With CinemaCon 2015 unfolding at present, and every major studio presenting extensive looks at their high-profile movie projects over the near future, Universal went especially gung-ho, dating some hugely anticipated sequels, and also outlining a revised schedule for their major upcoming blockbusters through 2018.
First, given that Furious 7 has already grossed over a billion dollars worldwide in just a couple of weeks, a new Fast and Furious movie has inevitably been green-lit. Furious 8, as its working title has been declared, has been set for release on April 14th, 2017. With the series’ former leading man, Paul Walker tragically passing away during production of Furious 7, Vin Diesel looks to be taking up the role of the series’ lead completely now, previously announcing his enthusiasm to return for the landmark eighth movie in Universal’s highly lucrative action movie franchise. While it’s assumed that Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and Dwayne Johnson will also return, with Kurt Russell, Jordana Brewster and Nathalie Emmanuel also being possibilities, Vin Diesel seems to be the only actor that’s officially confirmed his involvement in the movie at this time. No writers, director, producers or story plans were revealed for Furious 8 either.
Another highly successful movie release from Universal this year was Fifty Shades of Grey, which, despite its extensive backlash and negative reviews, made quite a bit of money at the worldwide box office. Universal outlined its plans for the two sequels at CinemaCon, setting Fifty Shades Darker for February 10th, 2017, and Fifty Shades Freed for February 9th, 2018. It’s unknown why the series is skipping 2016, a rare move for flash-in-the-pan book-to-film series adaptations, though it may have something to do with the first movie’s director, Sam Taylor-Johnson bowing out of the franchise, along with the first movie’s writer, Kelly Marcel, after both suffered frequent high-profile spats with the source novels’ writer, E.L. James on set. E.L. James’ husband, Niall Leonard is writing the script for Fifty Shades Darker, with Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan set to return to the lead roles of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, respectively.
Beyond the new Fast and Furious and Fifty Shades announcements came a shuffling of Universal’s big movie dates, starting as soon as next year.
Warcraft, the film adaptation of the hit video game series, has been delayed from March 11th, 2016 to June 10th, 2016, to start. This is likely to give it a better foothold as a Summer blockbuster, especially with the looming box office threat of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice coming from Warner Bros. during that March, which Universal may have wanted to distance the movie from.
The long-awaited reboot of The Mummy suffered an even bigger delay however, slipping all the way from June 24th, 2016, to March 24th, 2017, nearly a year later. The reason for the delay is unknown, though it likely came about from sheer production stalls, since the movie still doesn’t seem to have a cast in place. Consequently, a shared Universal Monsters movie, believed to be crossing over The Mummy with last year’s Dracula Untold, among other famous ‘Universal Monsters’, slipped from April 21st, 2017, to March 30th, 2018, again, placing it nearly a year later. This is no doubt simply a side effect of The Mummy’s production stalls.
Lastly, Pacific Rim 2, originally set for April 7th, 2017, has slipped to August 4th, 2017. Again, this is likely due to the delay of The Mummy, motivating Universal to better position the monsters-vs.-mechs sequel as a Summer tentpole, where it’s not too close to their other big monster flick.
Keep reeling Eggplante for all news and updates on Universal’s major movie projects.