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In the world of cinema, the man with the biggest wallet is king. The best film I saw in 2016 was probably I, Daniel Blake, an indie film about the struggles of everyday people trying to survive on benefits. But films of that nature don’t do big business in Hollywood. The accolades are preserved for the films with the big budgets, the big names and the big expectations. Indie gems may creep in under the radar, but hype will always prosper – though of course, the taller you are, the harder you fall. So here’s a disclaimer – these are not necessarily going to be the best films of 2017. These are the films with the most build-up, the most riding on them, and the most people praying to God that they don’t disappoint. Let’s get this hype train on the tracks.
The Lego Batman Movie (February 10)
The Lego Movie was a hilariously funny movie to warm even the most icily cynical of hearts, but that goodwill is going to dry up fast if they milk their franchise for all its worth, as they appear to be intent on doing. The first of FOUR planned sequels to the original is the Lego Batman Movie, the obvious choice for a spinoff given the standout performance of Will Arnett as the caped crusader last time out. But that worked so well because Batman only appeared in short bursts; the idea of having a whole film based around the character might not be as amazing as everyone imagines. Still, the trailer is promising, starring Ralph Fiennes as the fatherly butler Alfred and Michael Cera as a predictably camp Robin. This should not be a difficult concept to get right, given how many jokes have been made about the character over the years. And with the Lego series still fresh, I imagine I will find it within my heart to be charitable. The Lego Ninjago movie later this year might not get such an easy ride.
Ghost in the Shell (March 31)
2016 was the year for live-action adaptations of beloved stories, and few are more beloved (in Japan) than Ghost in the Shell. Ghost in the Shell tells the story of a counter-cyberterrorism organisation in mid-21st century Japan, led by Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cybernetic human skilled in deduction and hacking. Now let’s see which famous Japanese actress they’ve cast in the role…hmmm, a Miss Scarlett Johansson, no less. Wait, what? Director Rupert Sanders (also not Japanese) has copped a lot of flak for this, but mostly from oversensitive people in the western world – from what I can tell, the Japanese manga fans are mostly on board with the move, having assumed that a white actress would be cast in the role anyway. Let’s hope this film can overcome its early controversies and deliver a spectacle that does justice to its source material.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (May 5)
The success of Guardians of the Galaxy is, in one way, a colossal ego boost for Marvel. They now have such an iron grip on cinema-goers that they can throw a tree, a raccoon and a former professional wrestler together into a superhero team and the movie still makes a fortune at the box office. But Guardians didn’t make so much money just because it was a Marvel movie. It made that much because it was good, a bit more light-hearted than the usual fare, packed with funny one-liners and classic tunes from the 70s. Guardians 2 promises to be more of the same, which is exactly what the doctor ordered. The internet went crazy for baby Groot when the trailers started hitting YouTube, but I was always a bigger fan of Drax, and it’s his hilarious laughter which steals the show. The trailers don’t hint at much of a plot beyond the usual saving the world shtick, but I’m okay with that. This ragtag bunch of misfits will always find ways to be entertaining.
Dunkirk (July 21)
I felt I should include at least one original IP in here, albeit one based on a battle that happened 77 years ago. Who better to turn to than Christopher Nolan, the visionary director bringing the events of the Dunkirk evacuation to life in epic fashion. Early trailers are excitingly reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, with a dash of the beach scenes from Atonement thrown in for good measure. This may be the film which is best-equipped to do well this year, with Nolan in the director’s chair, Hans Zimmer in charge of the score and an all-star cast featuring Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and, erm, Harry Styles. Clues about the plot are currently hard to come by, but we all know how this ends – many heroes die, but many more escape, and the Brits go on to thrash old Jerry senseless, I say! Of all the mainstream films coming out this year, I would say this is the most promising.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (December 15)
The eighth instalment of the regular Star Wars series must be the most anticipated film of the year. The franchise has been rejuvenated over the last couple of years, first with Episode VII, which was everything the prequels should have been, and then with Rogue One, the darkest Star Wars film to date and a nice intermission from the ongoing saga. As we return to the main story, there is much to be resolved. Who are Rey’s parents? Who, or what, is Supreme Leader Snoke? Will Kylo Ren take anger management classes? The silence is deafening, and it looks as if we’re going to be left waiting until the spring before we finally get a trailer. But with the story set in motion, Rian Johnson at the helm and Luke Skywalker back on the scene, I’m cautiously optimistic for the future of Star Wars.