This Week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles as The Batman, The Color Purple, The Nutty Professor, and The Thing.
Despite the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on live-action production, many animated projects appear to be moving forward with fewer delays. One of these is Walt Disney Animation’s Raya and the Last Dragon, which was indeed pushed back from its original release date of November 25, 2020 to March 12, 2021. Although that move initially appeared to be due to general trends and not the film’s production itself, it turns out that wasn’t necessarily the case, as Walt Disney Pictures is indeed using those extra four months to recast the voice lead, hire a new co-writer, and replace the film’s directors. Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose Tico in the recent Star Wars sequels, is taking over the role of Raya, replacing Cassie Steele, which makes Tran, who is Vietnamese American, the first person of Southeast Asian heritage to voice the lead role in a Disney animated feature. The film’s new directors are Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Moana) and Carlos Lopez Estrada (Blindspotting), and the film’s newest screenwriter is Qui Nguyen (Vietgone). Awkwafina, who is voicing the titular dragon, remains attached as Tran’s co-star; she will also co-star in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings next year on May 7, 2021.
The complicated thing about complaining about all remake projects is that some of the most beloved movies of all time were themselves also remakes, or at least retreads (The Wizard of Oz, The Maltese Falcon, etc.) The “sci-fi horror” genre in particular had a spate of “better than the original” remakes that arguably started in 1978 with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Certified Fresh at 93%), and included John Carpenter’s The Thing (Certified Fresh at 84%), and David Cronenberg’s The Fly ( Certified Fresh at 92%). Universal Pictures attempted a return to The Thing in 2011 (Rotten at 35%) that actually turned out to be a prequel, and there have been other projects in recent years (in particular, one would be an adaptation of a recently discovered longer version of the original story Who Goes There? called Frozen Hell). Blumhouse recently did quite well with a horror remake — The Invisible Man, Certified Fresh at 91% — its strongest partnership just happens to be with Universal Pictures, the same studio behind The Thing. And so, that brings us to this week’s news that Blumhouse is now partnering with producer and director John Carpenter on a new reboot of his 1982 film. There are no premise updates (such as whether it will be a period piece set in the 1980s or set in modern times), but one thing we can guess is that Carpenter will probably not direct the remake, as he also gave over his Halloween franchise to David Gordon Green (Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends are coming in 2021 and 2022).
A year after voicing Nala in Disney’s computer animated remake of The Lion King (Rotten at 52%), Beyonce released a musical companion to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift called Black is King (Certified Fresh at 98%) on Disney+. Now, Black is King director Blitz Bazawule (A.K.A. Blitz the Ambassador) has signed on with Warner Bros. for another movie musical, which is the studio’s adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple. Reportedly, several of the musical’s producers, including Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, and Steven Spielberg, all saw Bazawule’s movie The Burial of Kojo on Netflix and “were wowed by his vibrant visual style.” Winfrey, of course, co-starred with Whoopi Goldberg in the original feature adaptation of The Color Purple (Fresh at 81%), which was directed by Spielberg, and whose music was composed by Jones. Screenwriter Marcus Gardley (The Chi, NOS4A2) is adpating the Broadway musical, which was itself a reimaging of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple, upon which Spielberg’s movie was based. It’s not yet known if Warner Bros. will cast new performers (like, say, Beyonce) for the movie, recruit the Broadway cast, or perhaps a combination of both.
The Color Purple isn’t the only recent Tony-winning Broadway hit getting a movie adaptation soon, as Universal Pictures is also getting ready to produce Dear Evan Hansen, which won six Tony Awards, including Best Actor (Ben Platt), Best Featured Actress, Best Score, and Best Musical. Ben Platt has long been attached to reprise his titular lead role, but Universal appears to be mostly attracting movie stars for many of the other parts, including Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart, Certified Fresh at 97%) and Amandla Stenberg (The Hate U Give, Certified Fresh at 97%). We can now add Amy Adams to the list, as she will be playing the mother of Caitlyn Dever’s character (Colton Ryan has also been cast as Connor, a student whose death is central to the musical’s plot). Dear Evan Hansen will be directed by Stephen Chbosky (Wonder, Certified Fresh at 85%). There is currently no release date for Dear Evan Hansen, but Universal Pictures may be eyeing it as a possible late 2021 “awards season” contender.
In the final days of a summer in which San Diego Comic-Con was severely diminished as a pop culture event by the COVID-19 pandemic, Warner Bros. held their own online event called DC FanDome. Although there were many interesting panels, trailers, and videos, the biggest single video to debut at DC FanDome was arguably the first trailer for The Batman (10/1/2021). In addition to Batman himself (Robert Pattinson), Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), the Riddler (Paul Dano), and Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), sharp-eyed fans also noticed that we can see Colin Farrell as the Penguin, and really smart fans have already deciphered the Riddler’s “riddles” seen in the teaser/trailer. In related news, Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) has joined The Batman as Gordon’s first partner, Stanley Menkel. In another DC FanDome event, we also got to see early concept art for Barry Allen’s new costume in the time travel adventure The Flash (6/3/2022). Director James Gunn had way more to show off for his version of The Suicide Squad (8/6/2021), including 29 set images, “pop art” style images for the film’s various villains/mercenaries, and a two-minute video with sneak peeks at some of the film’s action.
Two of the other upcoming DC Comics movies that were spotlighted at DC FanDome are Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam (12/22/2021) and the sequel Shazam: Fury of the Gods (11/4/2022), which are directly connected to each other because of Black Adam’s roots coming directly from the “Shazam” mythos. Following a big year on The CW as the stars of Stargirl, a version of the Justice Society of America was revealed through Black Adam concept art, although with only four members revealed (Atom-Smasher, Cyclone, Dr. Fate, and Hawkman), the Black Adam version seems like a much smaller roster than the comics (which in the past has sometimes included over a dozen members at once). You can also see lots of non-JSA concept images here. Shazam! star Zachary Levi was also on hand to reveal that the sequel’s title will be Shazam: Fury of the Gods, although the panel did not specify “which” gods in question are so furious, why, and at whom. Comedian Sinbad was also involved, which teased that “maybe” he might be in the sequel, although there’s a strong chance he was just there as a reference to the Internet’s most discussed example of “The Mandela Effect.”
Some stars are so larger-than-life that they get multiple biopics. One such example is John Belushi, who was depicted by Michael Chiklis in Wired (Rotten at 4%) in 1989, just seven years after Belushi’s death in 1982 at the age of 33. The new biopic, to be titled just Belushi, made the news in December, as at that point, Broadway star Alex Brightman was expected to be starring as John Belushi. Possibly in the interest of attracting investors and financing, the producers of Belushi appear to be seeking more famous actors, as they are now in talks with Happy Endings co-star Adam Pally to play John Belushi instead. Two other major roles may also going to bigger names, as Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project) is in talks to play Belushi’s Blues Brothers collaborator Dan Aykroyd, and Aubrey Plaza may be cast as Belushi’s wife, Judith Belushi (Pisano). Belushi will be directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) from a screenplay by Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness; co-writer of Wonder).
The pop culture obsession with the 1980s — and the rate at which movies from that era have inspired remakes — has arguably had an impact on how quickly movies from the 1990s are receiving their own remakes. Consider, for example, how many more remakes of 1980s movies there were in 2010 than there were 1990s remakes in 2020. The biggest comedy hit of 1996 was itself a remake, as Eddie Murphy took over the role as The Nutty Professor (Fresh at 64%) originated by Jerry Lewis in the 1963 original (Fresh at 85%). Both movies were about an awkward scientist who transforms himself into an alter ego called “Buddy Love,” but Eddie Murphy’s version also made the scientist morbidly obese (Jerry Lewis’ version was just goofy). The Nutty Professor is now getting a new reboot and it’s coming from the same production company that is currently prepare to film Scream 5, itself a continuation of one of the 1990s’ most popular franchises. It’s not yet known if this third iteration of The Nutty Professor will have any “horror” elements (one could see how it could easily drift into “body horror“), or if it will just be a straight up comedy romp.
The 1984 video game hit Tetris has been such an innocuous part of pop culture for decades now that it is easy to forget that (and many people may not even know this) it was actually invented during the final years of the USSR. Taron Egerton (Rocketman, Kingsman: The Secret Service) is now signed to star in Tetris, which will depict the cloak and dagger efforts that led to the original Tetris video game effectively being smuggled out of the USSR, including the involvement of the KGB. Egerton will play Dutch-born video game entrepeneur Henk Rogers, whose story Egerton is calling “definitely more Social Network than LEGO Movie.” That distinction is important to point out, as there have indeed been stories in the recent past about a Tetris movie (or a trilogy, even) that would have been a more direct “video game movie” adaptation. This is a different Tetris movie, to be directed by the same director as Stan & Ollie (Certified Fresh at 92%), even, to give you an idea of how unlike a video game movie it will probably be.