thor.

17 November – Justice League

What it’s about: Warner Bros. own Avengers, featuring their heavy hitters all sharing the same screen. Argue however much you might like that the previous DC Extended Universe films haven’t been impressive, the fact remains that the potential for a comic-accurate, live action Justice League could be a billion dollar franchise – if it’s handled correctly. Taking plot threads already laid down in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this revolves around Ben Affleck’s Batman recruiting a team of heroes to combat the oncoming threat of the evil god Darkseid. His lieutenant, and all round horrific, genocidal demi-god Steppenwolf, is the villain for this movie (Darkseid is being kept in reserve for the sequel). He discovers the presence of “motherboxes”, which can create a link between Darkseid’s world and ours, on Earth, and sets out to find them. In doing so, he’d allow his master’s armies to pour all over the planet, decimating the human race. Standing in his way, alongside Batman, are Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, Ezra Miller’s Flash and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. They’ll eventually be joined by Henry Cavill’s resurrected Superman.

What to expect: Whether this is a colossal flop or one of the greatest superhero movies of all time rests on the shoulders on one man – the director Zack Snyder. His Man of Steel was derided by critics, and some comic books fans, with only hardcore fans and those with a very open mind accepting it for what it was. His follow up featuring Affleck’s Batman was again heavily panned, but in some ways the finger of blame can be pointed at Warner Bros. The extended cut of Dawn of Justice was much better than the theatrical version, which, much like Suicide Squad (another critically savaged DC movie), was laid in front of the editing scissors of marketing companies and focus groups, who removed a lot of the complexities and motivations of the characters, just leaving in explosions, one liners and Jesse Eisenberg’s “acting”. Onscreen, Affleck’s Batman is more than likely going to take centre stage, and it’ll be difficult for the other members of the League to get the time they deserve when their origins and reasons for coming together will have to be mapped out here. Momoa’s hulking Aquaman should though get a bit of a feature, as his solo movie will be out the following year, as will Miller’s Flash. Expect hints to future DC Extended Universe movies yet to be fully revealed as well – 2019’s Shazam (starring Dwayne Johnson) and a reboot of Green Lantern are in the works.

15 December – Star Wars: Episode VIII

Image via Disney/Lucasfilm

What it’s about: Picking up directly from the closing scene of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Rian Johnson’s story will focus on the next step in Daisy Ridley’s Rey’s journey. Alongside Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, John Boyega’s Finn and Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, with Mark Hamill is due to take on a much larger role this time around. The First Order mob will also be back, this time looking to destroy what’s left of the Republic and instill fear across the galaxy once again. We should also inch nearer to answering the question of who Rey’s parents are, and whether she can become a Jedi.

What to expect: More passing-the-torch as the new cast gradually begin to take over from the old. The lead quartet will this time have to contend with Benicio Del Toro’s yet to be named villain, as well as the renewed threat from Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke. The addition of Hamill will hit the nostalgia chord in the same way Harrison Ford did in The Force Awakens. It should also have a somewhat lighter tone than Rogue One, which did away with the more poetic aspects of the Star War universe in favour of a war movie.

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