Fall Movie Preview
When Bumblebee comes out this December, it will mark many firsts for the Transformers franchise: It will be the first Transformers film to not be directed by Michael Bay. (Kubo and the Two Strings director Travis Knight will be behind the camera.) It will be the franchise’s first prequel. And it will be the first film in the series to be written by a woman.
“I think it’s a bit of a myth that action is for boys,” Bumblebee screenwriter Christina Hodson tells Den of Geek. As a half-Asian Brit growing up watching action movies, Hodson rarely saw main characters who looked like her in the genre’s sea of white, male protagonists in their 30s and 40s.
“I always wanted to see me be the hero,” Hodson says. “I wanted to see me kick ass. I mean, not literally. I had no desire to be an actor, but I wanted to have those role models and those heroes. I think what’s really fun is that [Bumblebee] is a big, cool, fun, action movie the boys are going to love, but girls love action, too, and this is a chance for girls to see themselves in the movie. Which I think is a really special and important thing.”
Bumblebee is set in 1987, 20 years before the events of the first Transformers film. It stars True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie Watson, a teen girl living in a small California beach town who finds Bumblebee in the local junkyard.
“Charlie is really our entry point into the movie. She doesn’t know anything about Transformers,” says Hodson, calling Bumblebee “custommade for people who are new to the franchise.” “But, of course, if you’re a fan, you’ll get wonderful little Easter eggs that you’ll get to enjoy that other people won’t.”
The prequel film offers a chance to get to see the Bumblebee character, who Hodson admits has always been her favorite, in a new light.
“This is really an origin story for Bumblebee,” she says, “but the character traits are all the same. They’re all there. His loyalty; his kindness; he’s fun-loving; really he’s been the one who has always had that special bond with humans, whether it’s Sam or someone else; that was something that I wanted to lean into a bit and see where and how that began.”
Like the first Transformers film, which featured a friendship between Bumblebee and Sam as its emotional core, Bumblebee is all about the friendship between an Autobot and a human.
“I had a really clear sense in my mind of who [Charlie] was as a person and what they would mean to each other,” she says. “That was always the North Star that guided everything.” Bumblebee hits theaters on Dec. 21, just in time for the holidays. “I think it will absolutely make a good Christmas movie,” she says. “It’s a movie that everyone in the family can enjoy because it’s got that wonder and that joy. It’s a little bit sweet, it’s a little bit sad, but it’s also just fun and big and there’s lots of great action…It’s a good Christmas outing.” — KAYTI BURT
BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
Give Fox a little credit here: This is an original film written and directed by Drew Goddard, who’s penned scripts for movies like The Martian, and directed and co-wrote the cult horror gem The Cabin in the Woods. This time out he’s in noir territory as seven strangers with dark secrets collide one night at the titular hotel. The cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, and Nick Offerman. We’re intrigued to check into this Goddard vision.— DK
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB
A semi-sequel to David Fincher’s 2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and a “soft” reboot of the nascent film series based on the Lisbeth Salander books, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is itself based on a later novel that’s not part of late author Stieg Larsson’s original “Millennium Trilogy.” Rising star Claire Foy takes over the role of Lisbeth from Rooney Mara as the tattooed hacker who seeks vengeance for battered women and gets caught up in—of course—a vast conspiracy. The character of Lisbeth remains compelling, but it’s hard to say whether audiences will want to revisit her dark world. — DON KAYE
Normally we'd classify Dario Argento's blood-drenched 1977 class ic as one of those horror milestones that cannot be remade, but damn if we’re not excited to see what director Luca Guadagnino (Call Me by Your Name) has done with it. Guadagnino’s films possess a luscious sensory texture and vibrancy; it will be interesting to see how he handles this tale of a dance academy that fronts for a coven. Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, however, may have a hard time topping Goblin’s unforgettable score, even with a cast that includes Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Grace Moretz, and the original’s Jessica Harper.— DK
We haven't had a good "Nazi occult experiments" film in what seems like ages, and producer J.J. Abrams clearly concurs since he’s been developing this World War II-set thriller under his Bad Robot banner for nearly a decade. With the usual shroud of mystery surrounding the project, which is directed by Julius Avery and stars a mostly little-known cast, speculation arose that it would actually be revealed as the fourth film in the ongoing Cloverfield series. Abrams shot that down, but in the meantime the trailer looks creepy enough on its own terms. Bring it on, Nazi dogs! — DK
A knockout all-star cast led by Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell, and Liam Neeson populates director Steve McQueen’s follow-up to his 2013 triumph 12 Years a Slave. Based on a 1983 British miniseries, Widows follows three women as they strive to finish a heist that their dead criminal husbands left undone. Look for something less heavy than 12 Years but almost equally empowering and socially conscious. — DK
FANTASTIC BEASTS THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD
J.K. Rowling, director David Yates, and the returning cast of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—including Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, and Zoë Kravitz—pick up right where they left off, battling evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) in this second Harry Potter prequel. Controversy has dogged the film over Depp’s casting and the question of whether Albus Dumbledore (whose younger self is introduced here in the form of Jude Law) will be explicitly depicted as gay. But if you loved the first Fantastic Beasts, this is probably your cup of magical English tea. — DK
RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET
The 57th animated Disney film, this sequel to 2012’s surprise hit Wreck-It Ralph seems to be moving away from the video game nostalgia of the first movie as Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) get sucked out of the arcade and into the wild world of the internet, where no doubt they will go into battle with Last Jedi haters, alt-right trolls, and Donald Trump (c’mon, we jest). Other Disney characters are expected to show up in droves, but let’s hope all the corporate synergy doesn’t drown out the charm and quirkiness that made the original such a delight. — DK
Let’s be honest: It’s hard to imagine a worthy follow-up to 2015’s evocative Creed without recalling the increasingly silly, formulaic path that previous Rocky sequels took. The signs are not good here either. Ryan Coogler has abdicated the director’s chair, handing it to Steven Caple Jr., while the screenplay (co-written by Sylvester Stallone and Luke Cage showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker) finds Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) getting in the ring against the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the man who killed his father way back in Rocky IV. Still, never underestimate the sheer presence of Jordan—he might have to carry this one a few rounds. — DON KAYE
Adapting the enormous world of the beloved 2001 novel Mortal Engines is a big task… even for the director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
“After The Hobbit, I was exhausted, and didn’t want to face the huge pressure of directing another tentpole film like this,” Peter Jackson tells us.
That’s understandable. Mortal Engines imagines a future where following a catastrophic war, London and other large cities are moving behemoths—people, architecture, and cultures situated atop gargantuan gears and tracks that race these metropolises across a desolate landscape. As these “traction cities” continue on their path, they engage in “Municipal Darwinism,” gobbling up any smaller city before them.
Mortal Engines is such an ambitious concept that, like the traction cities it depicts, it threatens to gobble up any filmmaker who dares to adapt it. Still, Jackson had the rights and wanted this film made. So, as he’s done before, the filmmaker found someone else. This time around it was Christian Rivers’ turn.
“Because Christian had directed great stuff on our Hobbit splinter unit, he seemed like on obvious choice to offer it to. It’s worked out very well,” Jackson says. And what was it like being entrusted with a massive story by one of cinema’s strongest tellers of epic tales for first-time director Rivers? “Terrifying,” he says. The New Zealand-based Rivers has been in Jackson’s orbit since storyboarding his 1992 zombie comedy Dead Alive. Rivers would go on to work on special and visual effects for Jackson, the director’s partner Fran Walsh; and Weta Workshop for projects including The Hobbit and King Kong.
While Mortal Engines is indeed a big project set in a big world, Rivers sees the universal appeal in its story. Like the novel, the film follows the intersecting paths of Tom (Robert Sheehan), a low-class historian apprentice from London, and Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), a disfigured would-be assassin set on killing the head of London’s Guild of Historians, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Hester’s mission takes her and Tom to a place few traction city citizens have ever been: the ground. From there the characters embark on an emotional, revelatory journey that wouldn’t seem out of place in Jackson’s mythopoetic Lord of the Rings.
“What I hope that audiences will enjoy about this film is that it’s something utterly new and unique… but also familiar,” Rivers says. “It’s not some completely left field fantasy. It’s set in our future and there are real characters. Tom is pushed out of his comfort zone and pushed to become someone he’s always wanted to be. That’s something universal and [beyond] traction cities.”
Jackson finds similar themes to love in Mortal Engines.
“I love these characters, and their non-conformity to the usual Hollywood stereotypes,” he says. “What appealed to me about the premise is, instead of depicting a future world where all norms of society have broken down, these books take place in a new form of society that’s very different to ours, but is far from the lawless Mad Max type of vision.” — ALEC BOJALAD
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
From its kinetic, almost psychedelic animation style to the possibilities hinted at in its very title, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t your average Spider-Man movie. But this would mark an important piece of Spider-Man history even without these other elements, as it’s also bringing Miles Morales to the big screen for the first time, voiced by Shameik Moore (The Get Down). The Spider-Verse itself contains a multitude of Spider-heroes, including Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), and far stranger ones. “I didn’t know people were so excited about Spider-Ham,” Moore says, referring to the wild response that character’s reveal got at SDCC in July.
The animated movie serves as Miles’ origin story, charting his journey from smart kid to superhero. Along the way, he meets an older, wiser Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), who helps Miles discover his new powers and the hero within. But Miles is far more than just a younger version of Spider-Man, and the differences go deeper than a different costume or new powers. “There are small things that add up to big things,” Moore says. “Miles is a Brooklyn boy, and Peter is from Queens. Miles likes hip-hop and spray painting and stuff. There’s an artsy side we don’t really get to see from Peter Parker.”
Miles and Peter also have a different initial attitude towards superheroics. “Miles is nothing like Peter on the outside, but they both have something special in them that allows the universe to give them these opportunities,” Moore says. “Miles is young, he’s ambitious, and he doesn’t really want these powers at first. When Peter was bitten he was surprised but he liked it. Miles’ new abilities are a slow burn. He doesn’t immediately want to be Spider-Man.”
But don’t worry: In true Spider-Man fashion, the young hero embraces the “great responsibility” that always comes with “great power.”
“Miles Morales is a representation of a new generation,” Moore says. “I think he’s a great role model. Sometimes situations are going to be forced on you, and you have to make the most of your situation. Anyone can accomplish their goals. Anyone can overcome adversity. Miles Morales represents that.”— MIKE CECCHINI
MARY POPPINS RETURNS
P.L. Travers wrote seven more books about magical nanny Mary Poppins after publishing the original classic in 1934, so in theory there is a lot of material to mine for a legitimate sequel. Whether this film delves into Travers’ canon remains to be seen, but we hope director Rob Marshall recaptures at least some of the magic of the 1964 Disney masterpiece. We can’t think of a better successor to Julie Andrews than Emily Blunt, and the rest of the cast—Lin- Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Meryl Streep, Emily Mortimer, and more—sounds supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. — DK
After a sharply divided 2017 that saw Wonder Women soar while Justice League crashed and burned, the DC film universe begins yet another reset with director James Wan’s (The Conjuring) underwater sci-fi epic. Jason Momoa gets to carry the whole picture on his massive shoulders and while he’s got charisma to spare, we’ll see if he can float as a leading man. But even with multiple villains and a vast amount of watery CG, Wan is a canny and clever storyteller who could make Aquaman into the kind of buoyant, colorful cruise that DC needs right now. — DK