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Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the movie-making industry in general will know that Hollywood loves a successful franchise. They are the modern-day equivalents of the genre pictures studios used to churn out in decades past, such as the musicals of the 1930s and the Westerns of the 1950s. Those movies drew in large crowds due to the popularity of their respective genre, as these modern-day franchise pictures draw in droves of crowds based on the pedigree of their respective cinematic universes.
There is no doubt that Marvel Studios have built up a level of trust with audiences through the success of their cinematic universe. It’s to the point where previously unthinkable projects like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange not only got financed and created but became financial and audience hits.
The power of franchise films and cinematic universes cannot be underestimated. Simply look at the most successful films of all time, only two of the top ten are non-franchise movies (Avatar #1 & Titanic #2); the rest are part of franchises and film series, like Furious 7, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and Avengers: Infinity War, to name but a few.
Hollywood is always looking for the next big thing, whether that’ll be a sci-fi opera in the same vain as Star Wars (look at Jupiter Ascending), or an adaptation of a successful YA fantasy book series such as Twilight (Look at The Mortal Instruments). Hollywood is always latching onto whatever is trendy and relevant, producing movies they think will fill audience desire.
With interconnected cinematic universes being the big thing of late, we are seeing a flood of cinematic universes currently in production. The aforementioned Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Extended Universe, The Transformers series, Fantastic Beasts – along with attempts to launch new cinematic universes, such as The Dark Universe with last summer’s The Mummy, and the Ghostbusters Universe with 2016’s Ghostbusters; both of which failed spectacularly, financially and critically. Regardless of the risk of failure, the tantalising prospect of striking monetary gold as Marvel have done with the MCU has compelled studios to continue searching for the next big franchise or cinematic universe. Here, I’ll be exploring five movies yet to be released that if successful could launch a series.
Sony’s Spider-Verse (sans Spiderman) beginning with Venom (October 2018)
While Sony have been relatively mute on the prospect of an interconnected universe after the shambles that ensued after The Amazing Spiderman 2, there is little doubt that they too want to reap the rewards that Marvel Studios and Disney are making on their cinematic universe. Hence the existence of Venom. Now with this I have conflicting opinions of many sorts, not least because the character was always my favourite villain as a child. There is just something so terrifying about him, a sinister doppelganger reflection of Spiderman.
However, making Venom the protagonist of his movie just doesn’t sit right with me, especially seeing as we haven’t seen him in the capacity of villain yet. I could get on board with a redemptive arc for the character if he started as the villain in a Spiderman movie; but that’s not what’s happening here. We are being introduced to Venom as the protagonist/anti-hero.
The footage for the movie released thus far looks so drab and boring that I was genuinely shocked that they put it out there with the impression that it would make people excited. Well… it hasn’t. In a time where Deadpool and Avengers: Infinity War are changing the game for what superhero movies can be, this looks like a step back into the mid-2000’s when the modern superhero craze we’re currently living in began to formulate.
Yet, there are two reasons as to why I’m cautiously optimistic about Venom: Tom Hardy and the materialisation of the character. Hardy is an absolute powerhouse of an actor. The man can do little wrong and on paper it seems he’s the perfect choice to play a hulking-monster like Venom. His roles in The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road and Warrior highlight both the acting chops and physical presence Hardy exudes while on-screen.
Also, in contrast to Spiderman 3, where Venom was basically Spiderman with sharp teeth, the Venom movie depiction of the character is much more akin to the comics and cartoons. I also love the voice of the symbiote in Eddie Brock’s head. It’s dark and menacing in the way that Venom should be. While there isn’t any suggestion just yet how much Sony is banking on a success, there’s no doubt that their line-up of movies with Spiderman characters will hinge almost exclusively on whether Venom proves to be a success. The proposed Silver and Black movie, as well as Morbius the Living Vampire, will likely fail to reach production if Venom tanks at the box-office. After all, if Venom, a recognisable and largely beloved character by many, cannot succeed without Spiderman, it’s doubtful whether any of these other third tier characters will.
Robin Hood Universe (November 2018)
This is the first Robin Hood movie since the Russell Crowe led flick in 2010. The recently released trailer for the movie seems to be placing it somewhere between the seriousness of that film and the silliness of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Watching the teaser, there’s little doubt that they’re trying to capture of the magic of those early Pirates of the Caribbean movies, a feat that many movies have tried to replicate, for example The Three Musketeers from 2011 and even the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
However, there’s no denying that the movie looks incredibly like Guy Richie’s King Arthur movie that flopped last summer, a film that was similarly hoping to launch a series of films. On top of that, it feels like a mashup of Batman Begins and V for Vendetta, with some Pirates of the Caribbean and Kingsman thrown in for good measure. If this is sounding like a car crash of movie already, that’s probably because this could very well follow the same route of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
That said, the movie is directed by Otto Bathurst, whose previous credits include the very first episode of Black Mirror, The National Anthem, as well as episodes of the brilliantly gritty Peaky Blinders, for which he won a BAFTA. So maybe, just maybe, he will be able to inject some of that rebellious charm and swagger that Peaky Blinders as a series exudes into Robin Hood.
Mortal Engines (December 2018)
This Peter Jackson adaptation has been in the making since 2009. Yet, it was only a few months ago that we were first graced with footage of the steampunk post-apocalyptic feature set in the far-distant future, where gigantic cities roam the landscape consuming smaller settlements for scarce resources. Based on a series of four novels by Philip Reeve, Jackson penned the screenplay making it his first foray into a fantasy franchise outside of Middle Earth, which he concluded with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in 2014.
Although Jackson is not directing (that honour goes to his long time visual effects supervisor Christian Rivers), the potential to expand this world seems highly probable. The film stars relative newcomer Hera Hilmar, Ireland’s own Robert Sheehan (Misfits, Love/Hate), as well as frequent Peter Jackson collaborator Hugo Weaving. Based on the casting, as well as Jackson’s involvement, Universal Pictures is surely hoping to replicate the successes of fantasy franchises, such as The Hunger Games and even, in their wildest dreams, Harry Potter.
Detective Pikachu (May 2019)
Surely one of the most bizarre projects to be announced in recent years, Detective Pikachu is based on the game of the same name, in which a young boy teams up with a talking Pikachu to solve crimes. With Ryan Reynolds attached to voice the titular Pikachu, I would be mistaken for thinking that this movie aims to be a child-friendly version of Deadpool mashed together with Sherlock Holmes.
It sounds so crazy and zany that it just might work; although, I’d be lying if I said I think it will. This film will mark yet although attempt from Hollywood to turn a beloved anime into a English-speaking family flick. The omens are not good for this film already as it releases a mere week after the untitled Avengers 4. However, this is the first ever live-action version of Pokemon which will entice many curious movie-goers to the cinema to see what they’ve come up with. It will be directed by Rob Letterman, the man behind the recent live-action Goosebumps and Captain Underpants and be produced by Legendary Pictures. In regards the latter, they are still searching for a monster franchise to match the other behemoths of Hollywood. Their Godzilla/King King monster universe, while relatively successful, has not risen to the heights of its creatures, and Pacific Rim is all but dead as the recent failure of Pacific Rim: Uprising.
Artemis Fowl (August 2019)
Kenneth Brannagh, the Shakespearean bard behind the live-action Cinderella, Thor, and Murder on the Orient Express, will bring Irish author Eoin Colfer’s hugely popular science fiction fantasy novels to life. A series of eight books, of which this movie will be based on the first two – the story centres on a young Irish criminal mastermind who captures a fairy in an effort to restore the wealth of his family.
Seeing as this movie will adapt the first two books in the series, it’s highly likely that a trilogy at the very least is being planned by Disney, hungry to capture the magic of Harry Potter. This movie will have the added pressure of attempting to launch a live-action Disney franchise after the commercial and critical failures of Tomorrowland in 2013, and more recently A Wrinkle in Time, the latter of which was tipped to be a big hit. There has also been controversy in the short production history thus far, with shammed Hollywood kingpin Harvey Weinstein’s name originally attached as producer. His name has since been removed in the aftermath of his sexual misconduct allegations. The film sports a cast including, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, and Irish newcomer Ferdia Shaw as the eponymous hero.