A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the movies that are scheduled for release during the ‘super-summer of 2015’. It seemed to be a case of Disney vs. the Rest of Hollywood, as the Mouse House had scheduled 5 big releases during the period 13th March to 31st July, 2015.
One studio that was missing from the roster was Sony Pictures; well yesterday, news came through that Sony has just put a stake in the ground for Summer 2015. They have signed on Hugh Jackman for a lead role in Chappie, the scifi/ comedy directed by Neill Blomkamp. Mr. Blomkamp has already directed two films which may be described as ‘socially-aware scifi’; he received a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination for his debut feature District 9, but he got the sophomore blues with Elysium this summer, which came across as standard Hollywood scifi fare, and was seen as a critical and commercial disappointment. It will be interesting to see if he can bounce back with Chappie, which is based on his 2004 short film Tetra Vaal about a robot policeman designed for deployment in Third World countries. For Manga afficionados, please note the distinctive ‘rabbit ears’ on the robot, which are an homage to the helmet design of the cyborg Briareos Hecatonchires in the Japanese anime Appleseed.
Universal Pictures already had Jurassic World parked in the middle of June 2015 and they have now added Minions on July 10th. This is a spin-off from the Despicable Me films, is directed by Pierre Coffin and is sure to be a mega-hit.
In my earlier post, I had mentioned that Paramount was bringing back the Terminator franchise in July 2015. I had forgotten to write about another big film they are releasing that summer which aims to establish the studio as a player in the animation business. After tasting success with Rango in 2011, Paramount decided to create its own in-house capability with the setting up of Paramount Animation. Consequently, they decided not to renew their distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation; all DWA films will now be distributed by Fox for the next 5 years. This created an interesting situation; Fox already has an animation unit, which had built its success over the last 10 years around films produced by Blue Sky Animation, which Fox owns. Blue Sky was set up in 1987 by Chris Wedge, one of the pioneers of CGI animation (he created the CG effects for Disney’s TRON in 1982). Along with partner Carlos Saldanha, Mr. Wedge directed Ice Age in 2002, the first of a string of hits for Blue Sky/ Fox, which included the Ice Age sequels, Robots, Horton Hears a Who!, Rio and this year’s ecologically themed Epic. With Chris Wedge starting to look around for new things to do, Fox decided to hedge their bets and get into bed with DWA. Soon after the Fox-DWA deal was announced came the news that Paramount Animation had hired Chris Wedge to direct their big-budget live-action/ CGI-animation hybrid, Monster Trucks. So Paramount and Fox have effectively traded their animation partners.
Paramount is looking to start a “Transformers-like franchise” with Monster Trucks, which is being released on 29th May 2015, smack in the middle of the ‘2015 super-summer’, probably going up against the 2nd weekend of Star Wars Episode VII. I wonder at the irony of Chris Wedge following up on the green-themed Epic with a film built around large, noisy, heavily polluting vehicles! He has experience with this sort of subject matter, having directed Robots in 2005, so let’s see if he can work the magic for Paramount.
I expect at least one more big release to be announced by Paramount for the summer of 2015, as also by Sony and Warner Bros. I also expect Star Wars Episode VII to announce its full title and its exact release date soon. I assume the release date will be May 22nd, 2015 to coincide with its ‘traditional slot’ on Memorial Day weekend.