This week’s film development news cycle was sort of dominated by one of the biggest stories in recent memory (Spider-Man finally joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe), but there was also talk of new roles for Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt (as a sci-fi romantic couple, even), Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard in Assassin’s Creed, and new information about both Deadpool, and the third solo Wolverine movie.
One of the most confusing things about superhero movies for people not deeply invested in following them is the division between the cinematic adaptations of various Marvel Comics characters. Try explaining explaining why or how The Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man, and The Fantastic Four all reside at separate studios. Well, this week, after a few months of rumors and speculation, Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures announced that they have come to a resolution that will bring Spider-Man to the Marvel Cinematic Universe films produced by Marvel Studios. A new version of Spider-Man will debut in an upcoming Marvel Studios movie (probably Captain America: Civil War on 5/6/16, because Spider-Man was a big part of Civil War in the comics). The web-slinger will then star in a new solo movie for Sony Pictures, which Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige will produce and will be scheduled for July 28, 2017 (the ramifications of that date are discussed down below). Sony and Marvel are now looking for a new younger actor to play Spider-Man as the character will be returned to high school, with Logan Lerman (Fury) and Dylan O’Brien (The Maze Runner) mentioned as two early possibilities. As that implies, Andrew Garfield is out as Spider-Man, as is director Marc Webb, but the planned Spider-Man spinoffs, like Venom, The Sinister Six, and a mystery-female-character project all remain in development, although their connections to Spider-Man will probably now be different (separate from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, for example). With Spider-Man now joining the MCU, that also opens the door to various MCU characters (including those not yet introduced) to appear in Sony’s movies, in addition to Marvel’s. As for the money behind all of this, the arrangement is described as being more like a “lease” than a sale, with no money being exchanged, and Sony benefitting from Marvel’s talent, creative supervision, and input, while Marvel obviously benefits from getting a big chunk of their characters back. So, going forward, you only have to explain to your confused uncle how Marvel’s characters are only split in half instead of thirds.
The science-fiction-romantic-drama Passengers has had a twisty-turny path through development over the last several years. For a long time, Keanu Reeves was attached to star, and past studios have included Focus Features and the Weinstein Company. Sony Pictures bought the project (in hindsight, one of Amy Pascal’s last major new projects) in December, and since then, the project is quickly taking on a very different profile. Norwegian director Morten Tyldum, who is an Academy Award nominee for The Imitation Game, is attached to direct this story of a man who accidentally wakes up 90 years early on an interstellar spaceship, so he wakes up a woman to be his companion (to basically share his plight, which is sort of a crappy thing to do to someone). For the two leads, Sony is shooting big, with Chris Pratt in talks to play one lead, and Jennifer Lawrence in talks to play the other. Lawrence and Pratt have a lot in common professionally, as they both star in Marvel Comics adaptations (albeit at different studios), which in both cases are just one of their franchises (Lawrence also has The Hunger Games), and Chris Pratt also has Jurassic World, and possibly, if rumors prove true, Indiana Jones.
We’re coming up on the time of the year when actors and actresses start to see immediate and obvious reactions to their Academy Award nominations and wins. French actress Marion Cotillard won a Best Actress Oscar for the Edith Piah biopic La Vie en Rose, and is nominated in the category again this year for Two Days, One Night. Cotillard also plays Lady MacBeth in an upcoming adaptation of William Shakespeare’s MacBeth, and this week, she landed a role that is a reunion with that film’s star and director. Marion Cotillard has landed an unspecified lead role in the video game adaptation Assassin’s Creed, in which Michael Fassbender will star, and which will be directed by Justin Kurzel, who also directed MacBeth. Presuming the film will be an adaptation of the first game in Ubisoft’s franchise, there’s a few characters that Marion Cotillard could play, including the modern character of Lucy Stillman (voiced by Kristen Bell in the game), or one of the female characters in the 12th century Levant settings. 20th Century Fox has scheduled Assassin’s Creed for December 21, 2016 (five days after the first Star Wars spinoff, scheduled for 12/16/16).
Although it probably shouldn’t have been as surprising as it seemed, Patrick Stewart was quoted this week as saying that he may costar as Professor X in the upcoming sequel to The Wolverine (which is sometimes listed as Wolverine 3, and which 20th Century Fox has scheduled for March 3, 2017). Here’s a direct quote from Patrick Stewart: “And what I’m very excited about is that we have been talking about a Wolverine movie, which would team Hugh Jackman and myself together. Wolverine and Professor Xavier. That would be a very different sort of X-Men from the four movies that I’ve already done.” This news seems to connect the Wolverine sequel more directly to the ending of The Wolverine, which many had previously interpreted as being a teaser to X-Men: Days of Future Past). Another possibility is that it might tie the third film to the deleted ending in which we were given a glimpse of a Wolverine mask similar to the ones Wolverine wears in the comics. And speaking of superhero masks, Ryan Reynolds gave fans a tease of the Deadpool mask he will be seen wearing a year from now, when the film is released on February 12, 2016. In other Deadpool news, several actresses are currently being considered for the film’s female lead, including Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Homeland) and Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black). Another actress, Gina Carano, has landed a supporting role as “Angel Dust” (the name of one of the Morlocks in the comics). The same story also mentioned that one of the characters in Deadpool will be X-Men member Colossus, although the story doesn’t mention if he will again be played by Daniel Cudmore (though Cudmore did play the character in X-Men: Days of Future Past, so there’s a good chance?).
A few weeks ago, Tom Hardy dropped out of starring in Warner Bros’ DC Comics adaptation Suicide Squad, as the leader of a group of super villains brought together by the government. Warner Bros had reportedly talked to both Joel Edgerton (Exodus: Gods and Kings) and Jon Bernthal (Fury, The Walking Dead), but today, we’re hearing that the actor who’s landed the role of Rick Flag is instead Joel Kinnaman. These days, Kinnaman is probably best known for starring in last year’s remake of RoboCop, but the Swedish actor has also costarred in AMC’s The Killing. Suicide Squad will be directed by David Ayer (End of Watch, Sabotage, Fury), and Warner Bros has scheduled the film for August 5, 2016.
With five RT-rated films under his belt (and his 12 pack), Jason Momoa is still searching for his first Fresh Tomatometer score. It’s possible that might happen with one of his DC Comics movies, like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (3/25/16), Justice League Part One (11/17/17), or Aquaman (7/27/18). Another possibility is The Bad Batch, which Jason Momoa started negotiations to star in this week. The Bad Batch is described as a dystopian love story set in a Texas wasteland plagued by cannibals, like a cross between The Road Warrior and Pretty in Pink. Whatever you think of that premise, the film’s best shot at a Fresh rating might come from its director, Ana Lily Amirpour, whose first film, A Girl Walks Home at Night, which was billed as the world’s first Iranian vampire western, was Certified Fresh at 95 percent. The mix of Jason Momoa’s filmography and Amirpour’s debut success makes this one a “borderline” Rotten Idea story.
One of the under-reported downsides of the new Spider-Man movie landing a release date on July 28, 2017, is that Marvel Studios had previously scheduled the three-quel Thor: Ragnarok for that date. What Marvel did this week to make room for Spider-Man was move four of their previously announced films into each other’s previous release dates. So, now Thor: Ragnarok is scheduled for November 3, 2017, instead of Black Panther, which is now scheduled for July 6, 2018, instead of Captain Marvel, which is now scheduled for November 2, 2018, instead of Inhumans. Despite events on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seeming to set up the movie, the Inhumans movie is now over four movies away from release, with a new date of July 2, 2019. Amidst all this movement, the two parts of Avengers: Infinity War are holding onto their release dates of May 4, 2018, and May 3, 2019. This is leaving some fans to scratch their heads because it suggests that the events of these four films are not necessarily as connected to what’s going on in the concurrent Avengers movies as you might have expected. Specifically, Black Panther now comes out after Avengers: Infinity War Part 1, and Inhumans comes out after Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 instead of before it. As for why we’re calling this story a Rotten Idea? Marvel Studios hasn’t had a Rotten film yet, and so the idea of having to wait longer for four new Marvel Studios movies is a Rotten Idea.
When Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage was cast in an unspecified role in last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, there was much immediate speculation that, of course, he would be playing Canadian superhero Puck, because, well, obviously, they’re both short. Unfortunately, logic classes are not required in the United States. Peter Dinklage is a talented actor, so it can’t be presumed that every role he takes will have anything to do with his height. This week, however, it sort of can, because Dinklage is signed to star in O’ Lucky Day, a comedy which might do for leprechauns what Bad Santa did for Santa Claus. That’s the good news. The bad news is that O’ Lucky Day will be directed by Adam Shankman, who has 13 credits to his name as director or producer since 2003, and only Hairspray received a Fresh score. Dinklage will play “a con man who may or may not be a real Leprechaun, but who certainly passes himself off as one.” The plan is for filming to start in April, while Peter Dinklage is on hiatus between seasons of Game of Thrones.
Even if you’re old enough to remember what a sensation the original Halloween was in 1978 and 1979, your younger self probably would have never predicted that there would be a future where the Halloween franchise included 10 movies, including a reboot, a sequel to that reboot, and a third movie that didn’t even have anything to do with the other nine. We do, however, live in that world, and so we now bring you the news that Dimension Films has hired the writers of several of the Saw movies (a franchise that itself had seven entries), to work on a new Halloween movie. Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, who wrote Saw IV, Saw V, Saw VI, and Saw 3D: The Final Chapter have Tomatometer pages that are almost entirely Rotten, except for Pacific Rim. Melton and Dunstan’s work on this Halloween movie is being described as neither a remake, a reboot, or a reimagining, but rather as a “recalibration.” So, how are we to interpret that? Will this 11th Halloween instead be a new sequel, featuring the further adventures of some version of Michael Myers (either Rob Zombie’s, or the “O.M.M.”)? Or perhaps a third interpretation of the character, without telling any previous story (somehow)? And since the Saw guys are involved, will the new Halloween be more about torture than just straight up machete-driven serial killing? In somewhat related news, New Line Cinema is now developing a remake of the 2014 New Zealand horror comedy Housebound (which hasn’t yet been released in the USA, outside of film festivals).
Rotten Tomatoes is a site dedicated to providing a gauge of critical reactions to various movies and TV shows (you know that, right?). Unfortunately, it is not critical opinion that is used to make decisions in Hollywood. And so, as the $40 million Fifty Shades of Grey is expected to make well over that in its first weekend alone, this story should not come as any sort of surprise. Universal Pictures has officially confirmed plans to adapt E.L. James’ sequel novels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed as feature films, presumably with the same stars, Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson. (This story actually broke on the morning of February 6, but it didn’t get noticed by most sites until after last week’s column went live.) As of this writing, Fifty Shades of Grey has a Tomatometer score of 27%.