20 (Non-Franchise) Sci-Fi/Fantasy Movies We Have to Look Forward To
Last month may have sucked for movies, but don’t let the Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypses and Jem and the Holograms get you down—there are some good-looking genre movies coming down the pike over the next few years. Just about every entertainment site on the face of the Earth has written ad nauseam about Star Wars and Star Trek and Marvel and DC, but I want to focus on non-franchise movies here, because, if you’re honest, you’ve probably already decided to fork over your hard-earned cash for whatever Marvel has coming down the pike. Ant-Man vs Doop? Yeah, OK, whatever.
This list is not meant to be comprehensive. If there are any other upcoming sci-fi/fantasy films you’re looking forward to, please feel free to mention them in the comments. No “But you forgot about ___,” though. That’s obnoxious.
Director: Alex Garland
What Is It? “A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition where the laws of nature don’t apply.” You want to see the next movie from the guy who wrote and direted Ex Machina, right? Even if it doesn’t have dancing Oscar Isaac? Bonus: Annihilation is based on the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. It’s still on my to-read list, but I’ve read some other VanderMeer stuff, and he’s damn good at weird, vaguely unsettling sci-fi.
April and the Extraordinary World
Directors: Christian Desmares, Franck Ekinci
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Jean Rochefort, Philippe Katerine
What Is It? Marion Cotillard voices the maiteenage n character in this French animated film set in an alternate, steampunk-y version of 1940s France, where the country’s scientists—including April’s parents—are all being mysteriously abducted.
The Bad Batch
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jason Momoa, Jim Carrey, Suki Waterhouse, Diego Luna
What Is It? A cannibal love story set in dystopian Texas from the writer/director of Iranian noir vampire Western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. I feel like Amirpour is using Boggle to come up with her genres, and I’m loving it. “Hmm, let’s see… a rom-com… torture porn… set in… 18th century Albania. OK, that works.”
Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega, Karen Gillan
What Is It? Look at that cast. Do you even care what The Circle is, you buncha nerds? OK, fine. It’s a tech thriller based on a book by Dave Eggers.
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Dan Stevens, Jason Sudeikis
What Is It? Vigalondo, director of the 2007 festival hit Timecrimes, makes his big-budget debut with this monster flick that’s being described as “Godzilla meets Lost in Translation.” Hathaway stars as a seemingly ordinary woman who discovers she has some sort of psychic connection with seriously unordinary events happening in Tokyo: a giant monster wailing on the city. In keeping with kaiju tradition, Vigalondo has said that he’ll use practical effects instead of relying entirely on CG.
Fortunately, the Milk
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Johnny Depp (rumored)
What Is It? Nerdlord Edgar Wright directs this live action/animation hybrid based on a children’s book by Neil Gaiman, with Flight of the Conchords and The Muppets’ Bret McKenzie writing the screenplay. Johnny Depp being attached to a film isn’t exactly cause for celebration these days, but hey, Rango was good. Also, there is a time-travelling stegosaurus.
The Great Wall
Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Matt Damon, Andy Lau, Pedro Pascal, Tian Jing, Eddie Peng, Willem Dafoe, Numan Acar
What Is It? Back in Olden Times, the Great Wall was constructed to protect China from big-ass monsters. It’s like a historical Pacific Rim, directed by the man who brought us Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Raise the Red Lantern. I am going to fucking die.
Director: Edgar Wright
What Is It? The lives of a teenage boy, his girlfriend, and his best friend whom he kindamaybe is sexually attracted to are upended in a big way when their town is invaded by gigantic praying mantises with only two things on their mind: Fighting and fu…n macrame classes? The book on which this is based is a good one, but the presence of Edgar Wright at the helm of this sci-fi puberty metaphor shoots it to the top of our “give it to me now” list.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Director: Travis Knight
Cast: Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei
What Is It? Travis Knight, lead animator on Laika’s ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, and Coraline makes his directorial debut on Laika’s stop-motion fantasy based on Japanese history and mythology.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst
What Is It? More a chase movie with sci-fi elements than an out-and-out genre fest, the long-awaited Midnight Special reteams Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) with his frequent collaborator and noted sorority enthusiast Michael Shannon, who plays a father forced to go on the run after he discovers his son has special powers.
The Moon and the Sun
Director: Sean McNamara
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, William Hurt, Kaya Scodelario, Bingbing Fan, Benjamin Walker
What Is It? Pierce Brosnan plays French monarch King Louis XIV. He kidnaps a mermaid. The mermaid becomes BFFs with his daughter. This one was supposed to be released already, but it was pulled from Paramount’s schedule a while back and hasn’t been given a new release date, which heavily implies that it’s just as bad as it sounds. The Moon and the Sun is the only movie on this list that I’m looking forward to out of a sense of schadenfreude. This could be our next Winter’s Tale.
Director: Duncan Jones
What Is It? Rumor has it that Moon director Duncan Jones could have one more indie movie to work on before next year’s release of his big-budget debut Warcraft: Mute, a futuristic Berlin-set thriller about a mute bartender who gets tied up in a gang war after his partner mysteriously disappears. Jones has been working on this one for 5+ years already, so don’t expect anything too soon, but it sounds fun if it ever happens.
Director: Morten Tyldum
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen
What Is It? Headhunters director Morten Tyldum (and The Imitation Game, but the sooner I can forget that one, the better) heads for the stars for this sci-fi romance about a man midway through a lengthy space journey who wakes up from artificial sleep 60 years early; after several months of playing Candy Crush, he caves and wakes up one of his fellow travellers. This one’s been in development hell since 2009, with Keanu Reeves, Rachel McAdams, and Reese Witherspoon at various points attached to star; the eventual casting of human charisma factories Jennifer Lawrence and Burt Macklin, FBI means that a good half of the Internet is already virtually guaranteed to see this one.
Ready Player One
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Olivia Cooke
What Is It? Based on a best-selling (and excellent!) book by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is set in a future where a good chunk of humanity spends most of their time immersed in a virtual reality computer game. The inventor of the game, before he died, planted an Easter Egg that will give the person who finds it his entire company. Rumor has it that Spielberg is trying to get Willy Wonka his goddamned self—OK, OK, Gene Wilder—out of retirement for the role.
Director: Tanya Wexler
Cast: Keanu Reeves
What Is It? The premise of this movie—Keanu Reeves plays a neuroscientist (what next, Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist?) who goes to great, presumably nature-defying lengths to bring his family back to life aftewr they die in a car wreck—sounds really generic, but I’m willing to give a lot of leeway to the woman who directed an adorably flustered Hugh Dancy inventing the vibrator.
Cast: Anne Hathaway
What Is It? A sci-fi comedy where a passing meteor turns men into bloodthirsty monsters, so women have to band together to save the world. I mean, yes.
The Space Between Us
Director: Peter Chelsom
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Gary Oldman, BD Wong, Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson
What Is It? Described as an “intergalactic love story,” The Space Between Us stars Hugo’s Asa Butterfield as a young man raised on Mars by scientist who escapes his handlers and runs off to Earth to meet a girl he met on the webz. The film reaches an anticlimactic end when he discovers he’s being catfished by a balding, 45-year-old sales associate from Topeka.
Story of Your Life
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
What Is It? “Taking place after alien crafts land around the world, an expert linguist is recruited by the military to determine whether they come in peace or are a threat.” I’m sorry, did you say AMY ADAMS and ALIEN LINGUISTICS?
Untitled Bret McKenzie Musical
What Is It? Bret McKenzie, the Oscar-winning half of Flight of the Conchords (all apologies to Jemaine Clement) is is working on a live-action fairy tale comedy musical “with singing dragons and monsters and stuff” in the vein of Labyrinth. We first heard of this still-untitled movie back in 2013, when McKenzie said he was about halfway through writing the script; since then, he’s picked up other projects, notably Disney’s Bob: The Musical and Fortunately, the Milk, and this particular movie appears to have been back-burnered. I’ll wait for you, Bret McKenzie fantasty puppet musical. I’ll wait.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Director: Luc Besson
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna
What Is It? Based on a French comic series published in the late ’60s-early ’70s, Valerian is, according to the director himself, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith in space,” but with time travel and space exploration. Besson’s record hasn’t exactly been great lately, quality-wise (even if Lucy made a ton of money), but Valerian’s concept is good enough that I really hope the director of The Fifth Element can figure out a way to return to form.
Pic via NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.