2017 Arts Preview - The Year Ahead in Film

Hollywood loves low risk sequels '“ and there are plenty lined up for 2017 '“ but it's had to wait a long time for reboots of Trainspotting and Blade Runner. Meanwhile, a new generation of stars are starting to assert their influence
Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller in Trainspotting 2Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller in Trainspotting 2
Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller in Trainspotting 2

Maybe it’s a sign of the Trainspotting sequel’s ambitions for global domination that it shares its streamlined title with James Cameron’s world conquering follow up to The Terminator. If so, let’s hope Danny Boyle’s long-awaited T2 (27 January) similarly builds on the original rather than travelling back in time to regurgitate everything that made Trainspotting a cultural phenomenon back in 1996. Although the trailer served up a slyly nostalgic greatest hits package (“Choose watching history repeat itself…” quipped Ewan McGregor’s Renton), Boyle has never played it safe in his career, so is unlikely to start now. Reuniting the original cast (McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner, Kelly Macdonald), the film catches us up in real time with the characters 20 years on, potentially making this a radge, drug-fuelled riff on Richard Linklater’s Before… movies.

T2 actually inaugurates a year of sequels and nostalgia-courting franchises. But before despair sets in at the prospect of Fast and Furious 8 (14 April) or Transformers: The Last Knight (23 June), there’s an embarrassment of riches on offer for more discerning fans of grown-up cinema, kicking off with Martin Scorsese’s religious epic Silence (1 January), which seems intentionally designed to test the faith of Scorsese’s own acolytes. It stars Andrew Garfield, who pops up again as a conscientious-objector-turned-medic in Mel Gibson’s Second World War movie Hacksaw Ridge (27 January). Ben Affleck is also back in the director’s chair with his adaptation of Gone Baby Gone novelist Dennis Lehane’s period crime saga Live By Night (14 January). He’ll face stiff competition from younger brother Casey Affleck, who’s magnificent in Kenneth Lonergan’s funny and heartbreaking Manchester by the Sea (14 January). As is co-star Michelle Williams, who can be seen alongside Kristen Stewart in Kelly Reichardt’s acclaimed Certain Women (3 March). Stewart further confirms her status as one of the best actors of her generation in Olivier Assayas’s haunting Personal Shopper (17 March) and Dev Patel gets a good starring role opposite Nicole Kidman in Lion (20 January).

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Damien Chazelle’s much-hyped paean to the Hollywood musical La La Land (14 January) finally arrives in the UK after dominating the festival circuit – as does the Cannes-winning German comedy Toni Erdmann (3 February) and Paul Verhoeven’s controversial Elle (10 March). Much fancied on the awards front is Moonlight (24 February), Barry Jenkins’ sublime study of black male identity; and there are two new films from Chilean master Pablo Larraín: Jackie (28 January) stars an Oscar-tipped Natalie Portman as JFK’s widow and Neruda (7 April) features Gael García Bernal as the Nobel prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Look out too for new films from New York’s cutting edge Borderline collective: Antonio Campos’s stranger-than-fiction Christine (27 January) stars Rebecca Hall as suicidal newscaster Christina Chubbuck, while debut director Nicolas Pesce serves up the black-and-white horror oddity Eyes of My Mother (24 March). And for the truly out-there, Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (14 April) sees the South Korean auteur take on Sarah Waters’ best-selling novel Fingersmith in audacious style.

In the blockbuster world, Christopher Nolan brings his large-scale technical bravado to bear on the Second World War with the stunning-looking Dunkirk (21 July), one of only a hand-full of non-franchise blockbusters set for release in 2017. Also sure-to-be-intense is Patriots Day (24 February), Peter Berg’s dramatisation of the Boston marathon bombings, starring Mark Wahlberg.

In the world of superheroes all eyes will be on Spider-Man: Homecoming (7 July). It’s the third reboot for the web-slinger, but with Marvel’s creative involvement maybe this one will stick. Elsewhere, Monster director Patty Jenkins – who was dropped by Marvel from Thor: The Dark World – finally gets her shot at helming a superhero film with DC’s Wonder Woman (2 June). On the subject of Thor, Marvel have smartly hired Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi to take charge of Thor: Ragnarok (27 October). There’s also more from Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (28 April) and a final outing for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in Logan (3 March).

Among the more interesting sequels this year is John Wick Chapter 2 (17 February), the follow-up to Keanu Reeves’ instant cult classic about an assassin-for-hire who goes on a kill-crazy rampage to avenge his murdered puppy. World War Z 2 (6 June) is intriguing as well, if only because so little is known about the Brad Pitt-starring zombie sequel that, at the time of writing, a spokesperson from Paramount couldn’t even confirm if David Fincher had signed on to direct it or not.

The rest of the 2017 looks set to reflect Hollywood’s ongoing determination to repackage recent blockbuster history in a myriad of inventive (and not-so-inventive) ways. Blade Runner 2049 (6 October) sees Harrison Ford returning for a belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic. Arrival’s Denis Villeneuve is on directing duties, presumably because Scott himself has been too busy revisiting another of his sci-fi masterpieces with Alien: Covenant (19 May). The trend for live-action versions of classic animation continues with Scarlett Johannson in Ghost in the Shell (31 March) and Emma Watson in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (17 March). For those who like cinema more simian based, Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson lead an all-star cast in King Kong re-boot Kong: Skull Island (10 March) while former King Kong Andy Serkis returns in War for the Planet of the Apes (14 July). As for the old guard, Tom Cruise attempts to preserve his box-office appeal with The Mummy (9 June) and Johnny Depp – who also pops up in Kenneth Brannagh’s all-star redo of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (24 November) – returns to his Jack Sparrow cash-cow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (26 May). Finally Looper director Rian Johnson brings things full circle with Star Wars: Episode VIII (15 December), drawing the year to a close by (possibly) going all Empire Strikes Back on the revived saga. ■