When we get to this time of the year, there’s really not much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss. So, this week and next, we’re going to review 12 of the year’s top stories instead, presented to you in monthly chronology. The year-in-review begins with the “Fresh Developments” which here also serve (mostly) as the “Top Stories” of the year. Our retrospective begins with what may also be the biggest movie news story of the entire decade.
Although there are definitely many reasons to argue about whether it was the “Freshest” news of the year, the confirmation this month that Walt Disney Pictures had acquired the 20th Century Fox’s TV and film properties was definitely the biggest story of the year. The Marvel Cinematic Universe as we now know it (The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc.) only dates back to the 2008 release of Iron Man, but long before that, Marvel fans had been frustrated by the separation of Marvel movies between studios. X-Men, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four were at Fox; Spider-Man and Ghost Rider were at Sony; The Punisher was at Lionsgate; and Hulk was at Universal. Over time, most of those came back to Marvel Studios, but the Fox films were still separate. The newsfeed-dominating impact of Disney’s acquisition of Fox has been the seemingly final step in allowing for a true representation of the “Marvel Universe” in the movies (and presumably TV too).
There had been speculation that the Fantastic Four rights might be held up by Constantin Film (the company behind Roger Corman’s original 1994 Fantastic Four), but Disney CEO Bob Iger has confirmedthat the Fantastic Four indeed now belongs to Disney as well. Likewise, Iger has clarified that Deadpoolcan stay R-rated, even as a Disney property. And these points are just the tip of the iceberg about what this deal means for Marvel fans and movie fans in general.
In October, director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) delivered his first film with a $100+ million budget, the sequel Blade Runner 2049 (Certified Fresh at 87%). Much like the first film, which didn’t break $32 million in 1982, the sequel was a domestic box office disappointment, earning just $91 million (and $258 million worldwide). For his next ambitious sci-fi movie, Denis Villeneuve will again be revisiting an early 1980s movie that made less than $33 million, except it will be a complete remake, not a sequel. The news broke in late December, 2016 (which we’re including here because of the Ketchup’s winter break) that Denis Villeneuve signed to direct a remake of Dune, based on the first in author Frank Herbert’s acclaimed series, originally directed by David Lynch in 1984. It’s a bit much to encapsulate in just one sentence, but the gist of Dune is that it’s a sprawling space opera revolving around the planet Arrakis, which is the source of a drug called the spice melange, which is integral in space travel (and also for tapping into cosmic awareness and such).
We may never get a full feature film of Dwayne Johnson playing the live-action Bambi, but in 2019, we will get a photorealistic CGI remake of The Lion King (7/19/19), directed directed by Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Iron Man). In February, a year’s worth of casting announcements began with the news that James Earl Jones will reprise his role as Lion King #1 (Mufasa), and Donald Glover will voice Lion King #2 (Simba). That was followed by Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen voicing Timon and Pumbaa, John Oliver as Zazu the bird, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange) playing the villain Scar (originally voiced by Jeremy Irons). In August, we learned that Alfre Woodard would voice Sarabi the lion, Mufasa’s wife and Simba’s mother. Through all of that, there was talk that Beyonce was Disney’s first choice to play Nala, and in November, she was indeed confirmed, along with the rest of the voice cast.
Some movies take years of development and production, but a rare few are announced, produced, and released all in the same calendar year. Steven Spielberg benefits from maintaining a constant development slate, so that he can switch gears at quick notice. Following the results of last year’s election, Spielberg and producer Amy Pascal moved fast to acquire the rights to the movie we now know as The Post, which incidentally opens in limited release today. The title (known for a while as The Papers) refers to the newspaper The Washington Post and its role in 1971 in exposing the public to “The Pentagon Papers,” the documents which revealed much about the U.S. government’s plans for involvement in the Vietnam War. Frequent Spielberg costar Tom Hanks signed on quickly, as did Meryl Streep, and they were then followed in June by Alison Brie (Community), David Cross (Arrested Development), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), Sarah Paulson (The People vs O.J. Simpson), Jesse Plemons (Breaking Bad), Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire), and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing).
The film development news cycle for much of 2016 and early 2017 was dominated by Fox’s search for an actor to play Deadpool‘s time-travelling partner Cable in next year’s sequel (6/1/18). Over that period, some of the names bandied about included Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson, Kyle Chandler (Friday Nights Light), Stephen Lang (Avatar), David Harbour (Stranger Things, before he was cast as the new Hellboy), and Michael Shannon (General Zod from Man of Steel). Well, all of that finally came to an end in April. As you probably know now, Cable will be played by Josh Brolin, who already has quite a career of starring in movies based on comic books, including playing Thanos for Marvel Studios (including next year’s Avengers: Infinity War), the young Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black 3, DC Comics’ Jonah Hex, and appearing in the sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Brolin joins Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool (obviously), and the previously cast Zazie Beetz as fan favorite Domino.
There have obviously been movies and TV shows based on Internet pop culture before (The Emoji Movie, **** My Dad Says). In 2014, an image was posted to Tumblr of pop singer Rihanna and actress Lupita N’yongo at a Miu Miu fashion show. The Tumblr caption read, “They look like they’re in a heist movie with Rihanna as the tough-as-nails leader/master thief and Lupita as the genius computer hacker.” In May, that meme actually led to the news that director Ava DuVernay (Selma, A Wrinkle in Time) had signed a deal with Netflix to direct a film for the streaming service. As the original post speculated, Rihanna will play a master thief planning a heist, and Lupita Nyong’o will play a genius computer hacker. Nyong’o also made the news in September, along with Kristen Stewart, as possible choices for Sony’s reboot of the Charlie’s Angels franchise.
Following the surprising record breaking $103 million opening weekend of Wonder Woman, a series of stories hit the Internet about the sped-up plans for a sequel. Many of those early stories had to do with the negotiations and potential paycheck increases for Gal Gadot and her director Patty Jenkins. Later in the year, more Wonder Woman 2 stories continued, but they mostly involved the when instead of the who or what. In July, Warner Bros planted their Wonder Woman 2 flag on December 13, 2019, but that all changed after the release of Justice League (and its Rotten Tomatometer score). With Wonder Woman hailed as one of the latter film’s high points, Warner Bros. responded by bumping Wonder Woman 2 six weeks to November 1, 2019 (also moving farther away from Star Wars: Episode IX on 12/20/19). Hopefully, in 2018, we’ll learn more details, such as who the new villain in Wonder Woman 2 might be (Cheetah, perhaps?).
Director Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds) has talked at length about his intentions to retire after just ten films. After talking in the past about his interest in possibly directing a “horror” film, the first thing we heard about #9 (working title) was that it would involve the 1969 Manson Family murders, scheduled for August 9, 2019 (the massacre’s 50th anniversary). (Though that was eventually clarified as just being the film’s background, as it will instead focus on a TV actor and his stuntman buddy trying to establish film careers). We still don’t know for sure who will costar in #9 (besides Samuel L. Jackson, of course), but Tarantino reportedly has talked to Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise, along with Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate) and Jennifer Lawrence. You can track our coverage of the film from July 14, November 3, November 17, November 24, and December 1. And of course, there was also the crazy news just a week after that last report that Quentin Tarantino is also teaming up with producer J.J. Abrams about possibly directing a Star Trek movie.
In early 2013, a few months after Disney acquired Lucasfilm, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced plans for Star Wars spinoff movies that eventually became last year’s Rogue One and next year’s Han Solo (5/25/18). In the years since, there have also been rumors about other spinoffs about characters like Boba Fett, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. In August, reports came out that the Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff was officially in development, with Academy Award nominated director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Hours, and the upcoming Wicked movie) in talks for the job. Other details, like the premise, setting, or even casting, are still quite unknown. However, when asked in the past about the Obi-Wan spinoff, Ewan McGregor has said, “I’d very much like to do one too.”
In early September, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow departed the highly anticipated Star Wars Episode IX (12/20/19). This move quickly led to columns speculating about replacement directors from sources like indieWire, Observer, and Deadline. This could have gone on for months, but Lucasfilm quickly put an end to it all with the announcement that Star Wars: Episode IX (title likely to change) will be directed by J.J. Abrams, who directed Episode VII, The Force Awakens. With this move, Abrams became the first director other than George Lucas to direct more than one live action Star Wars movie. Of course, the editorials then shifted to whether J.J. Abrams directing Episode IX was the “right choice.”
Marvel Comics has had pretty great success with the female Wolverine clone X-23, including two mini-series and two ongoing series. To movie fans, however, that same character, who debuted earlier this year in Logan, is known only as “Laura.” Logan was both a box office and a critical success, and its ending left room for a sequel focusing on Laura’s further adventures, so October’s news wasn’t really that surprising, especially given the warm reception fans and critics alike bestowed on Hugh Jackman’s 11-year-old co-star, Spanish-British actress Dafne Keen. Logan director James Mangold is now working with screenwriter Craig Kyle (who first created X-23 for the X-Men: Evolution animated series) on a treatment for a spinoff movie that they’re calling Laura. 20th Century Fox is now planning on three X-Men movies a year, starting in 2018 with The New Mutants (4/13/18), Deadpool 2 (6/1/18), and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (11/2/18).
It was just last week that Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy teased the post-Episode IX future of the Star Wars franchise (with spoilers). Possibly aware that these sorts of secrets stay secret only very briefly in today’s social media world, StarWars.com made a huge announcement this week. The revelation involves director Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick, The Brothers Bloom), whose first Star Wars movie was last week’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Certified Fresh at 92%). An emphasis should be put on first, because the big news is that Johnson is creating a new Star Wars trilogy which will launch after J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode IX (12/20/19). Rian Johnson will write and produce this new trilogy and direct the first entry. The new trilogy is still mostly shrouded in mystery, except that, “separate from the episodic Skywalker saga, Johnson will introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.”