Last year saw a number of risky ventures defy the odds. None more so than Guardians of the Galaxy, which became the smash hit of the summer and ranks as one of the best Marvel has ever produced. So what gambles do 2015 have in store? Let’s take a look.
With a production which has brought new meaning to the word “fraught”, Marvel’s next venture looks like its riskiest to date. Last year the project was rocked by the news that Edgar Wright had left the director’s chair, citing creative differences with the studio. His departure has got the fanboys nervous and the task of bringing the bug-eyed super-small hero to the big screen passed to Yes Man (2008) director Peyton Reed. With Paul Rudd in the title role, and a supporting cast including the likes of Michael Douglas, there’s no reason to panic just yet. But will this prove a risk too far for Marvel? This is a a project which may rely to a great extent on the goodwill which Marvel has amassed over the last few years. The recently-released teaser trailer, however, does not hint at any groundbreaking material and actually breaks ground in all the wrong ways; it’s the first trailer to actually result in a universal shrug of apathy. For the film to work, you have to think it’s going to reach the comic heights of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) for the audience to go along for the ride. Whether they do or not remains to be seen.
It’s been 24 years since we’ve had a good Terminator film. The third and fourth instalments of the franchise had us begging for Judgment Day to end our suffering and the omens are less than promising for the fifth outing. Besides the bewildering spelling of the title, Terminator: Genisys looks set to tread on hallowed franchise territory. As a consequence of some timey-wimey antics, the Terminator originally sent back to eliminate Sarah Connor has become her protector. They team up with Kyle Reese, who’s been sent back in time by John Connor, to try and stop – yep, you guessed it – Judgment Day. Of all the films on this list, Terminator 5 seems to be generating the lowest levels of enthusiasm. You have to wonder whether there is a genuine appetite amongst audiences to see the franchise continue. The fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger is back for this latest version perhaps suggests that the makers have run out of ideas and are relying upon the great man’s dwindling star power. If the franchise is to survive, it needs to find a way to exist credibly without the former Governor of California.
Following the incontrovertible logic established by the Pirates of the Caribbean series – whereby a ride can inspire a billion dollar franchise – Brad Bird’s latest sees a concept taken from a zone in a theme park. What’s not to like? Well, haters of Prometheus and Star Trek Into Darkness will point to the presence of writer Damon Lindelof as sufficient grounds for concern. As well as this, high-concept blockbusters do not always pay off at the box office. Edge of Tomorrow (2013) was received well by many critics, but suffered poor ticket sales, making it a rare (if undeserved) flop for Tom Cruise. However, the prospect of venturing into a fantabulous alternate reality existing somewhere in time and space would seem to hint at a potential feast for the eyes. It will also contain lashings of George Clooney… and Brad Bird has never made a bad film. Is Tomorrowland the dark horse of 2015?
Despite three films’ worth of evidence suggesting that an island inhabited by dinosaurs could prove hazardous to the general public, the powers-that-be have succeeded in opening Jurassic World. When will we learn? Whilst excitement is brewing at the prospect of a return to Isla Nublar, our fourth trip to Jurassic Park has endured a troubled production, with major script changes, filming delays and a pushed-back release date; it’s certainly been a labour of love. In fact, this excitement is the film’s greatest potential pitfall. A large part of what made the original so charming was the clever use of Hitchcock-style techniques to create tension, coupled with incredible animatronic dinosaurs. However, the over-reliance upon (arguably poor but still embryonic in development) special effects in the Jurassic World trailer is disconcerting. How can the latest instalment hope to live up to the mantle of the original? Chris Pratt. That’s how.
Will 2015 see Pixar return to its risk-taking roots? The last couple of years have seen the Pixar star wane and the announcement of Toy Story 4 (2017) has seen further attacks being levelled at the studio, which for so long was seen as the bastion of original animation cinema. So the release of Inside Out could scarcely come at a better time. Rather than toys, bugs, cars or robots, the characters of Inside Out are emotions – Joy, Fear, Disgust, Sadness and Anger. That being said, the trailer and idea did seem a tad old-fashioned, with stereotypes rising to the surface rather than an overwhelming sensation of innovation. Nevertheless if all the promising aspects combine well, this could be one of the most memorable films of 2015.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Nope, that’s not a spelling mistake; it really does say ‘Zombies.’ Based on the popular parody, the characters of Jane Austen’s classic novel will have to contend with the undead as they attempt to weave their way among the landed gentry of the 19th century British Regency.
This is another project which has been through the mill. Announced way back in 2009, a number of high-profile names were rumoured to have been in the running to direct the film, before Blurr Steers was chosen. The cast certainly fits the bill, with Lily James, Matt Smith, Sam Riley and Charles Dance all present and correct. What’s it going to be like? Will Jane Austen be turning in her, um, grave? Only time will tell.
Mad Max: Fury Road
For the first time in a generation, Mad Max will make his return to the big screen in 2015. 30 years since the last instalment, George Miller is back as director with Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson in the lead role. Having spent much of that time in development hell – a recurring theme it seems – Fury Road is faced with the arduous task of attracting a new audience to the franchise as well as appealing to fans of the series. Herein lies the biggest risk for Miller and co. Much of the responsibility for drawing an audience will fall to Hardy, as well as his co-star Charlize Theron. Early visuals, however, would seem to suggest that Mad Max: Fury Road may be one of the most striking films we see all year. We cannot wait – but obviously a film is much longer than an amazing 150 second trailer.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
The big one. The stakes could scarcely be higher for J.J. Abrams. After the crushing disappointment of the prequel trilogy, Episode VII is charged with resurrecting the franchise and propelling it forward into a new generation. Although plot details are thin on the ground at this point, the signs are promising. Judging by the teaser trailer, Abrams has ditched the sleek and shiny artificiality of the prequels in favour of real sets, models and innovation. Disney has already committed to two further films in this sequel trilogy, as well as two spin-off movies focusing on specific characters from the series. Much of the impetus and goodwill for the continuation of the series rests on the shoulders of The Force Awakens. Everyone keep your fingers crossed for December.
However these films fare this year, 2015 looks set to be a bumper year at the box office. It remains to be seen whether these big gambles pay off for the studios. Who else do you think is taking a risk this year?