Whether we like it or not, fall is coming. The kids are back at school, the days are getting shorter, and finally the Garden State Parkway is no longer clogged with tourist traffic. With autumn comes another selection of movies. Today we’re looking at the movies for the Geeky Class of movie-goers. As you might have noticed, nerds currently command a huge portion of Hollywood energy with half of the 10 highest-grossing films of the year based on Marvel or DC superhero comics.
But a lot of the nerd-based film production in 2016 has had a shaky run. Ghostbusters, Ratchet and Clank, and Independence Day: Resurgence flopped. Star Trek Beyond underperformed as well. The Chinese box office could not save Warcraft. And Warner Bros’ big two superhero releases, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have been critical disasters but financially successful. When articles talk of summer 2016 being the worst ever for movies, they’re talking about how these nerd blockbusters failed.
But maybe it is too early to declare geek cinema as lost. We still have seven big releases coming. Let’s take a look at them:
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is based on the popular children’s fantasy series by Random Riggs. Being a dark children’s tale, there really was only one man in Hollywood who could ever get this gig: Tim Burton. As we’ve recently covered in our Tim Burton retrospective, he’s been a bit hit-or-miss over the last few years. Another warning sign is that Miss Peregrine has been pushed back again and again, originally planned for release in summer 2015.
The trailer does not quite match the creepy other-worldliness of the vintage photographs in Random Riggs’ book. But it does offer a magical adventure featuring kids with weird superpowers. It’s essentially a more whimsical X-Men. There’s something to be said about a movie with a little kid who has a monster mouth on the back of their neck. Add to it a cast with Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Judi Dench, and a frosted Samuel L. Jackson. Maybe there is promise. A pretty great cover of Mama Cass’ “New World Coming” was an inspired choice as well.
Release date: September 30.
Max Steel is based on a line of Mattel action figures. There are a couple of cartoon series, one from the early 2000s and one currently airing on Disney XD. Essentially the plot looks like a combination of Guyver and I Am Number Four. Max is a troubled teenager who meets an alien robot named Steel. Together they become Max Steel to fight evil and have awkward misunderstandings with girls.
Tellingly there seems to have been almost no marketing for Max Steel, which is only a month away. The movie also stars the relatively unknown Ben Winchell, a young adult TV actor. Does anybody else sense an impending flop here?
Release date: October 14.
Here is Marvel’s big release for the fall, and we can be certain it will be big. Doctor Strange is based on Steve Ditko‘s sorcerer superhero. Meaning that along with gods, space aliens, and Hulks, the Marvel universe now has magic too. Doctor Strange is a brilliant neurosurgeon who loses the use of his hands in an accident. He travels the world in search of healing. But instead of just a cure, he finds the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who teaches him how to break into alternate dimensions. Thus follows a magical adventure turning New York City into an infinite fractal of Inception-esque imagery. Also, Mads Mikkelsen is here looking intense.
There’s a lot of excitement for Doctor Strange among the Marvel fanbase. It looks like Marvel can present another relatively obscure hero to the general public and make a lot of money out of it. The movie should be a good change of pace after the massive Captain America: Civil War from earlier this year with director Scott Derrickson trading horror for superheroes.
Release date: November 4.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
After a five year break, the Harry Potter franchise is back in a big way in 2016. This summer, the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – a sequel to the book series – came out in London. Along with that, there is a ninth movie now. J.K. Rowling is writing the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them based very loosely on the book of the same name.
The film tells the story of the Fantastic Beasts’ in-universe “author”, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). In a change of setting for Harry Potter, Fantastic Beasts is set in 1926 New York City. It involves the escape of magical creatures into the Muggle world, giving us a different perspective. Dan Fogler will play the Muggle Jacob Kowalski, the first non-magical main character for a Harry Potter story. Fantastic Beasts is a very interesting reinvention of the Harry Potter series and holds a lot of promise.
Release date: November 18.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One is the first Star Wars film since the television movie Ewoks: The Battle for Endor to not star a Jedi. It is planned to be the first of several spin-off theatrical films to fill in the yearly gaps between main Episode releases. If everything goes according to Disney’s plan, there will never be a year without a Star Wars again. That should terrify you just as much as it excites you.
Rogue One is set before Episode IV. Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, a rogue Rebel fighter who has been tasked with stealing the Death Star plans. She gathers a ragtag team of heroes to fight against the Empire, including a blind samurai, Forrest Whittaker, and a sassy droid. Not a lot has been shown of the plot, but we do know Rogue One will feature intense on-the-ground battles. Perhaps the only thing that should worry you about this film is reports of extensive rewrites and reshoots over this past summer.
Oh, and Darth Vader will be there.
Release date: December 16.
After a decade of saturating the market with Assassin’s Creed games, Ubisoft is giving the series a break in 2016. But a movie is still coming out. Assassin’s Creed is a full reunion of 2015’s MacBeth. Director Justin Kurzel is back with his three stars: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and drab low-color atmosphere. In today’s film industry, you go from making a film nominated for the Palme d’Or to an adaptation of a video game series in just a year.
Rather than adapting any previous game in the series, Assassin’s Creed is its own original yarn. Fassbender plays a convicted criminal about to be executed when Abstergo industries rescue him. They shove him into their machine and make him relive the memories of his badass ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, right in the middle of the Spanish Inquisition. If Assassin’s Creed works out, Ubisoft has more movies planned, including an adaptation of The Division that nobody asked for.
Release date: December 21.
A Monster Calls
A Monster Calls is an adaptation of the 2011 fantasy novel by Patrick Ness. Child actor Lewis MacDougall plays Conor, a young boy dealing with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) terminal illness. He is sent to live with his grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) and is having a rough time of things. Local bullies torment him. Then one night, a giant appears outside his window. The creature is a powerful incarnation of Conor’s rage, looking like an Evangelion Wicker Man and voiced by Liam Neeson. A Monster Calls looks like a powerful and emotional journey, bleeding tragedy and fantasy together to deal with the most terrible of life’s circumstances.
There are already buzzing reviews of the film from its showing at the Toronto International Film Festival. J. A. Bayona of The Orphanage fame directs.
Release date: December 23.