Comics to Screen is a recurring feature in which Ben Kaye analyzes the constantly evolving leap from comic books to screens of all sizes. This time, he looks ahead and previews a 2017 that promises to be full of capes, tights, and surprises.
By the grace of some quality films, 2016 proved the superhero genre is not nearly as close to its last leg as many have speculated. Deadpool revitalized the entire spirit of comic book movies by proving you could take risks and find success while Doctor Strange showed how even a formulaic origin story can still be original and entertaining. Captain America: Civil War continued to demonstrate how thrilling the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be, even as Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice revealed that the DC Extended Universe still has some work to do.
But 2017 could be the year that work finally gets done. Wonder Woman is shaping up to be the first truly gripping tale DC Films has produced, and even though Zack Snyder hasn’t earned any faith, we’ll finally get to see if his big plans have satisfying results with Justice League. Though frankly, even if it’s not considerably better than his past two adaptations, you can’t deny how cool it’s going to be to see Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg standing side by side (we assume Superman will be flying overhead).
This will also be the biggest year for the MCU ever. We’re getting three cinematic blockbusters and three Netflix serialized series. Each of the films brings us just that much closer to the decade-long buildup to Avengers: Infinity War, and we’ll get to see the ultimate conclusion of the Netflix series, all of which has this writer practically seething in anticipation. As for Marvel properties outside the connected universe, it looks as if we’ll finally be getting the Wolverine movie we’ve always dreamed of with Logan.
What’s more, there are a few independent efforts coming out that look to really be delving into the true richness of comicdom, from quirky human stories to vast sci-fi adventures. In a year loaded up with big-budget sequels, it’s refreshing to see Hollywood turning its attention to some of the medium’s less well-known but equally quality properties.
From predictable summer smashes to low-budget underdogs, there’s a truckload of interesting prospects coming to cinemas this year. Considering how 2017 has started, it’s damn nice to have something to look forward to, so let’s see what excitement will brighten up our screens this year.
The LEGO Batman Movie
Release Date: February 10th
Company: Warner Bros.
Outlook: Always be the Batman.
Seemingly against all logic, The LEGO Movie was a deserving smash in 2014. It had incredibly inventive visuals, gallons of heart, and ridiculous all-ages comedy. So giving Will Arnett’s blocky Batman his own film wasn’t only financially sound for WB, but gleefully exciting for fans. As with the original LEGO production, trailers for The LEGO Batman Movie hint at a film that’s going to be exceedingly smart on top of just pure fun. First-time director Chris McKay (Robot Chicken) and a team of writers including Seth Grahame-Smith and Chris McKenna look to have crafted a playful satire of the Dark Knight that pokes fun at his lonerism while simultaneously exploring the fear of connection that’s at its center. It could be one of the most fascinating re-examinations of Bruce Wayne in years, and it’s coming packaged with the wacky visual world of LEGO and an undeniable cast (Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Michael Cera as Robin, Rosario Dawson as Batgirl, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Jenny Slate as Harley Quinn, and in a stunning dream-come-true piece of fanboy casting, Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face). This is the first of two films starring Batman in 2017, and there’s a fair chance it could end up being the better one.
Release Date: March 3rd
Outlook: The best there is at what he does.
The third film in the Wolverine series was in the works well before Deadpool proved R-rated superhero fare has a place in cinemas, so we can’t put all the credit at Ryan Reynolds’ feet. But thank One Above All that Deadpool happened in the first place, because it likely opened the minds of Fox’s execs enough to allow director/screenwriter James Mangold to finally make the Wolverine film he — and fans — have always wanted. Logan promises to deliver all the berserker violence that’s been missing from the ol’ Canucklehead’s previous big-screen appearances. And thanks to the introduction of his young female clone, Laura, aka X-23 (Dafne Keen), he won’t be the only one slicing up baddies. A loose (very loose) adaptation of the classic Old Man Logan story line, the gritty tale finds an aged and bitter Wolverine caring for an ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) until he gets embroiled in a fight to protect X-23 from the diabolical Transigen corporation and their Reavers goonsquad. Previews have teased a movie unlike any past X-film, and that’s just what the franchise needs. Logan may end up being Hugh Jackman’s final appearance as the popular mutant, and if that turns out to be true, it looks like he’ll be going out with a bang. Or a really sharp stab, or whatever.
Release Date: March 24th
Company: FOX Searchlight
Outlook: Wait, good comic movies aren’t always about capes?
Hey, noobs: Comic books aren’t all about guys with super strength punching other guys who have laser vision. Some of the most interesting uses of the medium are actually just about average schmucks trying to find their place in the world. Artist and writer Daniel Clowes is a master of the misanthropic graphic tale, having penned the cult classic Ghost World, which he adapted into the acclaimed 2001 film of the same name. He once again penned the script for his latest adaptation, Wilson, in which a socially awkward but brutally honest middle-aged man (the ever-watchable Woody Harrelson) discovers his ex-wife (Laura Dern) gave birth to his daughter (Isabella Amara) 17 years ago, only to put her up for adoption without telling him. It’s a quirky tale about a loner who’s trying his best to not be so alone, and if you like your comic book movies full of heart and humor, there’s probably no better bet this year.