As the popcorn goes stale on another cinema-going year, film critic Damon Smith looks forward to the action-packed blockbusters, heartbreaking dramas, uproarious comedies and potential Oscar winners that will be lighting up the big screen over the next 12 months ...
Something Old, Nothing New ...
Only one film in the top 20 highest grossing features of 2016 at the UK box office was an original concept: the well-trained computer-animated romp The Secret Life Of Pets.
Audiences simply couldn’t resist fast food filmmaking, which served up a comforting array of sequels, prequels, remakes, spin-offs and adaptations of existing material such as novels and comic books. Top of the menu were Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, Bridget Jones’s Baby, a rollicking live action Jungle Book, Finding Dory and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
It should come as no surprise that 2017 promises a relentless onslaught of the deeply familiar across all genres.
Testosterone-fuelled showdowns torn from the pages of Marvel and DC Comics punctuate the year, including Hugh Jackman’s final bow as Wolverine in the gritty chase thriller Logan (March 3), a groovy battle beyond the stars with Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (April 28), and a standalone origin story for Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (June 2).
High school student Peter Parker (Tom Holland) spins a new web of intrigue in Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7), sibling rivalry unfolds on an epic scale, pitting Chris Hemsworth against Tom Hiddleston in Thor: Ragnarok (October 27), and Batman (Ben Affleck) and Superman (Henry Cavill) continue to flaunt their gym-toned physiques in Justice League (November 17), directed by Zack Snyder.
Fans of computer animation have plenty to whet their appetites – in 2D or 3D – including a new adventure for Belgian cartoonist Peyo’s loveable blue creations Smurfs: The Lost Village (March 31), the return of arch-villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and those mishap-prone Minions in Despicable Me 3 (June 30), and one final lap of glory for Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) in Pixar’s Cars 3 (July 14).
Later in the year, everything is far from awesome for the Caped Crusader in The Lego Batman Movie (August 18), and Jim Carter, Miriam Margolyes and Tim Pigott-Smith provide voices for high-flying characters in The Little Vampire (October 13), based on the book series by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg.
There are also two live action renderings of very different animations: Disney’s tale as old as time Beauty And The Beast (March 17), and the bullet-riddled dystopia of Ghost In The Shell (March 31).
There Will Be Blood ...
Gore hounds, who like their horror movies bloodthirsty, will be howling with glee at 2017’s monstrous offerings.
In terms of remakes, Tom Cruise meets his match in Sofia Boutella’s decaying Egyptian princess in The Mummy (June 9), Pennywise the shape-shifting clown dances through nightmares in Stephen King’s It (September 8), and hockey mask-clad maniac Jason Voorhees is resurrected in Friday The 13th (October 13).
Ridley Scott conducts a symphony of screams in deep space in Alien: Covenant (May 19) and there are chills aplenty too in Annabelle 2 (May 26), World War Z 2 (June 9) starring Brad Pitt and a legion of the undead, the conclusion to Jigsaw’s reign of terror in Saw: Legacy (October 20), and the supernatural chills of Insidious: Chapter 4 (November 3).
Turning Over An Old Leaf ...
Book shelves provide the inspiration for T2 Trainspotting (January 27), which reunites director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and the original cast, the saucy slap and tickle of Fifty Shades Darker (February 10), the harrowing real-life events of the bombing of the 2013 Boston marathon in Patriots Day (February 24), and a boardroom battle royale in computer-animated comedy, The Boss Baby (April 7).
The true story of an animal lover’s bravery during the Second World War casts Jessica Chastain as The Zookeeper’s Wife (May 5), Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her supporters face the final showdown in The Divergent Series: Ascendant (June 9), while Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey lock spurs in Stephen King’s western, The Dark Tower (July 28).
Michael Fassbender plays Detective Harry Hole in Jo Nesbo’s frost-bitten thriller The Snowman (October 13), Kate Winslet and Idris Elba are plane crash survivors who fall in love in The Mountain Between Us (October 20) and Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) interrogates an all-star cast of suspects in Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express (November 24).
The Bigger The Better ...
The small screen can be thanked for big-budget thrills and spills, including a mighty morphin’ new version of Power Rangers (March 24), a tongue-in-cheek splash with the Los Angeles County Lifeguards of Baywatch (May 12) featuring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron in fetching red shorts, and high-speed shenanigans on two wheels with Dax Shepard and Michael Pena in the buddy cop caper ChiPs (August 11).
Keanu Reeves continues his renaissance as a wily hit man in John Wick: Chapter 2 (February 17), Tom Hiddleston encounters a hulking ape in Kong: Skull Island (March 10), and Johnny Depp is all at sea in the swashbuckling yarn, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (May 26).
Director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) goes back to the future for Blade Runner 2049 (October 6), an accident-prone bear searches for his marmalade sandwiches in Paddington 2 (November 10), and Mark Hamill utters his first lines of dialogue as an aged Luke Skywalker in the as-yet-unsubtitled Star Wars: Episode VIII (December 15).
And The Winner Is ...
A few likely contenders for Academy Awards glory on Sunday, February 26 have already flexed their muscles including the cryptic sci-fi thriller Arrival, starring Amy Adams, David Mackenzie’s nail-biting crime drama Hell Or High Water, featuring a scene-stealing Jeff Bridges, Clint Eastwood’s impeccably crafted Sully with Tom Hanks, and the hysterical Florence Foster Jenkins, boasting a perfect comic duet between Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.
Most of the frontrunners for the major prizes are yet to show their hand on this side of the Atlantic. The three favourites for Best Picture are Damien Chazelle’s gorgeously romantic musical La La Land (January 13), Kenneth Lonergan’s gut-wrenching portrait of grief, Manchester By The Sea (January 13), blessed with stellar performances from Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and 19-year-old rising star Lucas Hedges; and Barry Jenkins’ exquisite coming of age drama Moonlight (February 24), which chronicles three chapters in the life of a black man wrestling with his sexuality.
There will be multiple nominations too for the heart-breaking true life drama Lion (January 20) starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, Mel Gibson’s incendiary war opus Hacksaw Ridge (January 27) headlining Andrew Garfield as a real-life conscientious objector, who served courageously in the Second World War without firing a single shot, and Jeff Nichols’ haunting interracial romance Loving (February 3), which pairs the luminous Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton.