Fox Previews a Darker ‘Wolverine,’ Funnier ‘Planet of the Apes’

Logan trailer Wolverine
Courtesy of James Mangold

20th Century Fox rolled out four of its most promising film offerings for 2017 — a darker-yet-again take on its “Wolverine” franchise, a terrifying reboot of the 1979 space thriller “Alien,” a “Planet of the Apes” sequel that promises extra pathos and humor, and a psychological horror flick from the maker of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.

The four films highlight a slate that will be the first under Stacey Snider, the new chairman of the studio’s film operation, though the films were put into production when Jim Gianopulos still headed the studio.

Introducing the latest of the Wolverine films, “Logan,” was director James Mangold, who said that star Hugh Jackman was only ready for another go as the slashing, tormented protagonist if he had a chance to do something really different. The studio showed 42 minutes of the super-charged, super-dark film Wednesday, but embargoed any plot reveals or reviews.

Mangold said that he meant the film to appeal to grown-up audiences, saying adults want more than they usually get from standard comic book fare. “I am feeling a kind of exhaustion” watching most super-hero films, Mangold said. He said he designed the latest film as a mash up of “‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ with Marvel characters and violence.”

Fans in the audience at the Zanuck Theater on the Fox lot, and on social media, seemed mostly won over by what a few dubbed as the “old man Logan” movie, with Jackman protecting a young girl who is a clone of his character, as they are pursued by a secret cabal of evil-doers.

Fox rolled out its latest “Planet of the Apes” offering with a series of clips, the film’s first trailer and an introduction from director Matt Reeves, returning to the franchise for the third time. “War for the Planet of the Apes” is the eighth re-conceiving since the 1968 original and the third reboot of the recent series that began in 2011.

It again features Caesar, played by Andy Serkis, the once kindly ape who has turned increasingly against the humans who have driven their primate cousins to the edge of extinction. Caesar has a crisis of conscious when confronted with evidence of the abundant suffering of both humans and apes, as both species are driven to the brink. Reeves said new characters will be introduced — including Steve Zahn as a chimp liberated from a zoo — who will bring new humor and emotion to what is essentially a war movie.

“The movie has heightened everything and we have a tremendous amount of humor,” said Reeves, “which you haven’t had in either of the previous films.”

The latest “Apes” sequel is set to open July 14 and also stars Woody Harrelson and Judy Greer. Reeves said that Harrelson feared that playing a CGI-generated character meant that he would not have other actors to play against. The actor wondered if would have to run his lines past a “tennis ball.”

But the three clips shown by Fox demonstrated the film in all stages of development, with the actors able to fully-relate as they played out the scenes in their motion-capture suits. The director said the New Zealand-based technology wizards at WETA had improved the technology so much since the last sequel that the ability to convey actors’ emotions was “leagues above” what it was just three years ago.

Fox has high hopes for the third offering in the current cycle, as box office take jumped substantially from 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” The former made $482 million in worldwide box office on a production budget of $93 million, while “Dawn” brought in a whopping $711 million worldwide, on a production budget of $170 million.

The jump in technological wizardry that aided Reeves was even more evident in director Ridley Scott’s new look “Alien: Covenant,” which arrives May 19, nearly four decades after the 1979 original with Sigourney Weaver.

This generation’s aliens appear to be decades more slippery, relentless and unnerving than the 20th century originals. Katherine Waterston, the actress who takes on the Sigourney-esque role of “Daniels” in the current iteration, credited director Scott with keeping the set loose and giving the actors a lot of rein.

Waterston said Scott generally only wanted a couple of takes and that the actors were aided in imagining the CGI alien creepers by the use of puppets. “Then it was off for dinner,” she said with a laugh.

“Pirates of the Caribbean” director Gore Verbinski brought the most original of the four films featured in the Fox showcase. “A Cure for Wellness,” is based on a story written by Verbinski and Justin Haythe, beginning with a bit of New York corporate intrigue before quickly shifting to a mysterious “wellness center” in the Swiss Alps.

Verbinski said he found the horror genre “very liberating,” allowing a dive into deep themes revolving around the very nature of consciousness. The film — starring Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth, is due to be released Feb. 17.

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  1. Leon says:

    They always find a way to ruin these films. First 2 pg -13. second film lets take a way his healing powers. 3rd film, He is not even the Bad A$$ he is second fiddle to some 13 year old girl. Cant they just make the movie we want. One man 2 sets of claws lots of blood and violence and no remorse. Oh wait I forgot dealing with out of touch rich people over here.

  2. Occultology says:

    All well and good, however, 20th Century Fox — the studio that essentially created the wide-screen, large format Science Fiction film canvas — needs to compete now with other studios’ major Sci-Fi, big budget franchises, such as Disney’s Marvel & Warner Brothers’ DC Universes. Fox gave to the world “Star Wars”, but, incredibly and stupidly, let the most popular film franchise in motion picture history slip through their fingers. The only way that Fox can recover from this blunder is to find a BETTER Science Fiction/Fantasy multi-film franchise to replace it in the hearts and minds of filmgoers worldwide; something more adult, more intellectually challenging, and something much more profound. If anyone at Fox is listening, you need to move quickly and purchase the Film Rights to Zechariah Sitchin’s series of books about the Sumerian account of the dawn of the human race on planet Earth. A good place to start is with the work known as, “The Lost Book of Enki” (bad title, I know…maybe re titled as, “The Emerald Tablets”, or something else). These books are not only filled with awe and wonder, they entertain and actually make people think! Some studio, somewhere, is going to nab the Film Rights to this series, and when they do, only little children will be interested in the further “Star Wars” sagas, because the adults will be enthralled with the Sumerian origin stories of ‘Gods & Humans’ that the ancient texts describe. If and when I run the 20th Century Fox film studio, I would make securing this intellectual property the highest priority; further adventures of the computer apes and avatars are fine, but they will not engage the minds and the emotions the way the translations of Zechariah Sitchin’s interpretations of the Sumerian Tablets will. While 20th Century Fox remains, in many ways, the best and “most Hollywood” of all the major studios, they have still not recovered from their 2 biggest historical blunders: 1) Losing the bidding for the “Star Wars” and Lucasfilm properties, and 2) Panic-Selling the North American Territorial Rights of “Titanic” to Paramount Pictures for a measly $70 Million Dollars (easily costing Fox at least a cool half-billion dollars). It often amazes me how the smartest, biggest, and most savvy film studio can sometimes seem completely bonkers and clueless over its own filmic properties. Fox, if you are playing the Hollywood game to win, secure the Film Rights to the series of books translated by Zechariah Sitchin, and do it fast, while you still can! You need to remember your niche in Film History:
    —The greatest Gangster Pictures were made by Warner Brothers;
    —The greatest Monster Movies were made by Universal Pictures;
    —The greatest Comedies (Feature Films) were made by Paramount Pictures;
    —The greatest Comedies (Short Subjects, headed by ‘The 3 Stooges’) were made by Columbia Pictures;
    —The greatest Science Fiction blockbusters were made by 20th Century Fox!
    20th Century Fox needs to remember and embrace who they are, what they once were, and where they need to go — and that is the big budget, big idea, big canvas of breathtaking, mind-blowing, full spectrum Science Fiction and Fantasy, that began so long ago, with the big screen’s “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”. Grab those Film Rights, and take firm control of your filmic future.

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