Few industries enjoy taking really, really long extended holiday vacations quite like Hollywood, and when we get to this time of the year, there’s rarely much in the realm of “movie development news” to discuss. So, this week and next, we’re going to review 12 of the year’s top stories, presented to you in monthly chronology. The year-in-review begins with the “Fresh Developments” of 2020, and we’ll continue next week with the year’s “Rotten Ideas.”
(Photo by Jasin Boland/©Marvel)
Lucasfilm and Disney obviously wanted to continue making Star Wars movies after Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but the “who” (and presumably the “what”) has changed repeatedly in just the last couple of years. For example, former plans for Star Wars Story movies like Boba Fett and Obi-Wan were shelved (in favor of the now planned shows on Disney+), and there was also a period when Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were developing a future Star Wars trilogy, as well as another project from The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson. If one wants to find a single clear trend for Star Wars, a strong argument can be made for the influence of Marvel. That influence continued in January when we learned that Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok) had reportedly been approached by Lucasfilm about developing his own Star Wars movie. Waititi’s Star Wars project was confirmed in May with the news that he was also writing the project. In related news, this was also a big year for Waititi’s next Marvel Studios film, Thor: Love and Thunder (5/6/2022), including the casting of Christian Bale as the film’s villain, who we now know will be Gorr the God Butcher. Waititi also teased in April that Thor: Love and Thunder will feature what he’s calling “space sharks.” We’re still waiting for clarification on what exactly that means, but sure, why not? You do you, Taika Waititi.
(Photo by Paramount Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, the obvious focus was on the Star Wars franchise, but Indiana Jones was another long-running property that Disney acquired at the same time. By that point, Paramount had already been developing an Indiana Jones 5 for a few years (basically since the 2008 release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Certified Fresh at 78%), which continued until the film finally received a release date of July 19, 2019. That obviously didn’t happen, with the release date finally landing on July 29, 2022 (16 days after Harrison Ford turns 80). With Steven Spielberg still working on his West Side Story remake (12/10/2021), there had been recent speculation about Indiana Jones 5, which was cleared up back in February when Spielberg dropped out of directing it. Instead, we learned James Mangold (Logan, The Wolverine, Ford v Ferrari) was in talks to direct Indiana Jones 5, with Harrison Ford still attached as the film’s star. The decision to hire Mangold to direct what will probably be Ford’s last film as the adventuring archaeologist also inspired comparisons to Mangold’s work on Logan, Hugh Jackman’s last film as Wolverine.
(Photo by Linda Kallerus/Netflix)
Everyone has had their own personal way to pass the time during their COVID-19-related quarantines, but apparently, directors like George Miller chose to push forward on a new film, specifically searching for the new star of his prequel to the 2015 fan favorite Mad Max: Fury Road (Certified Fresh at 97%). Furiosa will reportedly depict what Charlize Theron’s character was doing years before meeting Mad Max, so Miller was looking for a younger actress for the role and “Skype-tested” various actresses to that end. The one name that was floated out back in March was 23-year-old Anya Taylor-Joy, who first came to most people’s attention as the star of The Witch and Split before enjoying a big 2020 in the Jane Austen adaptation Emma., the Marvel movie The New Mutants, and the smash hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. Miller hopes to start filming Furiosa sometime in 2021 after he wraps filming of his current project, Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. In October, Anya Taylor-Joy was indeed confirmed to star as Furiosa, along with Australian star Chris Hemsworth (Marvel’s Thor, obviously), and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who played both Black Manta in Aquaman and Doctor Manhattan in HBO’s Watchmen (our apologies if that’s a spoiler for a show that aired a year ago). Hemsworth will reportedly play a character called Dementus who has a huge silver scar on his face, and Abdul-Mateen will play a character called Pretorian. Those names seem to confirm that the film will indeed be set in “post-apocalyptic” times and not, as might have guessed, before the end of the world. Tom Hardy is not expected to reprise his role as Mad Max, as his character would be much younger, and also because Max and Furiosa had not seemed to know each other in Fury Road. You can read here what Anya Taylor-Joy said in October about being cast as Furiosa, as well as an editorial about what George Miller might have planned for the prequel.
(Photo by ©Walt Disney Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)
Of the 10 animated features that Walt Disney Pictures released in the decade that began in 1989 with the release of The Little Mermaid, four of them have had remakes in recent years (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and just this year, Mulan), and two currently in the works (The Little Mermaid and The Hunchback of Notre Dame). We’re probably never going to get a live-action Rescuers Down Under, so of those ten, that just leaves Pocahontas, Tarzan, and Hercules, and after this week, we can whittle that number down even further to just two. Back in April, it was announced that Walt Disney Pictures is now developing a live-action remake of their 1997 mythological animated musical Hercules (Certified Fresh at 84%). The Hercules remake has two direct connections to Marvel Studios in the form of producers Joe and Anthony Russo (the directors of Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame) and screenwriter Dave Callaham, who is currently working on Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (5/7/2021). It is reportedly unclear if the remake will have musical songs from the original or if it will be a non-musical remake a la Mulan, and we don’t yet know who will direct it (although there have been some rumors). Another question left to be addressed is where this puts Marvel’s own version of Hercules, who is one of the earliest members of the Avengers (#11, just before Black Panther and Vision), and one of the longest-running team members as well (his longest stint was in the 1990s). Will Disney’s Hercules kill any chances of Marvel’s Hercules from ever joining the MCU, or does the involvement of the Russo Brothers suggest some sort of overlap?
(Photo by ©Universal Pictures)
It was probably always inevitable, but Hollywood is finally making its way to outer space, and it’s going to be done by one of the industry’s biggest stars. In May, we learned that Tom Cruise and Elon Musk’s Space X were collaborating on the solar system’s first narrative feature to be filmed in outer space. The action-adventure will not be part of Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise, and no studio is currently attached. NASA was also quick to announce this week that the project will also film on the International Space Station, which suggests that Cruise may be spending some time on the station himself, possibly for an extended period, even. A few weeks later, we learned that Cruise will be reuniting with director Doug Liman, with whom he has previously worked on both Edge of Tomorrow (Certified Fresh at 90%) and American Made (Certified Fresh at 86%), for the film. (They’re also both committed to an Edge of Tomorrow sequel, by the way.) Incidentally, Cruise and Liman had previously been developing a movie called Lunar Park (about “renegade employees who venture to the moon to steal an energy source”), but this new project is reportedly a separate film.
(Photo by Lev Radin/Everett Collection)
After attaining fame with Hamilton on Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda expanded into film and animation, including work with Disney on Mary Poppins Returns (in which he co-starred) and Moana (he co-wrote the songs). We’ve also known for a while that Miranda has a project with Sony Animation called Vivo (6/4/2021), and in June, another new project with Disney Animation was revealed. Talking to Good Morning America, Miranda mentioned that he is spending his quarantine-at-home time working on an untitled Disney animation project set in Colombia. Reportedly, the project will be directed by Byron Howard and Jared Bush, who worked with Miranda as the directors of Moana (Certified Fresh at 95%). This news came just a few days after this Disney blog reported that Miranda, Howard, and Bush were working on a Disney musical called Encanto (Spanish for “charm”) about a young girl from a magical family who does not have any magical powers herself. Walt Disney Pictures has scheduled Encanto for a theatrical release on November 24, 2021, which is currently also the release date of Ridley Scott’s Gucci, starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver.
One of the last movies to enjoy a decent theatrical run in early 2020 right before COVID-19 cast its shadow on the rest of the year was Universal Pictures’ remake of their classic monster movie, The Invisible Man (Certified Fresh at 91% ), directed by Leigh Whannell, the Australian producer, director, and screenwriter who got his start collaborating on the Saw with future Aquaman director James Wan. That film happened after Universal Pictures scrapped their previous “Dark Universe” plans to reboot their classic monsters, which would have included Johnny Depp starring in The Invisible Man and rumors of Dwayne Johnson possibly starring in Wolfman. Despite opening just as the pandemic kicked into high gear, The Invisible Man was otherwise a financial success, so Univeral Pictures is moving forward with similar reboots, including Wolfman. In July, the news broke that Ryan Gosling was Universal’s top choice to star in Wolfman, and seemingly confirming that Gosling has indeed signed on, the studio also began talks with Whannell about writing and directing the film to continue the thread between The Invisible Man and their ambitious werewolf movie. Leigh Whannell and Ryan Gosling have reportedly wanted to work together “for some time.”
(Photo by Francois Duhamel/©Annapurna Pictures)
Although “SPUMC” is a pretty clumsy abbreviation, Sony Pictures does indeed have a massive “Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters” slate planned. In addition to Venom and the upcoming Morbius (3/19/2021, delayed from 7/10/2020 because of COVID-19), the SPUMC development schedule currently includes: Jackpot, Kraven the Hunter, Madame Web, Nightwatch, Silk, and The Sinister Six. One of the most talked about stories in August was the announcement that Sony had officially hired actress-turned-director Olivia Wilde for an “untitled female-centric Marvel movie.” Most of the stories about Wilde’s hiring speculated that the secret project was probably Spider-Woman, A.K.A. Jessica Drew, who debuted in the comics in 1977 before soon after getting her own Saturday morning cartoon (which you can now watch on Disney+). It’s also possible that Wilde’s project could be about another “Spider” woman hero, like Silk, Ghost-Spider (A.K.A. Spider-Gwen), Madame Web, or someone previously unmentioned like Spider-Girl or Araña (Peter Parker has got a lot of female counterparts). Olivia Wilde’s next project as director will be a thriller called Don’t Worry Darling, starring Florence Pugh, Dakota Johnson, Shia LaBeouf, and Chris Pine.
(Photo by Steven Ferdman/Everett Collection)
It no doubt still stings some Disney fans a little that last year’s photorealistic remake of The Lion King (Rotten at 52%) ended up with a Rotten Tomatometer score. Despite the critical reaction, though, Walt Disney Pictures absolutely did have an astounding success with the remake, which ended 2019 as the year’s second highest grossing box office hit, second only to Avengers: Endgame (the highest grossing movie ever). So, it was perhaps not at all surprising that Walt Disney Pictures is indeed moving forward with plans for a sequel to The Lion King. The studio, possibly hoping to attract higher critical scores this time around, also upped their game by hiring director Barry Jenkins, who is probably still best known for his 2016 film Moonlight (Certified Fresh at 98%), which won three Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, and in a historic reveal, Best Picture. We learned early on that instead of adapting either of the original film’s two direct-to-video sequels, the new film will instead serve as a prequel depicting the early years of Mufasa, Simba’s father. The Lion King prequel is being adapted by screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, who also wrote last year’s photorealistic remake.
(Photo by Derek Storm/Everett Collection)
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, HBO Max is streaming Warner Bros.’ Wonder Woman 1984, the second film directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot as the titular superhero, on Christmas Day. We’ve known for a while that Gadot and Jenkins do have plans to eventually make a third Wonder Woman movie together, but what we didn’t know was that they will be reuniting for another movie about a heroine with ancient mythologial roots. As of mid-October, Gal Gadot is now attached to star in a Paramount Pictures Cleopatra biopic directed by Patty Jenkins and based on the life of Cleopatra VII, the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt. Cleopatra has been a favorite subject for Hollywood epics since its earliest days, including Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 film starring Claudette Colbert and the 1963 film starring Elizabeth Taylor. There have been a number of attempts at Cleopatra biopics over the last several years, including one at Sony Pictures that in the past had both Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga possibly in talks to star. That Sony project has been in development for over 10 years, and it’s not known at this point whether Sony will push forward to compete with the Gal Gadot version or give up on Cleopatra completely.
(Photo by Paramount Pictures)
If the COVID-19 pandemic had never happened, A Quiet Place Part II would have come out a little over nine months ago (March 20, 2020). Around that time, John Krasinski was quoted online as saying he had ideas for a third Quiet Place movie, but in November, the news broke that A Quiet Place will proceed not with a direct sequel, but with a spin-off that expands the franchise’s cinematic universe instead. (This spin-off is also based on a story idea by John Krasinski, so it’s quite possible that it’s the same idea he talked about back in March.) The third film is expected to expand the post-apocalyptic world in which human survivors are stalked by monsters with a super-senstive sense of hearing. Krasinski directed the first two movies (and appeared in both along with his wife Emily Blunt), but the third film will be directed by Jeff Nichols, marking the first time he’s worked on a “franchise film,” after several of his own projects, including Mud (Certified Fresh at 97%), Midnight Special (Certified Fresh at 84%), and Loving (Certified Fresh at 89%). Paramount Pictures is reportedly aiming to release the third Quiet Place movie sometime in 2022. Meanwhile, A Quiet Place Part II, starring Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy, and Djimon Hounsou, is currently scheduled for April 23, 2021, which is over a year after the sequel’s original release date. Although no casting has been announced yet for the third film, it’s worth noting that Michael Shannon has starred or co-starred in every one of Jeff Nichols’ films so far, so we might see him chased by killer monsters soon.
The Walt Disney Company, like most huge corporations, annually hosts “investor calls” in which they detail some of their plans for future quarters and fiscal years and review financial numbers. If that all sounds pretty dry, it’s because most events like it usually are, except that other companies don’t own Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar. Much of what was announced just a couple of weeks ago was for the Disney+ streaming app, but there were several big announcements for theatrically released feature films as well. Pixar shared details about their next post-Soul film, the Italy-based Luca (6/18/2021), as well as Turning Red (about a little girl who turns into a red panda, due out 3/11/2022), and the Toy Story sort-of-prequel Lightyear (6/17/2022), starring Chris Evans as the voice of the real Buzz Lightyear upon which the Tim Allen-voiced toy is supposed to be based. Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins will direct the next Star Wars movie, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (12/25/2023), and as we mentioned above, Taika Waititi is also still working on his own Star Wars movie to be released in 2024 or later. As for Marvel, their waterfall of announcements included confirmation that Christian Bale will co-star in Thor: Love and Thunder (5/6/2022) as the villain Gorr the God Butcher. We also now know that relative newcomer Xochitl Gomez will co-star in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (3/25/2022) as the young superhero America Chavez, who might be newsworthy for multiple reasons. Captain Marvel 2 (7/8/2022) will not only give us the MCU feature film debut of Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, A.K.A. Ms. Marvel on Disney+, but also Teyonah Parris as the adult version of Monica Rambeau (herself a superhero in the comics). We also now have a new title for Ant-Man the the Wasp: Quantumania, which will feature Kathryn Newton as Cassie Lang, Ant-Man’s daughter, who in the comics is the superhero Stature. And finally, the director of the three Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, Jon Watts, has also been tapped by Marvel Studios to helm the hotly anticipated Fantastic Four reboot, presumably with plans to incorporate Marvel’s “First Family” into the MCU. It was a whole lot of information to process, but also a whole lot of good stuff to look forward to.