These are the most anticipated films of 2017

It’s the most hotly anticipated films of the coming year split into distinct categories. Because yes, it’s come to that: film releases have become so rote and risk-averse that we can easily predict their patterns

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
3 January 2017, 7:40am
Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Of course, prediction is a fool’s errand by any stretch, because life has a way of surprising you: as we’ve all bitterly learned by now, having somehow survived the heart-rending and pitfall-ridden year that is 2016. 

And it’s something of a given that, on the subject of the most eagerly anticipated film releases of the coming year, those of us on the lookout for the soon-to-be-discussed to death cinematic duds or gems will latch onto the ones with the most far-reaching PR machines. You know, the films which have had eminently shareable trailers out for quite some time, or the ones with already-healthy film festival buzz on their tail. 

Justice League
Justice League
But despite all of that, it’s fun to consider which of that bunch we’ll be talking about in 2017. But given the rote nature of it all, we thought it reasonable enough to break it up into distinct categories this year – for the ease of your reading experience, as well as to match the regimented and risk-averse industry we’re celebrating here. 

Superheroes

Superheroes are the blockbuster gold standard of the moment – even if it’s becoming sneakily evident (law of entropy, and all that) that their time in the spotlight is numbered. Still, what with Marvel Studios having mapped out their releases all the way up to 2020 and their (both comic book and film adaptation) arch-rivals DC doing their utmost to keep up, we can rest assured that our cinemas will be stocked with superhero produce in the near future, come rain or shine. 

Logan
Logan
Perhaps the most curiosity-stoking of the bunch in this category will be Justice League, DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers saga, teased during 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and seeing Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne/Batman gather up a team of superheroes after Superman’s (Henry Cavill) self-sacrificing demise, including The Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg (Ray Fisher) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who will also be served with her own WWI-set origin story which appears to be capitalizing on the beats and aesthetic of Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger (2012). 

Kong Skull Island
Kong Skull Island
Marvel’s heavy-hitters will be reaching for the stars this year though, with Thor: Ragnarok re-jigging the cataclysmic gods-on-gods battle from Norse mythology to the universe of their comic book counterpart, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the follow-up to the Studio’s most surprising and warmly received space-hopping action-comedy from 2014.

Featuring the return of the most beloved arboreal character in film history and sure to feature yet another inspiring soundtrack of pop classics, James Gunn’s humorous strand of the Marvel franchise is bound to win hearts and minds yet again. But Spider-Man: Homecoming will also be on hand with some zippy one-liners, as the webslinger gets yet another go at the big-screen with Tom Holland – whom we’ve previously seen shooting the webs during this year’s Captain America: Civil War – taking the lead.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
The same cannot be said for Logan, Hugh Jackman’s seemingly final take on the character that helped make his career – the titular feral mutant of the X-Men franchise, also going by ‘Wolverine’ – in this post-apocalyptic retelling of the quasi-immortal character’s twilight years, whose trailer hits an appropriately bitter note with Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ washing over the battered and broken characters as they squint their way across a desolate landscape. 

Sequels & Reboots

Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner 2049
The Fate of the Furious
The Fate of the Furious
Some high-end science fiction stalwarts will be rearing for a comeback in the coming year, the most nervously anticipated of which is Blade Runner 2049 – nervously, because it can’t just be written off as a cash-in right off the bat since not only is former Blade Runner himself Harrison Ford blessing it with his presence alongside the consistently competent Ryan Gosling, but it’s also helmed by the brilliant French-Candian director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival).

Baywatch
Baywatch
On more rocky ground is Alien: Covenant, whose appropriately gory trailer and hints of intriguing conspiracy place it alongside a fine franchise tradition established by director Ridley Scott way back when. But it’s also a direct sequel to Scott’s dismal Prometheus (2012), a non-committal and narratively messy prequel to the Alien saga.  

Kong Skull Island
Kong Skull Island
2017 will also be spewing out yet another Pirates of the Caribbean sequel with Dead Men Tell No Tales, along with a new Transformers movie (The Last Knight), while Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson will headline no less than three high-profile franchise offshoots: The Fate of the Furious (yes, that’s ‘Fast & The Furious 8’), Jumanji and Baywatch, the latter of which will put a parodic spin on the 90s boobs ‘n beaches TV mainstay. Speaking of 90s television trash, Power Rangers will also be getting another stab at cinematic glory, while the early noughties Kate Beckinsale-starring vampire vs werewolves saga returns with Underworld: Blood Wars.

Alien Covenant
Alien Covenant
That won’t be all for some classic monster fun though, as Tom Cruise will take on The Mummy in Universal Studios’s second attempt at reviving their trademark beasties for the big screen after the botched mess that was Dracula Untold (2015), while Kong: Skull Island pits a star-studded cast against the titular ape and a host of other creatures in a hi-octane actioner which looks to have an environmental message at its core.

Trainspotting 2
Trainspotting 2
Doubtless, however, the ‘event’ sequel of the year will come at the tail-end, with the as-yet untitled Star Wars: Episode VIII being scheduled for an international December 15 release, with the Rian Johnson-directed movie picking up right where JJ Abrams’ triumphal The Force Awakens (2015) left off. But on the more alternative front, acclaimed director Danny Boyle will be returning to Edinburgh’s druggie purgatory with the sequel to Trainspotting – snappily titled T2 – which is bound to stoke nostalgia of a resolutely different kind. 

Hollywood Prestige

To put it simply: these are the American films that win Oscars. Or at least, that vie aggressively for them. Ahead of the game here is Martin Scorcese’s long-gestating passion project Silence, which was just released elsewhere but will likely reach us in early 2017 and which stars Liam Neeson, Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield as 17th century Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to spread Christianity and retrieve one of their own. 

Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman
Next up is surely the Untitled Daniel Day Lewis/Paul Thomas Anderson project, in which the actor-director team join forces for the first time after the formidable neo-Gothic parable There Will Be Blood (2007). The narratively loose poet of modern cinema Terrence Malick will also be following up this year’s The Knight of Cups with Weightless, set during an Austin, Texas music festival and featuring – as has become par for the course for Malick – a stellar cast including Ryan Gosling, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, Christian Bale, Rooney Mara and Benicio del Toro. 

Beyond America

Alas, there’s no Lars Von Trier to wave the flag of colourful controversy this year, but his flinty German counterpart Michael Haneke – who visited Malta in late 2012 to receive rewards for his (subsequently Oscar-decorated) Amour as Valletta hosted the European Film Awards – is once again at the forefront of the non-European films to watch out for this year. Even the title augurs yet another slap of Haneke’s unflinching moral and emotional brutality, as Happy End – starring Amour’s Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant – will focus on a family drama “set in Calais with the European refugee crisis as the backdrop”. 

The Handmaiden
The Handmaiden
Meanwhile, it’s East-meets-West as Korean superstar director Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy) adapts the sumptuous Sarah Walters novel Fingersmith into Handmaiden – already being hailed as an erotic masterpiece – while French-Canadian enfant terrible Xavier Dolan defiantly returns with yet another English-language attempt after his previous film – It’s Only The End Of The World – received a frosty response at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Veering on the wrong side of the erotic spectrum, Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan will star Game Of Thrones’ Kit Harrington as an actor accused of paedophilia. 

And proving that international co-production is really the only way to go if you want to do something remotely different in today’s cinematic landscape, German auteur Wim Wenders mixes up a global cast in an as-yet largely mysterious drama about an Englishman (James McAvoy) imprisoned by religious extremists in a windowless room off the coast of Africa, while the action cuts back to a diver (Alicia Vikander) with whom he’s had a relationship in France the previous year. 

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...