JANUARY: BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH IS THE VILLAIN IN STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (WHOEVER HE TURNS OUT TO BE)
On one hand, it might seem like movie fans have known for much longer than a year that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing the villain in the sequel Star Trek Into Darkness. However, another year of that knowledge still hasn't really changed much in regards to knowing exactly who that villain will be. The official pre-release line is that Cumberbatch plays a character named John Harrison. However, in the last year, we've also heard about Cumberbatch possibly playing super psychic Gary Mitchell. And of course, there's the persisting notion that he's really Khan under a cover identity (or something like that). The answer isn't that far away, as Paramount Pictures is releasing Star Trek Into Darkness on May 17, 2013.
FEBRUARY: EDGAR WRIGHT TO DIRECT JOHNNY DEPP IN THE NIGHT STALKER
This story made the annual list for two reasons: February had a pretty high "Rotten Idea" ratio, and this writer had forgotten that this story had ever happened in the first place. Therefore, it's probably a good nominee to be revisited by other movie fans eleven months later, as well. Basically, Johnny Depp is producing and is likely to star in a Walt Disney Pictures adaptation of the 1970s ABC TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Director Edgar Wright was also hired for The Night Stalker right at the start of development. Wright's involvement on this project has probably been so quickly forgotten because most attention has been given to either this year's The World's End (Wright's thematic follow up to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), or his Ant-Man movie for Marvel Studios, to be released on November 6, 2015. As for what The Night Stalker itself is actually about, it's pretty easy to synopsize: Kolchak is a newspaper reporter who has a knack for repeatedly investigating stories involving supernatural creatures (vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc). Of course, all of this presumes that Johnny Depp still wants to star in a movie adapting a 1970s TV show involving vampires after the "meh" box office performance this year of Dark Shadows.
MARCH: AFTER YEARS OF BAD NEWS, ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES... WILL ACTUALLY CONTINUE
This might be another story that seems like we've known about much longer than we actually have. But nope, it was only back on March 28, 2012 that Will Ferrell dressed up like Ron Burgundy and went on the Conan show to announce that Paramount had given a greenlight to the sequel Anchorman: The Legend Continues. Since then, we've seen a teaser trailer in theaters, much of the original cast has been confirmed as returning, and a release date of December 20, 2013 has been set by Paramount. Director Adam McKay is also returning, and cowrote the script with Will Ferrell. Filming of Anchorman: The Legend Continues is scheduled to start next month in February, 2013.
APRIL: SIR BEN KINGSLEY CAST AS THE BIG BAD IN IRON MAN 3 (WHO IS TOTALLY WHO EVERYONE THOUGHT HE WOULD BE)
Some of the skepticism over the character misdirect concerning the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness is that the movie fan community has experienced this sort of thing before (and frequently). Heck, it even happened this year, with a completely different sequel and villain. It all started when Sir Ben Kingsley was cast as "the villain" in Iron Man 3 (scheduled for release on May 3, 2013). The writing of the casting announcement nearly stumbled over itself trying to establish that Kingsley would not be playing The Mandarin, Iron Man's comic book archnemesis (whose existence was also teased in the first movie). This wouldn't be quite as hilarious if we didn't all know that, yeah, he totally is playing The Mandarin.
MAY: KICK-ASS 2 IS ANOTHER 2013 SEQUEL THAT, BEFORE 2012, SEEMED LIKE IT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN
Continuing the trend from our March story, this year also saw the sudden rejuvenation of the sequel Kick-Ass 2 after a (albeit shorter) period in which it seemed likely to end up being scrapped. In the case of Kick-Ass 2, the reason why things changed so suddenly seemed to be most obviously linked to the "super" over-performance of The Avengers, the results of which emerged just two days before the greenlight for Kick-Ass 2 was announced. Right around here, however, it should be noted that, except for the colorful outfits, The Avengers and Kick-Ass really don't have much in common at all. Indeed, Kick-Ass is nearly the opposite of The Avengers in many ways. Regardless, Universal Pictures now has Kick-Ass 2 scheduled for release on June 28, 2013.
JUNE: WARNER BROS AND DC COMICS RAMP UP THEIR BIG PUSH TOWARDS JUSTICE LEAGUE IN 2015
This story was actually part of a bigger arc (if you will) that stretched throughout the year, but the gist of it all started in early June, after it was clear that The Avengers would go down as the #3 box office success of all time. That's around the time that Warner Bros and DC Comics started getting really serious about jumpstarting a Justice League movie sooner rather than later (the summer of 2015, specifically). Not really enough is known about the Justice League movie at this point to say with full confidence that it will end up being a "Fresh Development" for movie fans, but it's certainly one for DC fans who want to see characters like the Flash, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman get the same sort of big screen attention that The Avengers received in 2012. "Justice League in 2015" might not end up being the "Freshest" story of the year, but it certainly was one of the biggest. All we really know at this point, still, is that Justice League is being adapted by Gangster Squad screenwriter Will Beall (he also does a lot of work on the Castle TV show), and that the villain might be Darkseid. The Justice League plan is also opposite that of Marvel's: rather than following several movies featuring its heroes, the Justice League movie will come first (or second, if Man of Steel counts), and then some of the heroes might then get their own movies later on.
JULY: COMIC-CON BRINGS THE NEWS FROM PETER JACKSON OF THE THIRD HOBBIT MOVIE
There were definitely a lot of big movie stories that came out of this year's San Diego Comic-Con. The single biggest movie that was hinted at there will probably end up being the 2015 release The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Until that point, aside from some rumors pointing at the possibility, the world was under the impression that Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit would be released as two (albeit very long) movies. The idea had been around for a while that Jackson was supplementing the story of The Hobbit with both world-building back story and Lord of the Rings foreshadowing. That included the addition to the films of characters that weren't even mentioned in the actual book (like Legolas), or the expansion of other characters from just a teensy mention (like Radagast the Brown). Just six months later, we probably have a much better understanding of why the third film was added to Jackson's adaptation, since most people who care about any of this have probably seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey at least once. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will be released on December 13, 2013, and The Hobbit: There and Back Again will be released on July 18, 2014.
AUGUST: THE NEXT X-MEN MOVIE (NOT COUNTING THE WOLVERINE) CONFIRMED TO ADAPT DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
The significance of this particular story might depend upon how much one is into the 1970s-1980s Uncanny X-Men comics written by Chris Claremont, which basically took one of Marvel's worst selling titles and made it the cultural behemoth that it is today. It was in August that we found out that the movie previously thought of as the "sequel to X-Men: First Class" would also tie in the first three X-Men movies as part of an adaptation of the classic 1981 time travel storyline Days of Future Past. It won't be anything close to an exact adaptation for obvious reasons (Kitty Pryde not being a 1960s X-Men member, for example). However, the involvement of Bryan Singer as director for the first time on an X-Men movie since X2 is promising. Filming is expected to start on X-Men: Days of Future Past soon in 2013, with 20th Century Fox having already scheduled this seventh* movie featuring Marvel's mutants for release on July 18, 2014. *The Wolverine comes out this year on July 26, 2013.
SEPTEMBER: DREAMWORKS ANIMATION ANNOUNCES AMBITIOUS TWELVE FILM SLATE FOR 2013-2016
The challenge for this particular column entry is the balance between it being a list of the "freshest" movie development stories, or the "biggest" stories. In the end, it basically has to be more of the latter than the former, because, frankly, we're talking about movies that haven't been released yet, and "big" is much easier to quantify than "good." As "big" as some of these stories have been this year, in sheer volume, few can add up to the numbers demonstrated in this September story. It was then that DreamWorks Animation confirmed a four year release schedule for 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 that included twelve new animated films. DreamWorks Animation may not be the critical darling that Pixar is, but they've had a number of really big hits, and some of those were indeed beloved by critics and moviegoers alike, as well. DreamWorks' 2013-2016 schedule includes sequels (How to Train Your Dragon 2, How to Train Your Dragon 3, and Kung Fu Panda 3), a spinoff (The Penguins of Madagascar), and a retro TV show adaptation (Mr. Peabody & Sherman). The various movies that don't fall into any of those three categories are The Croods, Turbo, Me and My Shadow, Happy Smekday!, Trolls, B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations, and Mumbai Musical (which is probably a working title).
NOVEMBER: THE DIRECTOR OF FOUR HARRY POTTER FILMS WILL NEXT TAKE A (VINE) SWING AT TARZAN
Maybe the movie industry spent the month in shock following the Star Wars Episode VII news, or maybe it was just a slow month because of those long holidays Hollywood likes to take. Whatever the reason, November lacked a truly obvious "big story." It could also have to do with how "awards season" makes the industry think more about attracting future nominations, and less about the sort of big, flashy movies that attract interest here. Warner Bros may have a little bit of both, however, depending upon how the studio's long-planned revival of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan ends up being realized. Tarzan won the distinction of being the film that director David Yates finally said "yes" to after a year of trying to find his next post-Harry Potter "go project." This story also came in the same year that Edgar Rice Burroughs' other most famous hero, John Carter, landed with something of a thud in (American) theaters. Warner Bros obviously thinks Tarzan, with decades of movie history under his loincloth, has a better chance of connecting.
DECEMBER: A SEQUEL TO WRECK-IT RALPH WILL HAPPEN, AND MARIO WILL HAVE A LARGE ROLE IN IT, TOO
Whatever was written about November being a slow-ish news month goes double for December, for two obvious Holiday-related reasons (one was on the 25th, the other had 8 crazy nights). A fairly big story that did emerge, however, is probably in the "well, yeah, duh" category (especially fun if you imagine Sarah Silverman saying that). That's because a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph is now pretty much a certainty, as the first film is on its way to possibly earning over $300 million worldwide (as of this writing, it's at $277 million). Disney's homage to the era of classic arcade video games has a lot of potential material for the sequel (and maybe even "sequels"), as there's more to video games than just the arcade era, and more to be nostalgic about than just the 1980s, or even, for that matter, the 1990s. Already included in the public discussions about the sequel is Nintendo's Mario, who nearly was featured in the first film.