X-Men: Days of Future Past
Release Date: 22nd May
Sceptics abounded in the lead up to X-Men: First Class, the prequel which detailed the birth of the X-Men. First Class proved a critical and financial success for Fox, leading to the immediate green light for Days of Future Past.
Director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise as Wolverine is sent back in time to prevent the dystopian future being experienced by mutants – where they are hunted by huge robots called Sentinels – from ever coming to pass.
As seems to be the case with the big superhero movies these days, the cast is outstanding. Fassbender, McAvoy and Lawrence all return from First Class, while from the original trilogy, Sirs Stewart and McKellen return along with Hugh Jackman. We also get a villainous turn from man of the moment Peter Dinklage.
Fox have promised that this film is by far the biggest in the franchise’s history (the budget is rumoured at around $250 million) and with the studio having already commissioned a sequel, X-Men: Apocalypse, early signs are pointing to this being one of the best X-Men films to date.
You won’t lose anything by seeing this film in 2D, but this was filmed with 3D cameras, so it should be one of the better blockbuster 3D experiences this year and worth the extra couple of dollars.
Release Date: 15th May
Godzilla makes a return to the big screen this year, in a reboot directed by Gareth Edwards. The film boasts star power in Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron-Taylor Johnson and Bryan “The Danger” Cranston.
Edwards is most famous for the super low budget indie Monsters, about a couple who get lost in a quarantine zone after aliens land near the USA Mexico Border – a rather excellent film which relied more on atmosphere and mood to tell its story, rather than an abundance of CGI. If Edwards can bring that same vision and style to his mega budget Godzilla film (and early previews suggest this is the case) then cinemagoers will have a new favourite movie monster.
The promotional material released so far does seem to lean towards a much more atmospheric look and feel than we were treated too in the last Godzilla film from Roland Emmerich. And thankfully they seem to be saving any clear looks of the monster (monsters if you believe the rumours) for the film proper, which in itself is a nice change to standard blockbuster marketing and a reason to be excited. If a studio is happy to drip feed the audience story details and money shots that generally means they are confident regarding the film’s quality.
While there is a 3D option, 2D is the clear winner here.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Release Date: 26th June
After 2011’s improved and wildly successful third installment, Paramount have gone back to the drawing board (a bit) for what they say is the first of a new trilogy.
Michael Bay returns to helm this fourth film, but the human cast is given a shake-up. Shia LaBeouf and his insufferable parents have been let go in favour of Mark Wahlberg and his daughter Nicola Peltz and her race car driving boyfriend Jack Reynor.
After the invasion of Chicago in the last film, Transformers are now public enemy number one. Cade Yaeger (Wahlberg) is an inventor who lives in the country and stumbles across a rusted and very angry Optimus Prime, causing the government to intervene.
Look, it doesn’t really matter that much about the story because all your favourite Autobots are back to fight the Decepticons because a maguffin needs to be found to save the universe. All you really need to know is that all the usual Transformers stuff happens except this time Optimus Prime rides a giant robot Tyrannosaurus into battle like a horse. The Tyrannosaurus also breathes fire.
IMAX 3D is really the only option if you want the full experience as select scenes will “pop” to fill the full IMAX frame. Otherwise, look around for a 2D presentation.
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Release Date: 19th June
This is the first calendar year without a Pixar film since 2005, so DreamWorks Animation has swung for the fences with their sequel to the wildly popular How to Train Your Dragon.
In this sequel, Hiccup and Toothless fly away and stumble across a cave housing hundreds of new species of dragons, and then they must stop a warlord from using them as a means to conquer the world.
We can expect a continuation of the fun and adventure from the original as virtually the same creative team are on board again, but the excitement comes from the way the world of the franchise appears to be opening up. There’s been talk that DreamWorks want this to be a huge franchise spanning multiple sequels and they appear to have taken the time to craft a proper story. It’s refreshing that they haven’t rushed this film like they have with some of their other animated franchises.
Expect the visuals to be bright and kinetic, while fully utilising the 3D effects in the ways that only animated films can. John Powell also returns to hopefully deliver another Oscar nominated score for this second installment.
If your kids/siblings can keep the glasses on for 100 minutes then see this in 3D. Fully digital films always provide the best 3D experiences.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Release Date: 10th July
Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the reboot of the one of cinema’s most enduring franchises, realistically had no right to turn out as well as it did. The entire enterprise smacked of Hollywood’s obsession with old ideas, but the creative team behind the project crafted a very enjoyable summer movie experience. That huge success has spurred Fox Studios to go full steam ahead with this second instalment.
This time, Caesar is leading a growing camp of genetically evolved apes as they try to find their place in a world brought to its knees by the virus that has destroyed much of the human population.
Increases in filmmaking technologies now mean that we can dispense with prosthetics for films like these, and the realistic look of the computer generated apes was a huge reason why the first film was such a success. Andy Serkis is the master of motion capture acting, and his performance as Caesar was outstanding last time out, and now he won’t be the only star ape attraction, as other actors have joined the fray as the apes have an expanded presence in this film as they duke it out against Gary Oldman and the remaining humans.
I’d stick to 2D for this one unless there are no other options.