Despite the fact that Hollywood seems more interested in sequels and franchise films (especially in the sci-fi/fantasy market), there are a few 2013 movies which bring a new story to the big screen. However, I can’t promise that they won’t be the first in a franchise (in fact, some of the book adaptations already have material for sequels).
Pacific Rim (12 July 2013) takes a new twist on what Japanese anime has done for decades, namely bring to screen the clash between giant robots and monsters. However, Hellboy director Guillermo Del Toro has created a live action version of the cartoons that once had us imagining our toy robots were giant mechs fighting back the alien menace. Visual wish-fulfillment alone has this high on my list. World War Z (21 June 2013) is another high profile sci-fi movie which features Brad Pitt fighting the good fight against a global zombie pandemic. The script is adapted by Lost head honcho Damon Lindelof from the Max Brooks novel. As you may have noticed, I have no love for those hideous creatures (despite their current popularity), so I will keep discussion of their undead exploits to a minimum.
Ender’s Game (1 November 2013) brings to on-screen life another popular sci-fi novel. Harrison Ford makes good use of his gruff demeanour in the role of the relentless Colonel Graff, who trains young-genius cadets to fight an alien war. Hugo‘s Asa Butterfield stars as the battle prodigy Ender Wiggin. I did not love the book, but I am definitely looking forward to the movie.
There are also a couple of sci-fi movies that are more about thought-provoking drama than big effects and global plots. Upstream Color (5 April 2013) sounds like another very unique small-scale/high-concept movie from writer-director Shane Carruth (who also brought us one of my favourite time-travel movies: Primer). This head-trip involves a man and woman whose identity and reality start to crumble as they realize they are intimately linked to the life cycle of an ageless organism. I don’t know what that means either, but I’m intrigued. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity (18 October 2013) is potentially less esoteric but perhaps just as artsy. He puts Sandra Bullock and George Clooney into a space shuttle where are left adrift when space debris disables their ship. Apparently a lot of the movie is delivered by close-ups of the actors space helmets. After the likes of Pacific Rim, I’m not sure I’m up for such a static experience. We’ll have to wait and see.
Fairytales & Fantasy films
Continuing the trend from last year, movie producers seem eager to revisit classic fairytales and add new spins to them. First off is Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (25 January 2013) which seems completely tongue-in-cheek to me. As you may guess from the title, Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play the titular siblings long after they escape their gingerbread imprisonment. Since their first kill, they have grown up to become experts in the elimination of witches. I have no idea what the story of this movie would be, but I’m guessing it will be thin.
Jack the Giant Slayer (1 March 2013) follows another child fighting a storybook monster. In Bryan Singer’s movie, Nicholas Hoult plays our hero Jack, but rather than telling the story of what happens after the fairytale is over, this one seems to expand the story and retell it with a more epic scope. Singer’s a good director, but the trailer left me feeling only lukewarm.
I don’t know if The Wizard of Oz can properly be considered a fairytale, but as a classic children’s bedtime story it was apparently ripe for a prequel (even after the popular musical Wicked). Oz: The Great and Powerful, from Spider-man trilogy director Sam Raimi, tells the story of how a small-time Kansas stage magician became the god-wizard of the land of Oz. I’m not loving James Franco in the lead, but I am an admirer of the good witches as played by Mila Kunis, Rachel Wiesz, and Michelle Williams. From the trailer, the visuals for this movie look quite spectacular as well.
As far as pure fantasy goes (I mean the kind with wizards and robes), I mentioned The Hobbit already, and we also have The Seventh Son (18 October 2013), which is confusingly not based on the Orson Scott Card award-winning novel of the same name, but another novel series called The Wardstone Chronicles. I don’t know much about it, except that it pits Ben Barnes and Jeff Bridges against Julianne Moore (shall we take bets on the quality of her accent?) wearing some severe, evil-villainess make-up. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters follows up the first (in my opinion mediocre) movie based on Rick Riordan’s hugely popular kids novel series. Logan Lerman returns as the demi-god hero, with geek-god Nathan Fillion added to the cast to play Greek god Hermes. A sequel to what one might consider an anti-fairytale is Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (4 October 2013). Most of the original cast return including Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson, along with returning writer-directors Frank Miller (who created the comic book series) and Robert Rodriguez. This bodes well for those of us who really enjoyed the first set of ultra-noir stories.
Animated films have long been a home for retelling classic fairytales. This year there are animated features from practically every studio and a number of them crack open those beloved children’s stories. Disney releases the third in their series of past-participle entitled movies. After Enchanted and Tangled, we now have Frozen (27 November 2013), which features the voices of Kristen Bell (yay!) and Idina Menzel (she’d better sing this time!) based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale of the Snow Queen. Dorothy of Oz is an animated musical sequel to the original which has Glee‘s Lea Michele as Dorothy returning to Oz to help her yellow-brick friends. Epic (24 May 2013) is not apparently based on a particular classic story, but has a lot of those fairytale elements: tiny magical forest folk living amongst the birds and flowers; a rag-tag band of adventurers saving the world from evil, that kind of thing.
Dreamworks’ The Croods (22 March 2013) has Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone (yay!) voicing a prehistoric family who face adventure as they leave their cave and journey to the world beyond. Think Flintstones meets Ice Age.
Of course, animated movies are far from immune to the desire for sequels. Pixar brings back Billy Crystal and John Goodman as Mike and Scully for a prequel to Monsters Inc.. Hijinks ensue as Monsters University (21 June 2013) shows us their college years, before the daily grind of the scare-factory. Steve Carell is back as Gru, and more importantly his many minions are back to delight us in Despicable Me 2 (3 July 2013). If you feels that your meals just don’t get enough altitude, then thankfully Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers (27 September 2013) is on deck as well, with Anna Faris and Neil Patrick Harris reprising their roles. Finally, if you like time-travel as well as talking dogs wearing glasses, you’re in luck because Mr. Peabody and Sherman (1 November 2013) are coming to the big screen in computer-animated glory (along with the voice of Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell as Mr. Peabody).
Finally! An answer to that age-old question: “Now that Twilight is over, what name do we put on our team t-shirts?” Actually, I don’t have the answer, but there are a number of movies coming out this year that hope that they do. Releasing on 13 February 2013 (subtle, eh?), Beautiful Creatures is first out the gate. Instead of vamps and weres, this movie (based on a book series, natch!) features teen romance among some powerful, magic-wielding clans (with a C) in the American South. You may be tempted to dismiss this, but for your consideration, Oscar heavy-weights Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, and Emma Thompson are all cashing paycheques from this movie. I don’t know if The Host (29 March 2013) is a romance but the original novel was written by Stephenie Meyer, who brought us those adventures of Bella, Edward, and Jacob which we love/hate. Saoirse Ronan (love her!) plays the main character Melanie Stryder, who is inhabited by an alien parasite/soul who doesn’t want to invade us like the rest of her race or snatch our bodies (at least not any more bodies) but instead wants to help the humans be free.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (23 August 2013) is the other supernatural “book series that wants to be a movie franchise” vying for the hearts of swooning audiences everywhere. Lily Collins (last seen in Mirror, Mirror) plays Clary Fray, a young NYC girl whose mom is taken away by a demon. Her life gets turned upside down and she discovers a whole secret supernatural world right under everyone’s noses as well as some (you guessed it) secrets about herself (One such secret is that all magical teens apparently channel their power through Supremes-style hand gestures). Warm Bodies is a different kind of romance. I hesitate to mention it as it involves a girl who falls for a boy who happens to be the Z word. I think the premise is ridiculous … although I loved Shaun of the Dead, which was labelled a rom-zom-com (go figure!). If you’re interested, it will be out in less than a month (1 February 2013 to be exact), but I just plan to shut my eyes until it’s gone. Byzantium is less of a romance than a pure vampire tale, about two-centuries-old mother and daughter played by Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan (yay again!). It sounds a little bit like a variation on Let Me In with Chloe Moretz. One of my faves (Rachel McAdams) surprisingly returns to the very narrow category of time-travel romance. This time About Time (10 May 2013) is probably more of a rom-com and more light-hearted than The Time Traveler’s Wife, but if McAdams is in it and it’s got some time-travel (not to mention writer-director Richard Curtis of Notting Hill, Love Actually, and Bridget Jones fame), I am so there!
Phew! So there we go!! It’s going to be quite a busy year in sci-fi and fantasy movie-going. Lots to look forward to until The Hobbit returns, no?
If you missed the first half of my list, here’s a link.