After Earth trailer


What a coincidence. A few hours after my write-up about the 3 post-apocalyptic movies coming out next year, we have the release of the first trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth. I have to say, the trailer is better than the one for Oblivion, especially the opening few seconds.

Here’s the report on the trailer from darkhorizons.com.

The guys working on Elysium must be under pressure to get their trailer out quickly now…

 

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And more apocalypses coming in 2013


Further to my post on Nov 13th about apocalypses of all forms being the current flavor of popular fiction and a follow-up post on Nov 15th, I can’t help but call attention to another variety of apocalypse hitting the big screens in 2013.

In these posts, I referred to apocalypses caused by plagues (resulting in zombie and vampire swarms), robots, aliens and gendercide. Besides these exotic apocalypses, we also have the garden variety of apocalypse caused by good old nuclear war and also pollution/ ecological disasters.

I am currently reading just such a book – the classic scifi post-apocalyptic novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, referred to by many critics as the only true literary masterpiece to have emerged from the scifi genre. The novel was published in 1960 and having reached halfway through the book, I am inclined to agree with the opinions of the critics. I’ll probably write about this book at length once I have finished reading it.

However, the main purpose of this post is talk about the trio of post-apocalyptic films coming up in 2013, all of which feature a largely depopulated Earth ravaged by war or some other form of man-made cataclysm.

  • The first of these films is Oblivion (Universal Pictures), to be released April 19th. The film, which just had its first teaser trailer and poster released last week is directed by Joseph Kosinksi (of Tron: Legacy fame), based on his own graphic novel. The movie features Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who plays the infamous Jamie Lannister on HBO’s Game of Thrones). The response to the poster was very positive, although the trailer itself left me feeling a bit underwhelmed…a confused. For some reason, it felt like a mash-up of several other futuristic stories, although I couldn’t specifically pinpoint any one element which I could say was copied from past source material. Nevertheless, I am very much looking forward to the film…I don’t expect something award winning, but clearly there will be some strong individual acting performances and great visual effects.
  • Next we have After Earth (Columbia Pictures), to be released June 7th and directed by M. Night Shyamalan – his first film since 2010’s disastrous adaptation of Nickelodeon’s Avatar the Last Airbender. Mr. Shyamalan has certainly lost his way – and his goodwill with the movie-going public – since the great days of The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs. In this case, there is some hope, as the screenplay is by Stephen Gaghan who won an Oscar for Traffic and was nominated again for Syriana. More importantly – from a box office perspective – the film stars the father-son super-duo of Will Smith and Jaden Smith as General Cypher Raige (yes, really) and his estranged son Kitai Raige. Clearly Will Smith has a clear strategy to build up his son’s box office credentials. Young Smith started off in a supporting role in 2006 (at the age of 8) with his father in The Pursuit of Happyness, then held his own with Jackie Chan in The Karate Kid in 2010 and now will effectively play the lead in After Earth. All 3 films are produced by Will Smith and his producing partner James Lassiter and generally speaking, these guys have yet to pick a stinker as a project. So, there is every possibility that Mr. Shyamalan will once again have a genuine hit on his hands.
  • At the very end of the summer comes Elysium (Sony Pictures Classics/ Columbia-Tristar), to be released Aug 9th, Neill Blomkamp’s follow up to his masterful debut film District 9.  The film features a very buff Matt Damon alongside Jodie Foster and the star of District 9, South African actor Sharlto Copley. The set photos I have seen indicate that we will once again see a gritty action picture with socio-political overtones like District 9, but I am also looking forward to seeing Elysium, the pristine space habitat built using the Stanford Torus design concept (essentially a hollow, doughnut shaped construct with the populace living inside). Based on the concept art featured here, Blomkamp will use the space habitat setting to accentuate the stark difference between the ‘Haves’ living there and the ‘Have Nots’ living on the surface of a ruined Earth.

As a scifi fan, I will be rooting for all 3 films. I expect Elysium to have the highest critical acclaim, followed by After Earth – provided the critics can get over their hatred of Shyamalan. Oblivion looks a bit generic right now, but will probably benefit by being the first off the blocks at the start of summer and therefore may actually end up earning the highest box office revenue among the 3.

I am pretty sure that by now I have covered every possible post-apocalyptic scenario that can be featured in scifi books, graphic novels and movies. But if I come across a new spin on this sub-genre, I’ll be sure to write about it!

 

Marvel line-up: 2013-2015


With the announcement yesterday of Fantastic Four getting the reboot treatment from Fox Studios, we have now probably got the full line-up of Marvel films for the next 3 years:-

2013

Next year, the action begins in early May with Disney’s release of Iron Man 3, this time directed by powerhouse screenwriter Shane Black, who made his name in the 1980’s and early ‘90s writing the screenplays for the Lethal Weapon series. Of course, he lost his way a bit in the mid-90s with duds like Last Action Hero and The Long Kiss Goodnight, but in 2005 he made a welcome return with the critically acclaimed crime caper Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. That film also featured welcome returns by a couple of ‘washed out’ actors, namely Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer. So, there was a sense of symmetry when it was announced that Mr. Black would be reunited with Mr. Downey Jr. in the 3rd solo adventure for the billionaire super-hero.

In July 2013, Fox extends its X-Men franchise with Hugh Jackman coming back after a 4-year gap to play the indestructible mutant Wolverine (not counting his cameo in X-Men: First Class last summer). Mr. Jackman soared to stardom 12 years ago playing Logan in the first X-Men movie, which can be considered as the launch pad for the vast and intricately linked Marvel movie universe of today. The new movie, titled The Wolverine is directed by James Mangold, who helmed the outstanding Sylvester Stallone crime drama Copland in 1997, helped Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon win Oscars for Girl, Interrupted and Walk the Line respectively and directed the critically praised remake of 3:10 to Yuma in 2007. His only real misstep has been the Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz ‘comedy’ Knight and Day and so he must be looking forward to getting back on to the critics’ love list with The Wolverine. Likewise, Jackman’s last outing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is considered a bit of a mess, so he’ll be keen to get it right this time around. Expectations are high among fanboys because the storyline is based on the famous 1982 comic series set in Japan.

It’s rare to see a Marvel release outside of the summer blockbuster season; next November will see another Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the Norse god in Disney’s Thor: The Dark World, directed by Game of Thrones alumnus Alan Taylor. The choice of director clearly indicates that the story will stay primarily in the fantasy realm of the Nine Worlds. It will be interesting to see how this film fares commercially…no doubt Chris Hemsworth has a major fan following and the first Thor film collected nearly $200 million in the US, but Thor is the sort of character better suited to an ensemble piece like The Avengers and may have difficulty sustaining a solo career.

2014

Chris Evans gets things going early in with a spring release for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, also released by Disney. This is likely to be darker in tone that the first film, with the character of Bucky Barnes returning brainwashed as a Soviet assassin, code named Winter Soldier. Back in 1969, Marvel introduced the first ever African-American hero, The Falcon as a crime-fighting partner for Captain America and now we will get to see the superhero team-up featured on the big screen with Anthony Mackie playing the NYC-based birdman. I also see super-villain Crossbones listed in the movie credits, so one automatically thinks of the Civil War comic book storyline which features Crossbones assisting in the assassination of Captain America…I wonder if that’s how the movie is going to end. Of course, in the Marvel Universe, no one stays dead for very long and Cap will have to be back for the Avengers sequel.

A few weeks later, Andrew Garfield is back as Spider-Man with Marc Webb once again directing the sequel to this summer’s Sony Pictures reboot. This time around, it looks like we are going to have a love triangle with the introduction of Mary Jane Watson’s character to vie with Gwen Stacy for Peter Parker’s affections. The excitement peaked a few days ago with the announcement that Jamie Foxx will play super-villain Electro (as hinted in the post-credits sequence this summer) and Dane DeHaan selected to play Pete’s friend (and closet psychopath) Harry Osborn. DeHaan made quite a splash playing a super-powered psychopath in this year’s found-footage sleeper hit Chronicle and so I can see why the casting director has made this call, as Osborn eventually follows his father’s footsteps and becomes the Green Goblin.

Towards the end of the summer, we have a very exciting team-up arriving on the big screen with X-Men: Days of Future Past from Fox Studios. This is big for several reasons…Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men films in 2000 and 2003, returns as director. This film is the sequel to X-Men: First Class (produced by Singer), which is one of the smartest and most fun films in the Marvel universe. Next year’s sequel features a powerhouse combo of the cast from the original X-Men movies (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan) and the actors playing their younger selves from First Class (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender). And last, but not least, the eponymous storyline is considered to be one of the most famous in X-Men comics canon, featuring time travel. I’m just hoping that audiences are not suffering from Marvel fatigue, with this being the 3rd Marvel film in as many months.

Two weeks later, Disney launches a new franchise in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy. This is a real wild card for Marvel and I myself have never read any of these comic books. It is difficult to picture how this film will fit into the Marvel cinematic universe; one of the links will be the villain Thanos, who appeared in the post-credits sequence to this summer’s The Avengers. But, other than that, the film is unlikely to connect with any of the other Marvel characters or even set on Earth. You see, the Guardians are a 5-member team which includes an anthropomorphic raccoon (named Rocket Raccoon) and a plant monster named Groot. You get the picture…this is starting look more and more like a CGI-heavy space-adventure film that will appeal primarily to kids.

2015

The marvelous fun in 2015 begins with the just-announced reboot of Fantastic Four. It would be ten years since the first Fox film hit the screens in what was a reasonably enjoyable origin story, in spite of its low budget and lack of spectacular effects. In fact, that was the film that made current Captain America actor Chris Evans famous, playing the brash smart-mouthed Human Torch. Now Fox has brought on board young director Josh Trank to helm the reboot and casting news is sure to follow in the next few months. Trank is a fantastic (pun intended!) choice since he directed the critically and commercially successful found-footage movie Chronicle earlier this year, which featured 3 college kids who gain super-powers and then struggle to deal with the physical and emotional changes.

In May, Disney will release The Avengers 2, the much anticipated follow-up to this summer’s megahit. The entire gang is back – director Joss Whedon and all the actors – and the villain will be Thanos, who comes from an evolutionary offshoot of humans called The Eternals. We are likely to see large scale action once again, similar to the attack on NYC featured in the climax of The Avengers. The trick will be to maintain the inter-character dynamics and light banter which made this year’s film such a breakout hit beyond the hard core fans.

Finally, we have yet another rare November release, with the introduction of the long-gestating Ant-Man into the Marvel cinematic universe. British director Edgar Wright rose to fame with the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead and the cop comedy Hot Fuzz, so one wonders what the tone of Ant-Man will be. Mr. Wright has been working on this script for many years now, but it was only this year that the movie was officially announced, although casting has not yet been finalized. The script has been through several iterations and as I understand the latest version of the story will have both the original Ant-Man Dr. Henry Pym and his successor Scott Lang.

So that’s it; we can look forward to 10 films over the next 3 years. Broadly, the movies are now clustered at 3 studios –the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters are at Fox, Sony has the Spider-Man franchise and the Avengers characters are all at Disney, which owns Marvel. Plus, any new character that enters the big screen henceforth will be through Disney (Black Panther and Dr. Strange appear to be closest to making the jump). For the next 3 years, Joss Whedon is at Disney to ensure that the different Avengers universe films maintain internal consistency and continuity. All of this is overseen of course by Kevin Feige, the President of Production and Marvel Studios. Mark Millar, the award winning Scottish comic book writer has been hired by Fox to do a similar job over there with their movies…in fact, it will be interesting to see if Millar engineers any crossovers between the forthcoming X-Men and Fantastic Four films.

Overall, the Marvel universe is in a good place. Over at rival comic book owner DC Comics, they are trying to get their act together; their Batman franchise has ended, the Green Lantern movie was a disaster, but they are expecting a successful reboot of Superman next year with Man of Steel. The big question though is if they can put together a Justice League ensemble film and replicate the success of Marvel’s The Avengers. Current rumours suggest that DC and Warner Bros. are targeting a 2015 release date for just such a movie.