The year 2015 is already getting a lot of buzz for a multitude of high-profile films — the next Avengers movie, Jurassic Park 4, Batman vs. Superman, the return of James Bond, and (finally!) a new Star Wars movie. However, there are a number of exciting films opening this year too. Here are some of the movies I'm most looking forward to in 2014:
Divergent (March 21)
Based on a best-selling young adult dystopian sci-fi novel, "Divergent" takes place in a futuristic Chicago where society is divided into five "factions" that each represent a character trait (selflessness, honesty, etc.). Teenagers are required to take an aptitude test supposedly designed to show them which faction they are best suited for. The main character, Beatrice Prior, is born into the selfless faction but learns the results from her aptitude test are inconclusive. She is labeled as "Divergent" — having the traits of several factions — but is warned this label is dangerous, and she is instructed to never tell anyone about her results.
Although the book the film is based on is fast-paced and intriguing, I felt overall it wasn't as strongly written or strongly plotted as Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games." Still, the trailers for "Divergent" look promising, and while I don't think it will challenge "The Hunger Games" films in terms of box office intake, the film should also be a tense, exciting dystopian thriller. The key will be to draw in that same "Hunger Games" audience while also finding its own voice.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4)
Out of the three main "Avengers" superheroes — Iron Man, Thor and Captain America — I thought Iron Man had the strongest origin film. However, Captain America may well turn out to have the strongest sequel. The trailer for the second Captain America film looks great. Set in the modern day, "The Winter Solider" follows Captain America (Chris Evans) as he struggles to find his place in a new time. He'll be working with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to face a Soviet threat known as the "Winter Soldier."
It looks like "Captain America: The Winter Solider" will continue to explore one of the most interesting themes from the "Avengers" film: the amount of power wielded by S.H.I.E.L.D. and what actions are acceptable to preserve national security. I think film makers also made a wise decision to pair up Captain America and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) on this mission. They may come from very different backgrounds — he's a soldier with a strong sense of morality and justice, and she's an assassin who's used to operating in the gray areas — but the two had an intriguing chemistry in "The Avengers," and I'm excited to see that explored here, as well.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23)
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" appears to be the X-Men equivalent of "The Avengers." The time-traveling superhero film is a (sort-of) sequel to "X-Men: First Class," a prequel that showed how Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto became friends and then enemies. While "Days of Future Past" will once again feature the young versions of Professor X and Magneto (played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively), Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen also will be featured, once again, as the older versions of the characters. In the new film, the X-Men are sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past to try to alter history and save humans and mutants from a doomsday scenario.
"X-Men: First Class" is my favorite of the X-Men films so far, and I'm glad to see James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender return to their roles. However, I'm excited to see many of the characters from the original X-Men trilogy returning, as well. Having such a large ensemble cast could be a gamble; there's a risk the movie could become too complicated with too many lead players. Hopefully "Days of Future Past" will be as fun and exciting as "The Avengers" was. :)
Guardians of the Galaxy (Aug. 1)
Marvel's sci-fi film "Guardians of the Galaxy" is probably the studio's biggest gamble to date and will test just how powerful a draw the Marvel brand is for audiences. Not as well known as the Avengers team, the Guardians of the Galaxy includes an interplanetary policeman known as the Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the adopted daughter of Marvel villain Thanos. The team also includes some more unusual members, such as Groot (Vin Diesel), a sentient tree-like creature, and a raccoon (Bradley Cooper) who is an expert marksman.
Originally I was skeptical of how well this movie would do in theaters, and I wondered if it might turn out to be Marvel's first real flop. However, I'm finding myself looking forward to this one more and more, and I'm curious what the film will be like. It's exciting to see Marvel take a risk, and if they can pull this movie off, it could turn out to be a fun blend of "Star Wars" and "The Avengers."
Interstellar (Nov. 7)
The trailer for this movie teases far more than it reveals — it's mostly a voice-over from Matthew McConaughey with clips from historical events, tracing the rise and fall of the U.S. space program. The Internet Movie Database also offers little in terms of plot synopsis: "A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage."
However, the fact the film is directed by Christopher Nolan and stars a number of high-profile actors — including McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine — has me curious. The film is one of the most intriguing question marks on the movie release schedule for 2014.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (Nov. 21)
In "Mockingjay," the final book in the "Hunger Games" trilogy, the rebellion against the Capitol is in full force, and Katniss has been selected as the symbol of that rebellion. However, she's somewhat of a reluctant symbol, and she isn't sure if the leaders of the rebellion truly have motives that are purer than the leaders in the Capitol. A risky invasion of the Capitol itself will put the lives of Katniss and her friends in danger and will test how much she's willing to sacrifice to be the "Mockingjay."
I have mixed feelings about the third book in "The Hunger Games" trilogy. It has a different feel than the other two books in the series, and a number of fans have been vocal about their dislike of the book's ending. I'm also not sure it was a good idea to split the book into two movies (I'd rather they condensed the plot to fit into one movie). However, I really loved "Catching Fire" and I'm curious to see how the film makers adapt "Mockingjay."
The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Dec. 17)
The final chapter in Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" trilogy will likely start out with a bang: the previous film, "The Desolation of Smaug" ended abruptly, with the dragon Smaug heading off to unleash his wrath on the city of Lake-town. "There and Back Again" will probably begin with Smaug's attack, and will end with the "Battle of Five Armies" involving Dwarves, Elves and goblins.
I've enjoyed both "Hobbit" films so far, though I thought the second movie was a stronger film. The case could be made that Jackson probably could have kept the story to two films instead of three, but it's hard to resist the lure of returning to Middle-earth for a third time, especially since we'll get a chance to see more of Smaug.
What films are you most looking forward to this year?