Happy New Year beautiful readers! With the New Year upon us, it is time to take a look forward at 2017 in the theaters. As happens every January, we are looking ahead hopeful at the high profile films that are coming out. And once we get through the wasteland that is January (I’m looking at you, The Bye Bye Man) our starry eyes will be glazed over with a lack of faith in the Hollywood system.
So before that happens, let’s take a look at the most highly anticipated films of 2017. Note: I know what you’re thinking. You think this list will be playing into the hands and pockets of Hollywood given the sequels, reboots, and huge budget tentpoles that will inevitably be on this list. Which is why I am splitting this list in half. This list will look at the bigger budget releases, and a separate article will look at the potentially smaller (certainly not sequel) films of 2017.
Additionally, this list is not ranked. Instead, it is organized by what the scheduled release dates for the films are.
The X-Men franchise has come in waves. The first two films broke open the superhero phenomenon as we know it today, more or less. The Last Stand was the first crack in the bulwark. Then there was X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, an utter failure at branching off into a new franchise. First Class and Days of Future Past breathed new life into the series. Then X-Men: Apocalypse came into 2016 with a great “meh.”
Logan will be a fascinating case because it is Hugh Jackman’s final outing as the adamantium-filled mutant. Given he is the keystone of the entire franchise—the recent iterations have done what they can do to distance themselves from the character—this will be a big film.
The trailer makes this film look great. It is shades of Old Man Logan with a meditative look at how age affects mutants. Of course, trailers can be deceiving, but I am looking forward to seeing this different take on what could be argued as a tired franchise.
Kong: Skull Island
The last time we saw King Kong it was 2005. It was a simpler time. Peter Jackson had yet to create the bloated secondary Middle Earth trilogy. Instead, he was making a bloated King Kong film. The term “cinematic universe” meant nothing. The world of the franchise did not mean creating a network of minute connections between films. All it meant was sequels.
Jackson’s King Kong never made it to a sequel. For good reason. But now we are getting a reboot with Kong’s entrance into a cinematic universe of its own. The “Godzilla-Kong” universe (creative).
While we will have to wait to see a giant CG ape fight a giant CG lizard, we will get with Kong: Skull Island an origin story that promises to be a stylized epic. With shots reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, the trailer features a sound cast of characters who will all almost certainly perish within the runtime of the film. Perhaps themes of madness and helplessness will also transfer over from Apocalypse Now as a result.
That cast. Those visuals. I’m on board.
Beauty and the Beast
Disney has shown with The Jungle Book that they have a good grasp on the live action adaptation. And Beauty and the Beast looks like it is going to be just as majestic as Jon Favreau’s adaptation. The trailer shows off beautiful production design and a pretty good character design on the titular Beast.
Beyond this, we have excellent casting with this quasi-remake. Emma Watson is a great choice for the lead, and the voices of Emma Thompson and Ian McKellan won’t hurt any. Dan Stevens, who you may recall from his great performance in The Guest, feels like a great choice for the Beast. Luke Evans is more of a question mark, but he could make a good Gaston.
I have a feeling that these live action Disney adaptations will be a new staple for the behemoth company. It is a perfect strategy for going for that four quadrant audience. In the case of Beauty and the Beast, you have the classic story for the children, the grittier aesthetic live action for the parents, and the Twilight film director for the teens. Ok, maybe not that last part, but I would expect this film to do gangbusters at the box office in March.
The Fate of the Furious
I was not going to mention this film on my list. Then I saw the director. F. Gary Gray’s latest Straight Outta Compton was a surprise hit, and he is now poised to become a big name with the next Fast & Furious sequel. Gray has a history with the action-thriller genre with titles like The Italian Job and Law Abiding Citizen, so it is not an unusual choice to have him helm this big budget action spectacle. I will be interested to see how he fares.
There is also the general fascination that the world has with this franchise. A schlock-fest from its inception, the series died and was resurrected by a trilogy of sequels that said “f*** it” and threw everything at the wall to see what would stick. These films have become overblown monsters that make oodles of cash overseas and seem to appease everyone. Mainstream audiences eat them up, and critics are baffled enough by them to at least concede that they are entertaining.
I don’t think Fast & Furious 8 will strike lightning like Furious 7 did, but it will make a profit. These movies will never end, it seems. For better or worse.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
“I-I-I-I-I-I’m hooked on a feeling…” ahem, sorry. I was just listening to my Reservoir Dogs soundtrack. What are we talking about?
Ah yes, Guardians of the Galaxy. The surprise Marvel hit that will now be milked for every dollar that can be squeezed out of the C-list comic book characters. Guardians 2 means one definitive thing: a kickass soundtrack. Other than that, anything is possible.
Marvel second films have not been great. Iron Man 2, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Rather forgettable, to say the least. There was Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which some herald as one of the best superhero movies of this modern era. But the batting average is still rather low.
Still, I have faith in James Gunn. His grasp on humor and pacing is strong, and we have already seen him succeed with these characters once. We will have to wait and see, but given that people now know what the Guardians property is, I could see this movie making a sizeable profit.
Here’s a controversial statement: I don’t know if Ridley Scott is a good director. Don’t get me wrong, I love Alien, and that is most of the reason why this film is on my list. Blade Runner is fine. Black Hawk Down is fine. But then there’s Exodus: Gods and Kings. The Counselor…
This film does sport a promising cast with the likes of Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, and Michael Fassbender. That said, a film with strong actors can still fail (*cough* Assassin’s Creed *cough*).
Alien: Covenant looks like it is bringing new things to the franchise mythos. This could be really refreshing, or it could be a crappy horror film with the Alien name tagged on. The trailer has a drab look to it that does not remind me of Alien. The look of Alien is dark, but it is not drab. I have a feeling this will be a gray, dour movie. Hopefully this isn’t an aesthetic meant to replace tension.
Alien: Covenant could go either way. It could be a great sci-fi thriller. Or it could be a tired sequel. At the very least, it does not look like a rehash.
DC has had many a hiccup in their go at having a cinematic universe. Nothing has really gone right for them yet, with 2016 yielding two critical flops in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Part of this, I think, can be blamed on an uncertainty. Reshoots and heavy editing have led to two incoherent films.
In this regard, I would put money on the Justice League movie being equally bloated and hectically edited. If DC can save their 2017, then, it comes down to Wonder Woman. The trailer looks promising. It isn’t directed by Zach Snyder. Gal Gadot felt serviceable as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman.
If 2017 proves to be another down year for DC, I don’t know if the franchise/universe will survive into another phase. Unless, of course, the films make money in spite of being god awful, which is a likely scenario.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was a pleasant surprise, taking the James Bond spy formula and playing it tongue in cheek without becoming Austin Powers-style farcical. The film is a great blend of levity and action.
With director Matthew Vaughn returning for this sequel, The Golden Circle may be good. A comedy sequel is a hard thing to do right, and it is possible that this film will provide a lot of the same. Still, I am looking forward to this one. Additions to the cast that include Channing Tatum, Julianne Moore, and Jeff Bridges are promising. Halle Berry returning to the spy genre, however, is a scary thought.
Spider-Man is another Marvel franchise on the chopping block. Guardians of the Galaxy may or may not need the sequel treatment it is getting. And Spider-Man: Homecoming is, indeed, a homecoming, as the character has returned to Marvel Studios. The character had a good cameo in Captain America: Civil War, I think. It will be interesting to see how he ties in from here on out.
There have been some clunky Spider-Man films in the past, most recently with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The property is probably better off in the hands of Marvel Studios, although the MCU is continuing to balloon out and will continue to do so until it explodes.
Still, Tom Holland is a good choice for the character. Maris Tomei is a good choice for Aunt May. Michael Keaton is an interesting choice for the villain, The Vulture. Whether he fits the role is still a question mark for me. Seeing Jon Watts (Cop Car) take one a big budget action film will also be interesting to see. As with every Marvel film, my expectations are low, which means they almost always pleasantly surprise me. I have the feeling this will be a similarly just fine film.
War For the Planet of the Apes
Who could have imagined that a reboot franchise of The Planet of the Apes films would be highly anticipated releases? Particularly after Tim Burton’s misfire reboot in 2001, it seemed impossible to do. And yet, these films have been getting consistently better. The effects work alone is enough to warrant seeing the films. But the stories, too, make good use of the source material. While somewhat simplistic, the films are morality tales mixed with fascinatingly directed action sequences.
War For the Planet of the Apes will round out this latest trilogy of ape films, and it promises to be a bloodbath. If nothing else, it will be a spectacle. But the trailer feels like it could be something more than merely that.
Star Wars: Episode VIII
No most anticipated list would be complete without the annual Star Wars addition. Is anyone sick of them yet? No? Give it three years.
Episode VIII is in a very interesting place. It could be one of two movies. It could be another fan service film filled with winks and nods and elbow nudges. It could be a lot of what we’ve seen before repackaged with a new title. Many complain that The Force Awakens was just that, and it is a valid argument.
On the other hand, they could go into a new direction with their new characters. They could try for something different and be risky. They could build Rey and Kylo Ren as characters, Give Poe something to do, and move away from the older characters and lore. You know, or they could build another Death Star…
Good or bad, there is no way that Episode VIII will slow Disney and Lucasfilm down. It will make a very healthy profit, though not as big of a profit as The Force Awakens did. It’s Star Wars, folks, and it’s something we have to deal with.
As always, thanks for reading!
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What are your most anticipated films of 2017? Let me know in the comments!
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)