Spotlight : June 1996

A Look To The Future
The Films of 1997 and 1998
By Todd Vaziri

It's still only the summer of 1996, but many people are already looking forward to the films of the future. 1997 and 1998 will be full of huge budget-busters, made by some of the biggest filmmakers in Hollywood--James Cameron, Paul Verhoeven, Roland Emmerich, and George Lucas.

In the summer of '97, we will see four huge effects-heavy blockbusters. James Cameron, founder of Digital Domain directs, writes and produces TITANIC. Somewhat of a departure for the filmmaker, the film will not rely on huge explosions, a major star, or a nasty villain. TITANIC is a love story that takes place in two time periods. One story concerns the days before the collision of the world's largest ocean liner with an iceberg, and the other is about a deep-sea salvage team in the present day. Cameron has already cast Kate Winslet as the romantic lead. Winslet was stunning in her Academy Award nominated performance in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. Her interest will be played by another Academy Award nominee, Leonardo di Caprio, the young star of THE BASKETBALL DIARIES and WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE. TITANIC will be the ultimate challenge for Cameron and his team at Digital Domain--the effects house is creating numerous digital sets which will allow the camera to move in and out of a digital, photorealistic Titanic, following characters from room to room.

After directing the abysmal SHOWGIRLS, Paul Verhoeven returns with STARSHIP TROOPERS, the film based on the Robert Heinlein novel. The film is set in the future, where humans are battling alien 'bugs' in a losing battle. The film should feature an enormous amount of CG characters, supervised by Phil Tippett and produced by Sony Pictures Imageworks. The film is written by Ed Neumeier and produced by Jon Davison, the same team that collaborated with Verhoeven on the 1987 classic, ROBOCOP.

Will Smith returns to the sci-fi genre with MEN IN BLACK, a futuristic comedy directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Smith, who stars in this summer's INDEPENDENCE DAY, appears with Tommy Lee Jones as a pair of top-secret agents assigned to monitor aliens on Earth. The film is being produced by Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks SKG studios, and was written by Ed Solomon. The sets for this film look gorgeous, and the visual effects are being handled by Industrial Light & Magic; the alien effects are being created by renowned makeup artist Rick Baker.

Ripley died at the end of ALIEN 3. So what? She's back in ALIEN IV, and so is Sigourney Weaver, reprising the role that made her famous. Secrecy is enormous concerning this film, but here is what is known for certain: the film is being directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the French director of the freaky THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and DELICATESSEN, and also features a performance by Winona Ryder. As far as I can tell, the script written by Joss Whedon must be incredible for Weaver to return to the ALIEN trilogy.

The fourth installment of the Batman series will premiere in the summer of 1997. BATMAN AND ROBIN will feature another all-star cast, including Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Chris O'Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Clooney as the caped crusader. George Clooney!? Does Warner Bros. have no shame? Let me make sure I've got this straight: four Batman movies, three different actors. It still makes no sense to me. The studio is already preparing its marketing strategy. Joel Schumacher returns to the director's chair for the film, which will probably prove to be another silly, over-the-top Batman movie.

1997 will also see the release of THE STAR WARS TRILOGY SPECIAL EDITIONS. George Lucas has spent the past few years 'fixing' each of the films with restored scenes and new visual effects. STAR WARS will be released in February of 1997, with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI following shortly after.

Sure, 1998 is a long way away, but Sony/Tri-Star is already making their summer plans. They've signed Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin to make GODZILLA, the ultimate monster epic. Emmerich and Devlin, the team that brought us STARGATE and this year's INDEPENDENCE DAY will try and breathe new life into a very tired character. Does anybody else remember GODZILLA 1985?

Oh, did I mention that Lucas plans to release STAR WARS EPISODE I in 1998? I didn't think so.

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