Yes, yes, yes… Hollywood is all about sequels and superhero movies these days, originality is dead, commerce trumps art, and so on. But there are some good (or at least, some very promising) sequels and superhero movies coming out in 2017. It continues to be a good time to be a comic book nerd.
However, there are also several movies coming out that mark the return of some of my favorite directors and a couple of Netflix exclusives that demonstrate the streaming service’s continued push to be a vital channel for new, original content.
John Wick: Chapter 2 by Chad Stahelski
Yep, the angry assassin with the dog is back. The first John Wick was a truly enjoyable, hyper-violent “B” movie and it was the role Keanu Reeves was born to play after The Matrix. The sequel looks like more of the same — e.g., Wick mowing down an army of faceless minions while looking fabulous in a well-tailored suit — which is all I could ask for. As an added bonus, Reeves is reunited with his Matrix mentor, Laurence Fishburne. Release Date: February 10
The Lego Batman Movie by Chris McKay
Batman was arguably the breakout character from 2014’s delightful The Lego Movie. So it only makes sense for him to get his own movie. Will Arnett will once again voice the character — which is as it should be — and the Caped Crusader will be joined by the usual array of heroes and villains (e.g., Robin, Batgirl, Catwoman, Joker). The only thing better than Arnett as Batman is Ralph Fiennes as Alfred. Release Date: February 10
The Great Wall by Zhang Yimou
Zhang Yimou has long been considered one of China’s greatest directors; his career is marked by an array of highly acclaimed and visually stunning “art house” movies (e.g., Raise the Red Lantern, The Road Home, Hero), as well as a spectacular Olympics opening ceremony. So it seems absolutely crazy that his next film is a big budget Hollywood fantasy epic featuring giant monsters.
The Great Wall has generated some accusations of “whitewashing” because it stars Matt Damon as the male lead; Yimou has adamantly denied that Damon’s casting is problematic. If the film had any other director, I’d write The Great Wall off as another generic Hollywood blockbuster trainwreck, but Yimou’s involvement does make me curious. Release Date: February 17
Logan by James Mangold
I haven’t seen any of the standalone Wolverine movies, primarily because Wolverine was always one of the least-interesting X-Men to me. (I preferred the likes of Cyclops, Gambit, or Nightcrawler.) But there’s no denying Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the character is great and perhaps even, for lack of a better term, iconic.
Logan is reportedly Jackman’s final turn at the character, and the movie borrows from the “Old Man Logan” storyline, in which an aging Logan seeks to atone for his sins in a post-apocalyptic world. The first Logan trailer looks fantastic and far grittier than the usual X-Men movie fare — Jackman took a pay cut to ensure the movie’s “R” rating — and the use of Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” is the icing on the cake. Release Date: March 3
T2: Trainspotting by Danny Boyle
Renton, Spud, Sickboy, Begbie… the whole miscreant lot is back for the long-awaited sequel to Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. At the end of the first movie, Renton left his dysfunctional friends — and his heroin addiction — behind to start a new life. In T2, he’s returned to his old haunt and I think it’s safe to say chaos will ensue.
The original Trainspotting was characterized by an intense, nervous energy that was impossible to ignore (not to mention a fantastic soundtrack). If the trailer’s any indication, T2 has recaptured it. The trailer’s final shot of Renton is perfect. Release Date: March 3
Ghost in the Shell by Rupert Sanders
I honestly don’t have high hopes for this particular incarnation of Ghost in the Shell, and not simply because of Scarlett Johansson’s casting as Major Kusanagi. Yes, the visuals look pretty great and yet, I can’t help but feel like something’s missing in this adaptation of Masumane Shirow’s classic cyberpunk manga (which has also been turned into a number of animated movies and series). I’m trying to keep an open mind, though, even as I keep my expectations low. Maybe the film will turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Release Date: March 31
The Circle by James Ponsoldt
Based on Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle is about a young woman who lands a dream job at a powerful tech company, and becomes alarmed at the company’s growing power. The cast is strong — Emma Watson, John Boyega, Tom Hanks — and a storyline about technology and surveillance is certainly timely given how our lives are becoming increasingly tracked and exposed. At the same time, it might be a bit too preachy and on the nose, which is always the risk with “timely” movies. In any case, the trailer looks good, especially Hanks in a potentially villainous role. Release Date: April 28
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 by James Gunn
This is one of the movies I’m looking forward to the most in 2017. The first Guardians of the Galaxy was such a great blend of action and humor, it had a killer soundtrack, and it was nice to see Marvel take a risk on a less well-known group of heroes. Vol. 2 seems like it’ll be a total slam dunk, given that the original cast is returning plus Kurt Russell is playing Star-Lord’s alien dad. Star-Lord’s swagger and braggadocio strikes me as rather Jack Burton-esque, so Russell’s casting makes total sense. Release Date: May 5
Wonder Woman by Patty Jenkins
Wonder Woman’s cameo in Batman v Superman was the best part in what was otherwise a trainwreck of a movie, and it immediately raised expectations for the inevitable Wonder Woman movie. The Wonder Woman trailers that have been released to date have all been solid, displaying a blend of action, drama, and humor that’s been sorely lacking in the DC movies to date.
The Wonder Woman movie is set during World War I and details the heroine’s attempts to bring about the war’s end — all while running afoul of social norms and etiquette since she’s, y’know, a warrior princess out of Greek mythology. Release Date: June 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming by Jon Watts
Tom Holland’s Spider-Man was arguably the best part of Captain America: Civil War; he had the right amount of youthful verve, excitement, and wise-crackery. Suffice to say, I want to see more of Holland’s webslinger (as well as Michael Keaton’s Vulture, which looks like a fantastic version of the classic Spider-Man villain).
I’ve seen some comments that Spider-Man: Homecoming gives off a vibe similar to Spectacular Spider-Man, which is a very good thing: the sadly cancelled cartoon series was a fantastic portrayal of Spidey. Any movie that can recapture that series’ spark will be a treat. Release Date: July 7
Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan
The Battle of Dunkirk was one of the pivotal moments of World War II. With the German army on the verge of a massive victory that could’ve altered the war’s course (it did lead to Belgium’s surrender), over 300,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated in a massive operation.
Not surprisingly, Christopher Nolan’s film about the events looks to be epic in scope. As is Nolan’s wont, he shot everything on film; Dunkirk will be only the third film of the decade shot and shown in 70mm. And in order to minimize digital effects, he used real naval destroyers and even cardboard cutouts to simulate soldiers and vehicles. Release Date: July 21
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets by Luc Besson
I love Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element for its sense of style and flair, its bizarre design aesthetics, and its fast-paced blend of action and comedy. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which is based on the influential French comic Valérian and Laureline, looks like it’ll take everything I liked about The Fifth Element and ramp it up by several orders of magnitude.
If nothing else, Valerian should be a feast for the eyes; the trailer is full of bizarre aliens and fanciful sets and environments. Besson has been wanting to make a Valerian movie for years, so this represents a true passion project for the director. Release Date: July 21
The Coldest City by David Leitch
A Cold War-era spy thriller starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, and Toby Jones, and directed by one of the guys behind the first John Wick movie? Yes, please. The movie’s based on an acclaimed graphic novel by Antony Johnston about an MI6 agent on a mission to prevent her fellow spies from being mysteriously killed. I’m always up for a solid ‘80s-era spy thriller, so hopefully this fits the bill. Release Date: July 28
The Dark Tower by Nikolaj Arcel
I’ve never read any of Stephen King’s novels, including the Dark Tower series (which King considers his masterpiece). But I do enjoy a good Stephen King adaptation, and the Dark Tower storyline — the series takes place in an alternate universe and focuses on a gunslinger descended from King Arthur — looks like a nice blend of fantasy and spaghetti westerns.
The movie will actually be a quasi-sequel to the book series, and will feature the always great Idris Elba as Roland the Gunslinger and Matthew McConaughey as Roland’s nemesis, an evil sorceror called the Man in Black. A rough trailer leaked online back in October but hopefully a legitimate trailer will be released soon. Release Date: July 28
Baby Driver by Edgar Wright
Anything by Edgar Wright is required viewing here at Opus HQ. His last movie was 2013’s The World’s End, which brought his “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy to an end. Since he (sadly) didn’t direct 2015’s Ant-Man, we’re long overdue for a new movie from the guy.
Baby Driver is about a young getaway driver who gets mixed up in a heist, and stars Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, and Kevin Spacey (but none of Wright’s usual players). Given Wright’s body of work to date, I expect Baby Driver will be wickedly funny, visually clever, and thoroughly enjoyable. Release Date: August 11
Blade Runner 2049 by Denis Villeneuve
I’ve been pretty skeptical of the Blade Runner sequel ever since it was announced. The original Blade Runner is one of my favorite movies of all time, not to mention one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. But after seeing Arrival, I suddenly found myself excited to see what Denis Villeneuve could do with cyberpunk, neo-noir, and replicants.
The recently released trailer, while revealing little about the plot, looks very promising; Villeneuve absolutely nails the look and tone of the Blade Runner world. I’m still cautiously optimistic, but I’m getting more optimistic the more I see what Villeneuve et al. are doing. Release Date: October 6
Paddington 2 by Paul King
Yes, you read that right: I’m looking forward to Paddington 2. Listen, I have three kids who loved the first Paddington movie (I found it charming enough) both in the theatre and on Netflix (where it’s currently streaming). So the minute they see anything about a second Paddington movie, I know they’re going to want to see it — and I’d much rather they want to see more of the marmalade-loving Paddington than, say, the impending Emoji movie. (Yes, that’s really a thing.) Release Date: November 10
Star Wars: Episode VIII by Rian Johnson
If you need me to explain why this one’s on the list, then there’s probably no hope for you. Release Date: December 15
According to IMDb, the following movies are scheduled to come out some time in 2017 but no specific release dates have been announced for them yet.
Blame! by Hiroyuki Seshita
Tsutomu Nihei’s Blame! is set in the far distant future where the last remnants of humanity are persecuted by artificial intelligence. Their only hope is a mysterious stranger named Killy. Originally produced as a manga in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, and then as a series of odd, atmospheric shorts in 2003, Blame! will be released as a full-length animated feature next year. In addition to a Japanese theatrical release, Netflix will stream it here in the States just like they did with Knights of Sidonia (which is also based on a Nihei manga).
Cargo by Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke
Back in 2013, directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke released a short film titled Cargo that’s one of the best zombie films I’ve ever seen. In it, a father struggles to protect his newborn daughter from the zombie apocalypse, and the film ends with a total punch to the gut (watch it below).
Jump ahead to 2017, and Howling and Ramke are turning Cargo into a feature length starring Martin Freeman as the father. If the duo can pack the feature with the same emotional wallop as their original short, then Cargo could be the first zombie movie you’ve ever seen that leaves you tearing up.
Death Note by Adam Wingard
Death Note has been a huge success in Japan, where it’s been released in comic, animated, and live action forms. Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) will be adapting the story about a young man named “Light” (Nat Wolff) who comes in possession of a supernatural book that lets him kill anyone he wants. Though he starts out killing criminals, the power eventually goes to his head and he comes in conflict with an enigmatic detective named “L” (Keith Stanfield) determined to track him down. I saw the first Japanese live action movie, and it was surprisingly enjoyable and suspenseful, so I’m curious about Wingard’s take.
Kung Fu Yoga by Stanley Tong
I recently finished Jackie Chan’s Chinese Zodiac, and it left me yearning to see a really good Jackie Chan movie. I realize the man’s in his sixties and not nearly as energetic or agile as he once was, but I’d love to see one more “classic” Jackie Chan action comedy. I have no idea if Kung Fu Yoga will be that movie, but the trailer looks promisingly goofy. Then again, I felt the same way about the Chinese Zodiac trailer.
Mute by Duncan Jones
Apparently, Warcraft was a bit of a flop, but prior to that, Duncan Jones directed a pair of solid sci-fi movies: Moon and Source Code. His next film, Mute, will be another Netflix streaming title and is set in Berlin in the near future; there, a mute ex-Amish(!) bartender searches for a woman he’s in love with, and encounters a pair of sinister American surgeons. Jones has been trying to get Mute made for several years now, and intriguingly, the movie is set in the same universe as the acclaimed Moon. Which hopefully means a Sam Rockwell cameo.
Okja by Bong Joon-Ho
Bong Joon-Ho has been one of South Korea’s most celebrated directors thanks to movies including Memories of Murder, The Host, and Snowpiercer (which is getting turned into an American TV series). His latest movie, Okja, is ostensibly another monster movie. However, just as his previous films wove in some pointed social commentary (e.g., The Host’s skewering of corrupt and inept government officials), Okja is “essentially a story about capitalism.” Okja will stream on Netflix sometime next summer.
The Shape of Water by Guillermo Del Toro
Very little’s been released about this upcoming title from Guillermo del Toro, other than it’s “an other-worldly story, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963” and it’s about a mysterious creature (who’ll be played by del Toro regular Doug Jones). Worth noting is del Toro’s statement that he’s “in awe” of the creature and has spent nine months designing it. Considering del Toro’s fascination with monsters, and the many fantastic creatures that inhabit Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies, that’s saying something.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.