The news that Sony and Marvel have joined forces on the future of Spider-Man seems to ensure plenty of films featuring the webslinger will be heading our way in the years to come. They’ll add to blockbuster schedules already groaning under the weight of comic book movies and franchises. And with the expensive Jupiter Ascending struggling at the box office, the incentive for studios to invest in non-Christopher Nolan-driven standalone blockbusters appears to be diminished.
Yet there are big films – particularly in animation – that are coming, that don’t have a franchise tag attached to them. At least not yet. So here’s what on the cards…
Spy: May 22nd, 2015
This is how scheduling for standalone blockbuster movies seems to work now. You wait in the summer for one to come around and – based on US release dates at least – two turn up on the same day.
Spy is the latest union of director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy, and it’s an action comedy that also brings in Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Allison Janney, Miranda Hart, and the mighty Jason Statham. Originally known as Susan Cooper, the film is, as far as we know, planned as a one off, although there was sequel talk for both of Feig’s previous movies, Bridesmaidsand The Heat.
Fox will be looking for Spy to be a very big and profitable hit, and it’s deliebrately positioned it in a high summer release as a consequence. But it’ll be going head to head with…
Tomorrowland: May 22nd 2015
Arguably the most promising live action standalone blockbuster in this list is Brad Bird’s fifth film as director, Tomorrowland (or Tomorrowland: A World Beyondas it’s known in the UK, for some reason). Penned by Bird and Damon Lindelof, the movie stars George Clooney and Hugh Laurie, along with newcomer Britt Robertson. And amazingly, most of the plot has been kept under wraps thus far.
We’ve seen a trailer though, and this is one where we’ve sat through a 15 minute sequence from the film too. It’s impossible to review a film on the basis of that of course. We can report though that said sequence had us gripping onto our armrests – it reminded us of the believable, wonderful action sequence near the start of JJ Abrams’ Super 8.
With no sequel on the horizon, Tomorrowland looks like that increasingly rare thing from Disney’s live action team: a standalone treat.
San Andreas: May 29th 2015
This one’s perhaps a bit more conventional, but nonetheless, it could be fun. It’s a film that unites Dwayne Johnson with his Journey 2: The Mysterious Island director Brad Peyton. And as you can probably guess, it’s a disaster movie, as a devasting earthquake hits the California region.
It’s a sign of the times, though, that we were in two minds as to whether to class this as a blockbuster at all. It ‘only’ cost $100m to make after all. But a movie star and a high summer release date get it over the line.
Plus there’s something so deliciously old fashioned about it. It feels from the outside like a ’90s blockbuster, one that happens to have recruited Kylie Minogue to its ensemble, maybe to sing a medley of hits from the glory days. One can hope, eh?
Inside Out: June 19th 2015
The one area of filmmaking that continues to commit to standalone stories is animation. Perhaps less so, as Pixar and DreamWorks commit to more and more sequels, but even so, 2015 has two standalone movies from the former. And Inside Out looks wonderful.
It’s the new film from Pete Docter, the director of Up, and it focuses on the emotions that control our minds. As such, whilst the story focuses on a family that uproots to a new area when the father gets a new job, the perspective is the emotions that control the main characters. In particular Riley, the young girl at the heart of the story.
Again, it’s clearly too early to call the film, yet there’s a sense that it’s bursting with ideas, and footage that’s been revealed so far has been very, very funny, and felt very fresh too.
Pan: July 17th 2015
We think this one can sneak in. It’s a fresh take on the Peter Pan story, which thus far has attracted attention mainly for the casting of Hugh Jackman as the villanous Blackbeard.
It’s one of those films that promises to tell us “the untold story” which never seems to go well. But still, Joe Wright is directing, and that’s promising, whilst the rest of the cast features Amanda Seyfried, Rooney Mara, Garret Hedlund, Kathy Burke and young Levi Miller in the title role.
Pixels: July 24th 2015
Billed as an action comedy, Pixels seems to get some of its flavorings from a live action twist on Wreck-It Ralph. The idea is sound, though, as aliens pick up feeds of classic videogames, and misinterpret them as an act of war. Thus, they start attacking the planet Earth, based on videogame strategies.
Earth’s saviour? That’d be Adam Sandler, playing a 1980s video game champion. The director of the film? That’d be Chris Columbus, of Percy Jackson,Home Alone, and the first two Harry Potters vintage. The supporting cast? That’s more promising, with Josh Gad, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage and Brian Cox in the ensemble.
The inclusion of Sandler though doesn’t bode well. But you never know. This may be a turning point. At least before he heads off to Netflix to make four movies exclusively for the streaming service, anyway…
The Good Dinosaur: November 25th 2015
And so we’re back to Pixar already, with one of its most troubled projects of late. Last year, it took the decision to delay the movie, with director Bob Peterson departing the project back in August 2013 (having come up with the idea for it). The Pixar Brain Trust of filmmakers took over development of the film, with Peter Sohn now solely credited as director. It’s understood that the film has been substantially retooled since Pixar took the decision to delay it.
The synopsis that’s been released gives the main clue – outside of the title – to the direction the film is going to take.
It reads: “The Good Dinosaur asks the generations-old question: What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? The film is a humorous and exciting original story about Arlo, a lively 70-foot-tall teenage Apatosaurus with a big heart. After a traumatic event rattles Arlo’s tranquil community, he sets out on a quest to restore peace, gaining an unlikely companion along the way – a young human boy named Spot”
The film is now due at the end of the year.
The Martian: November 25th 2015
Not had a chance to read Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian, yet? Then we’d highly recommend you invest in a copy. It’s a science-driven thriller about a man stranded on Mars, trying to escape before he runs out of supplies. The film comes courtesy of Ridley Scott, who opted to direct this one over Prometheus 2.
Matt Damon takes the lead role, with a supporting cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara and human spoiler Sean Bean. Promisingly, Drew Goddard has penned the screenplay.
Following Jupiter Ascending and Chappie, this may be the closest we get to a good, proper, expensive science fiction blockbuster this year. If Ridley Scott can capture the quality of the story and marry it to his traditional jaw-dropping visual work, The Martian could and should be really very special.
But do read the book anyway.
Zootopia: March 1st 2016
There’s no new film from Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2015, but that’s because the next two are both set to arrive in 2016.
First up is Zootopia, from Tangled co-director Byron Howard. Zootopia is the name of the animal city in which the movie is set, and the focus will be on a fox called Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), who finds himself framed for a crime he didn’t commit. On his tale is the city’s best cop, a rabbit by the name of Lt Judy Hops. But as it turns out, she’s going to be facing a problem or two of her own.
What looks to differentiate this one is that the animal world we’re going to see is one that’s as if it’s been designed by the animals themselves. How that plays out on the screen we’re yet to see, though. And we’ve got some time to wait before we see more…
The Nice Guys: June 17th 2016
An increasingly rare non-franchise summer thriller, headlined by movie stars. We used to bathe in these in the 1990s.
The Nice Guys is the new film from Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon, writer-director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3), and it brings together Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, with Kim Basinger and Matt Bomer also in the cast.
It’s a murder conspiracy, that started shooting at the end of last year), and it’s going to be set in 1970s Los Angeles. That’s all we know thus far. The involvement of Black, though, is a very good start…
Knights Of The Round Table: King Arthur: July 22nd 2016
Warner Bros’ big budget retelling of the King Arthur story is a blatant attempt to kickstart a cash-rich franchise (believe reports, and there are up to six films being planned), but we’ll treat it as one for the time being. Just know that sequels are on the horizon if it pans out.
Guy Ritchie has been hired by the studio to direct, which presumably delays Sherlock Holmes 3 still further, and he’s cast Charlie Hunnam in the title role. Idris Elba has been linked with the project as well, and Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou and Astrid Berges-Frisbey have also been linked. Joby Harold has penned the screenplay.
It’s still in pre-production this one, but it’s expected to shoot later this year, once Ritchie is done with The Man From UNCLE (whose television origins stop it making this list).
Geostorm: October 21st 2016
Warner Bros again, this time teaming up with Stargate and Independence Day co-writer/producer Dean Devlin. Devlin is set to direct this one, which has human action sequence Gerard Butler roaring in the direction of the camera, whilst looking very manly.
Don’t look at the title and think this is a tame Into The Storm sequel, though. Geostorm takes place in space, with one man trying to save the world from climate-controlling satellites creating a, well, storm. And then there’s another man, who’s trying to stop the president being assassinated. It sounds like the machine that mixes two random movie plots together is working well, and we’re calling it now: Geostorm is going to be our guilt-free pleasure of 2016.
What could go wrong?
Moana: November 23rd 2016
It’s been far too long since Disney royalty John Musker and Ron Clements have directed a movie. They brought hand-drawn animation back to Walt Disney Animation Studios with The Princess And The Frog, and before that had the likes of The Little Mermaid, Hercules, and Aladdin to their name.
Moana will be their first fully computer animated movie, and it’ll tell the story of a young woman setting sail for a fabled island. On her travels? She’s joined by Maui, a demi-god, reported to be voiced by Dwayne Johnson.
We’ve only seen concept art for this one so far, but just the pedigree of who’s steering the ship has us hugely interested. And again, it’s animation leading the way with standalone blockbusters.