Maybe We'll Eventually See These Films...

Winter 2021 New Movie Preview

It's been a little while since we had one of these articles, and that's all because of COVID. Even when we could cover upcoming films we've had to do it with an asterisk as, between the collapse of the movie theater industry and people staying at home, watching more on streaming services (which doesn't pull in the same kind of money for studios) it's hard to say what films are really going to arrive when they say they will (versus just being pushed back, and back, and back again).

Still, some studios are optimistic that they'll have films coming out... eventually, so as long as they expect to release films (wherever that may be), we'll report on it. Note that we aren't encouraging anyone to go out to theaters and watch these films -- if anything, we hope all of these come to streaming services and that people stay safe in these COVID times.

Also note: we're only covering upcoming films here. Other entertainment, such as the upcoming slate of Marvel Cinematic UniverseWhen it first began in 2008 with a little film called Iron Man no one suspected the empire that would follow. Superhero movies in the past, especially those not featuring either Batman or Superman, were usually terrible. And yet, Iron Man would lead to a long series of successful films, launching the most successful cinema brand in history: the Marvel Cinematic Universe. television projects, don't really fall under the preview of this article, but have been covered elsewhere on this site.

Chaos Walking
Comes Out: March 5, 2021

With the end of the fourth Phase of the MCU, as well as the conclusion of the "Skywalker Saga" of Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same., it is fair to say that studios are looking for the next big franchise to grab the attention of audiences. Lionsgate rode the last big wave, making YA adaptations to feed the masses (such as The Hunger Games), and I'm sure the studio execs there have wanted to grab a bit of that pie again (despite that the YA Boom has long since passed).

That's all the likely reasoning for Chaos Walking, a new sci-fi "event" film that feels like an under-baked YA story that just so happens to star Tom Holland (of SpidermanSure, DC Comics has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but among the most popular superheroes stands a guy from Marvel Comics, a younger hero dressed in red and blue who shoots webs and sticks to walls. Introduced in the 1960s, Spider-Man has been a constant presence in comics and more, featured in movies regularly since his big screen debut in 2002.) and Daisy Ridley (of Star Wars). Ridley stars as "The Girl" (at least, that's what she's called in the trailer), a scout for a larger colony ship, who crash lands on an Earth-like planet, only to find it already has settlers: and entire town a men and boys. An event sometime in the past wiped out all the women (or, at least, so we're made to believe), and the men all developed "the noise", a phenomenon where their internal voices become externalized images and sound.

Of course, for a YA story there's more going on. Our hero has special powers in his noise, and the Girl has her own dark secret, and the two have to rely on each other if they're going to survive both factions, colonizers and colonists, when they inevitably bang against each other. And, naturally, this is the starting movie for a planned trilogy, so everyone is just prepping here for an even bigger adventure yet to be promised... Sigh.

I'll be honest, I was perfectly happy when the YA boom ended so I didn't have to continue suffering through three-part (and four-part) movies that always seemed to somehow build to a lackluster conclusion. Maybe this one will be better -- it certainly has a strong cast and cool visual effects -- but the trailer makes it look like yet another paint-by-numbers YA adventure. Maybe it'll be better than what's come before, but I somehow expect this to be another misfire for Lionsgate. Perhaps the fact that it'll probably have to go to streaming will help this film in the long run -- it's a lot easier to just pick up a film and watch it when you're already paying for the streaming service anyway.

Raya and the Last Dragon
Comes Out: March 5, 2021

Meanwhile, as Lionsgate tries for a big YA event, Disney is just doing their thing with their animated films. Date-and-date with Chaos Walking we have Disney's latest animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon, which is, actually, also a sci-fi YA adventure when we get right down to it. At least as far as the first trailer indicates, anyway.

In the trailer we're introduced to Raya, a kunoichi and protector of a gem of the "Last Dragon". We see her raiding a temple, which may actually just be a training exercise as part of her guardianship, before the trailer opens up to reveal a post-apocalyptic setting. There are multiple tribes (each with their own ethnic flavor) and a coming apocalypse that can destroy the world... or something. Whatever the case, Raya has to go out, on her own (with the aid of her animal buddy) to find the Last Dragon and somehow use its power to save the last remnants of humanity.

So, in essence, its Moana, but set in a tribe that's made of of various ethnicities (so that no one ethnicity can be offended by Disney's failure to respect their specific culture), and set in the future. Otherwise, it's basically the same film which, actually, Disney has been making for a few years now, over and over again (Tangled and Frozen also kind of fit this mold, to varying levels).

In some ways it looks new and interesting, as at least this isn't another fairy tale setting with a magical princess. At the same time, though, it doesn't seem new enough in ideas of aesthetic. It's a Disney house film made in the Disney house style. I dunno if it would really attract much attention if the multiplexes were open, but as a film that will likely go straight-to-Disney+, this will probably get enough views for Disney to call it a hit.

The King's Man
Comes Out: March 12, 2021

I am actually curious if anyone is itching for more in the Kingsman universe. While the first film was a dumb but of macho-action fun, the second movie lost much of what made the first movie fun or original and just felt... tired. And yet, 20th Century Fox felt like the series was just brimming with possibilities and green-lit a prequel set during the Great War, The King's Man (there's also, apparently, a third films in the works along with another spin-off, so Fox seemed very committed to the film series).

The thing is that a lot of stuff has changed since The King's Man was first announced. Fox, for one, no longer exists, instead now going as "20th Century Studios" as part of Disney. And then there's COVID, which forced the studio to push back the release of this prequel from September of this year to February of next year... and then again to March. No doubt this is a soft deadline and the film very well could move again (or simply go straight-to-Disney+) at some point. We'll just have to see.

As far as the movie itself is concerned, the first and second trailer both make the film seem like another tried-and-true riff on the basic Kingsman material. A bunch of bad guys (apparently led by Rasputin) form a cabal and the "Kingsman" agency (which is really just three people and a trainee at this point n history) are the only ones with the "balls" to act against the cabal. There's a lot of big action, a few seemingly sexist jokes, and enough on screen chaos to make even Zack Snyder stand up and take notice. So, you know, standard Kingsman through and through.

The one thing that I will credit: at least this film is set far enough in the past that we aren't sure who will live or die, avoiding many of the pitfalls of standard prequels. That's not to say this will be any good, but at least the film won't feel beholden to keeping anyone alive for any reason. If this is truly a one-off (and not just a way to start a second series in the franchise set in the 1920s) it could at least be a fun, self-contained adventure. I just don't know, even if theaters were open, that I'd bother paying good money to see it. Who really cares about the Kingsman?

Comes Out: March 19, 2021

It's been a while since we've seen anything about Morbius. The first (and so far only) trailer for the film dropped almost a year ago at this point, and then there's been nary a peep about the film, largely due to everything being put on hold due to the Coronavirus. Sony has big plans for their proposed "Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters" and that, so far, doesn't include releasing any of their films direct-to-streaming. They gotta get a big release here if they want to launch this shared continuity.

And don't get me wrong, this first trailer for the propose film focusing on Spider-man's vampiric villain looks pretty good. It's an origin story, of course, setting up how Michael Morbius goes from a brilliant, but dying, scientist to a powerful, but bat-shit crazy (pun intended), villain. But, from what we can see in the trailer, it doesn't seem like Morbius is going to be a good guy, or have some kind of face-turn to suddenly start saving people (you know, unlike with the other Sony villain picture we've gotten so far, Venom). This one actually looks pretty ass-kickingly cool.

And yet, I still feel hesitant to say this is going to be a winner. For starters, the last Sony-made live-action Spider-man film that didn't involve the MCU was Venom, and I wasn't a huge fan of that movie. Sony's track record with the hero, and his associated rogues gallery, has been generally bad (the bright exceptions of films like Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse notwithstanding). Trailers can be made to look good even when the films they're advertising... aren't. And the fact that we've still not received a second trailer makes me wonder what Sony is hiding.

Sony needs this to be a hit so I won't be surprised if it gets pushed back, again, until they can find some way to release it wide and try to launch their universe. I'm on the fence, though, whether I'll bother seeing it in theaters. With COVID around, Morbius doesn't seem like the risk (even if the vaccine is in wide release by that point).

And That's It...

Yeah, that's not a lot of new movies, but that really shouldn't surprise us, either. The fact is that these holdouts are the only ones the studios really feel comfortable maybe releasing, and all of them could just as easily end up on a for-pay streaming service, or simply pushed back to later in the year. Time will tell as we continue to navigate the pandemic...