There have already been two films released in the U.S. in 2017 that I’d suggest are dead certainties for my Top 20 of the year – Starless Dreams and John Wick: Chapter 2 – but let us anyway concede the idea that, in the current state of the film marketplace, the last two months have really just been about taking a deep breath before the year properly starts.
(Speaking about the year properly starting, I still need to put together the Awards Formerly Known As the Antagonists. Keep an eye out in the next week or two).
So with that in mind, the new de facto start to the summer season is upon us, with not one, not two, but three big ol’ tentpole-style movies clamoring for attention. Which is, I think, a record for March. One of them even looks like it might have a shot at being pretty good.
And that one would be Logan, no less than the tenth X-Men film in the last 17 years (if we’re including Deadpool, and I guess we might as well), the third to exclusively feature Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as the sole protagonist, and the only one to be preceded with a grave, soul-scabbed trailer set to the Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt”. Honestly, from the moment that dropped, I was completely sold: none of the other live-action comic book movies of 2017 come anywhere close to the level of enthusiasm I’m feeling for this one. Nor, in fact, has any live-action comic book movie since Christopher Nolan got out of the Batman business. Anyway, it’s the standard “one film per month that Tim actually wants to see”, so how convenient that we’re getting it out of the way early.
Meandering in to serve some very different audiences, we first have The Shack, based upon a massively bestselling book I have not read, about how the brutal murder of children’s is all part of God’s plan. I can tell you who has read it, and that is my mother, a far more religious person than I, and she thought it was the worst piece of fiction she’s ever encountered. So.
Just one wide release, for Kong: Skull Island. Not by any means the first new take on King Kong, the eighth wonder of the world, but the first one self-consciously designed to kick-start a “shared universe”, which is about as anti-promising as it gets.
More happily, in limited release, Personal Shopper arrives in the States. I’ve been cool on Olivier Assayas’s last couple of movies, but one thing I was very excited by was Kristen Stewart’s performance in Clouds of Sils Maria, and the thought of her taking the lead in one of the director’s films has filled me with all the delight in the world ever since it was announced.
Here’s the thing: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was just fine as an animated movie, right? Hell, better than fine! It was great! So what, what in the name of all things holy, is the point of a live-action Beauty and the Beast remake, from any standpoint that isn’t grossly financial? The trailers make the thing look just so god-damned ugly – Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland ugly, and that’s not even counting the hideous design of the animated objects. Emma Watson’s voice has sounded thin on the released music. And if you can tell me what was missing from the plot of the original that needs another 40+ minutes, I am all ears. Keep in mind that we already have the banal Broadway musical to show what happens when you try to tinker with the perfectly-shaped original. God, I am so angry at this movie, and I haven’t even paid money to watch it in a room full of loud children yet.
Conceding the weekend, the only other wide release is some thing called The Belko Experiment, which I gather is a horror film satirising corporations. Also, in limited release, T2 Trainspotting is on one hand, the re-unification of Ewan McGregor and Danny Boyle that lots of us have been waiting for the whole 21st Century; on the other hand, it is a sequel to Trainspotting, and that seems at least vaguely unnecessary.
Now this looks like the kind of March weekend I remember. You’ve got yourself a sci-fi thriller with the world’s most generic title, Life, and an ad campaign making it extraordinarily clear that it never had a bigger ambition than being an Alien knock-off with an overqualified cast. And then not one, but two television remakes, including a feature-film version of CHiPS that feels like it already came out and everybody already forgot about it five years ago. The other is a gritty-funny update of Power Rangers, which looks thrillingly bad: the trailers are full of kitschy dialogue and character designs, the tone is played 100% straight, and the overall vibe is that this film was made by the only people in the whole world who absolutely adored the 2015 Fantastic Four. Feels like it might be a bomb for the ages, very excited.
Fans of animation have quite a morbid, dismal weekend ahead of them. Over here, we have DreamWorks Animation’s The Boss Baby, which is indeed about a baby, who is a boss. He dressed in little suits and drinks little cappuccinos and is voiced by Alec Baldwin. But, like, he’s still a baby. I pray the actual movie makes all of this feel comprehensible in a way the ad campaign so far hasn’t. It has the feeling of one of those real classic DreamWorks films, the kind where it seems like the concept went wrong right around day 2 of pre-production, but they just kept soldiering on in the hopes of eventually making it work.
Over there, meanwhile, the long-threatened Ghost in the Shell remake finally happens, and, like, why? This is even worse, kind of, than the Beauty and the Beast thing, because at least that can be explained by Disney’s enormous greed. Fans of the original anime Ghost in the Shell can’t be THAT numerous. But anyway, here it is, and as one such fan, and a fan of the medium in general, I find this utterly gross and dispiriting on a level far beyond the whole white-washing controversy.
Step Sisters is about a sorority that has a famous step dance crew. Do you get it? It is pun. And still probably better than the literary Holocaust drama The Zookeeper’s Wife, which is obviously a piece of complete shit, or it would have gotten absolutely some kind of miniature Oscar-qualifying release. A pity that this is where Jessica Chastain’s career has settled.