Each year, the American film industry seems to release more and more sequels to previously successful films, and no, not critically successful films, financially successful films. It has become rarer and rarer for an original entity to come along and get the full package of production, meaning that the final product is a quality film and a film that the general public is aware of and willing to spend their money on seeing.
Studios have become wary of spending time and money on producing films that aren’t all but a definite success due to name recognition or a built-in audience from previous films. Last year’s two largest box office bombs, The Lone Ranger and R.I.P.D., prove that there might be good reason for this caution, as their distributors were both hoping to build new franchises and instead lost tens of millions of dollars. To counter these failures, however, new-entity films like Gravity and American Hustle proved to be both critical and commercial successes. These are the types of films that studios should focus on and invest in, as they just need people to hear about them initially and then word-of-mouth will do the rest. There is nothing wrong with franchise films’ existing, but they shouldn’t completely dominate the industry. Eventually these established franchises are going to run out, and few new ones are launched to successfully replace them: see R.I.P.D., The Lone Ranger, Ender’s Game, The Host, Battleship, John Carter, Total Recall or any of the other failures of the past two years if you don’t believe me. Each year, however, franchise films are the ones that gain the most—sometimes the only—visibility right from the start. Of the countless “Most Anticipated Films of 2014” lists put out by well-known media and entertainment publications in the previous weeks, almost all mentioned films were what would fall into the aforementioned category of “sure-hit” big budget sequels and reboots. These publications have now fallen into the exact same trap as the studios and moviegoers: showing a disproportionate interest in the big-budget movies that people will go see, at least to an extent no matter what happens, (i.e. People would go see a Marvel film even if it had a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.) Believe me, I’m not saying every sequel will be bad, or even that any of them will be. I am hugely excited for May’s X-Men Days of Future Past, which combines the cast of the original X-Men trilogy with the cast of the excellent 2011 film X-Men: First Class. A close second for me would be 22: Jump Street, the sequel to my favorite comedy of 2012, 21: Jump Street. However, my ultimate goal of this article is to highlight some films that have a high likelihood of being excellent works, but you might not even know exist.
To start, I will highlight a film that is a bit of cheat, as you may have heard quite a bit about it, but that fact alone is a strong example. This film is, of course, Interstellar. The film is directed by Christopher Nolan and features an incredible cast including Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, and Matt Damon. Interstellar is scheduled to be released this November. This film basically breaks the mold of everything I mentioned previously, and I mean everything. It should stand as a model as what should be going on in the industry in some shape or form. Interstellar is built on an entirely original screenplay; the only previous entity it draws from is, in fact, the work of theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. If this were coming from any other director, you and I would probably not have even known about it yet, nor would something so potentially different from the norm be produced on such a grand scale. Once again, this is a great thing; it should be what studios are striving for instead of building franchises. Nolan’s is probably the very best possible scenario in film development, as he is arguably the most successful director of the 21st century. The following films could quite possibly deserve similar consideration to Interstellar. (They will be presented in order of release date, not order of anticipation)
After a long struggle to find a distributor and then further delays going into the holiday season, The Monuments Men, directed, written, produced, and starring George Clooney, is set to be released on February 7. The plot revolves around a group of allied soldiers in World War II put together to save important cultural works from destruction by Nazi forces. While it is based upon a modestly successful book by Robert M. Edsel, it looks to tell this historically accurate WWII story for the very first time in film form. With a diverse cast including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett in addition to Clooney, this work has the strong potential to draw viewers.
The next film on the list is Transcendence, directed by Wally Pfister, a long-time cinematographer for the aforementioned Christopher Nolan, working on every one of the superstar director’s major releases. Pfister’s directorial debut is executive produced by Nolan and stars Johnny Depp as Dr. Will Caster, who applies his own research on artificial intelligence upon himself after a scrape with death, but the power that comes with not being human overtakes Caster in a horrible way. This film not only has to the potential to revitalize Johnny Depp’s career after various missteps including last year’s The Lone Ranger; but it could very well be the must-see film of the spring/early summer when it is released on April 18.
On a much lighter note, Neighbors, starring Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Rose Byrne, is, for me, one of the most anticipated comedies of 2014. When Terry Sander’s (Zac Efron) Animal House style fraternity moves in next door to Mac Radner(Seth Rogen), his wife and newborn child, war ensues. While it could go both ways, it does have a chance at being something special: a great, downright hilarious film and a breakout hit.
Keeping on the comedic side of things is A Million Ways to Die in the West, a film receiving surprising little press given that it is directed by and starring Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy and director of Ted. MacFarlane writes and produces his take on a comedy-western, joined by an all-star cast including Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, and Amanda Seyfried. It will be interesting to see what a modern western starring Peter Griffin will be like. Hopefully it will not disappoint once released on May 30.
From the Wachowski’s, most famous for their Matrix trilogy, comes a new science-fiction film, Jupiter Ascending, staring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and Sean Bean. The plot apears to be a different take on a classic story, a prophetic human born to save/lead the universe, (see The Bible, Star Wars, etc.) While the basic concept may not be original, the final film definitely will be with such a young and popular cast combined with the Wachowskis’ proven-yet-alternative take on filmmaking. Hopefully this film receives decent press leading up to its release on July 18.
One of the biggest releases from Marvel this year, Guardians of the Galaxy, is not a sequel but an adaptation of a lesser-known comic series about a group of diverse, misfit heroes. These heroes include: Peter Quill aka Starlord(Chris Pratt), Gamora(Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer(Dave Bautista), Groot(Vin Diesel), and Rocket Raccoon(Bradley Cooper).
As the movie is primarily 3D animated, all the actors involved are providing motion capture and voice work. This is one of those big-budget attempts at launching a franchise, but it should be a successful one, as a lot of talented people have spent a long time working to perfect this project. This fresh idea from Marvel, which has incredibly interesting characters played by a great group of actors, will be released August 1.
Gone Girl, the next film from David Fincher, the director of Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network, is an adaptation of the 2012 thriller novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn. It is about the mystery of the disappearance of a woman and whether or not her husband was involved in her death. It stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry. If Fincher’s previous films are any sign of whats to come, this film could be successful with critics and moviegoers alike when released October 3.
As a bonus, I also think there are some films that are destined for a ‘Worst Films of 2014’ list. The first of these films is Blended, the next Adam Sandler film whose trailer will say it all. The second one is TMNT, the upcoming Michael Bay adaptation of the classic 80s cartoon and comic series in which he reteams with Megan Fox—see where this is going? Last is Divergent, just the latest in a long line of book-to-film adaptations trying to be the next Twilight or The Hunger Games. See last year’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones for an idea of how this film might go.
Getting back to the ones that have true potential, these are all very different types of films from various genres and styles, however one thing they all have in common is that they’ve received very little exposure so far from mainstream media, and yet they could very well be must-see films.
Although the many, many sequels coming alongside these films may very well be good films, there should be room for other films industry.