LAS VEGAS – The big showstopper from Sony Pictures’ CinemaCon presentation was supposed to be a sneak peek of “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” And, yes, the new Peter Parker himself, Tom Holland, director Jon Waitts along with producers Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal were on hand to introduce footage, but it turned out to be the same trailer you will likely already have seen by the time you read this story. Instead, Sony Chairman Tom Rothman brought out none other than Ryan Gosling to tout “Blade Runner 2049.” It was a surprise, but not when you consider the context.
Warner Bros. is distributing “Blade Runner 2049” in the United States and Canada, but they didn’t finance it. They are acting as distributor for Alcon Entertainment who paid for half of the movie. Sony paid for the rest and is releasing it overseas. Rothman very much knows what happens when “ownership” of a film becomes twisted in the minds of the media and industry. Rothman was an executive at 20th Century Fox when the studio sold Paramount the domestic rights to “Titanic” in 1996. Fox had fully financed the picture and although both studios earned a killing and shared in the Best Picture Oscar, the perception was that it was a “Paramount” movie. No one is saying “Blade Runner 2049” is going to come close to that box office and pop culture monster, but as he tries to re-position Sony Pictures creatively (although you could argue that wasn’t a problem under Pascal’s reign) he wants to make sure the studio always gets credit for it. As for the movie itself, the approximately five to six minutes of new footage was intriguing to say the least, but first Gosling spoke a bit about his passion for the project.
“It was so surreal to be walking around the universe of ‘Blade Runner,’” Gosling says. “The craftsmanship of this film is really on another level. Every location was real. Every set was there. Every prop was functional. It was a fully functioning, living, breathing world. And it made it so easy for us in the end because we could just focus on the internal world of these characters because the external world was so realized and full of detail.”
Gosling added he saw Ridley Scott’s original when he was 13 or 14 years old.
“I was just blown away by how influential this film had been, not only in film but in my reality as well. It’s quite a prophetic film in so many ways. It was a world that had influenced the world I grew up in,” Gosling says. “To be part of it, it’s hard to say how special it was.”
Before the footage played, Rothman revealed part of the movie takes place in Vegas and that, frankly, shocked Gosling who quipped, “I’m not even sure I’m allowed to say I had a good time making it.”
The new footage began with Officer K (Gosling) in what appears to be a replicant creation facility run by Jared Leto’s character. It doesn’t look like a lab or any sort of sterile plant. It’s even less Sci-Fi looking than where they create and fix the robots on HBO’s “Westworld.” It’s warm and inviting with wood paneled walls and stone staircases. Leto’s character gives it context, remarking, “We make angels.” These moments are cut opposite Officer K in an office having what seems to be a stern argument with Robin Wright’s character as a familiar rain beats against her office window. Is she his boss? Or someone he’s investigating? It’s unclear.
Officer K also seems to have a relationship with one of the replicants he sees given life, Joi (Ana de Armas). Unfortunately, that was the most telegraphed and predictable part of what was shown. The second a beautiful replicant appears in front of your leading man and there is sexual tension between them? Of course there is.
While many of the shots were shockingly beautiful even for the legendary Roger Deakins (his colorful contributions unintentionally evoking both “Moonlight” and any of Nicholas Winding Refn’s last three movies) what was most surprising was how much major scale action there was. There were big explosions. Like in a summer blockbuster (that has to evoke a “yikes,” right?). At one point Harrison Ford escapes something breaking through a wall and runs for his life (from something) with his gun cocked and ready to go. It all evoked a similar tone to the original, but it felt like a different beast too.
Afterward Rothman noted Warner Bros. would have more to share during its presentation on Wednesday afternoon. What they could show without giving substantially more away, however, is questionable.
That wasn’t all Sony had up its sleeve, however. They also showed the first extended scene from Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” (read The Playlist’s review from SXSW here) with the director and stars Ansel Elgort and Jon Hamm there to talk about it. Sony’s distribution chief, the always kooky Rory Bruder, announced that thanks to critical consensus (100% on Rotten Tomatoes) and strong screening reactions the studio decided to move the release date up from Aug. 11 to June 28. That puts “Driver” smack dab in the middle of the July 4th frame and opposite “Despicable Me 3” and “Transformers: The Last Night.” It also will compete against “Spider-Man: Homecoming” on July 7.
Among other extended showcases the studio showed quite a bit from “The Dark Tower” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.”
Having not read Stephen King’s popular series it was honestly hard to judge the “Dark Tower” footage. The concept was interesting, at least. A young man, Lucas (Nicholas Hamilton), finds himself in the middle of an epic showdown between immortal figures (?) the Gunslinger (Idris Elba) and the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey). The footage look and production design was one part “Matrix” trilogy, another part “Wanted,” another part “Doctor Strange” and the rest like a very conventional studio Sci-Fi Fantasy flick. Director Nikolaj Arcel (“A Royal Affair”) seemed to be concentrating most of his efforts on some unique effect moments including a moment where the Man in Black casually catches a bullet behind his head without even turning around and a slow motion sequence where the Gunslinger uses his unique skills to intentionally ricochet a bullet over a great distance to take down a bandit who is trying to kidnap Lucas. The later went over well theater owners, but it all felt very…studio.
On the other hand, the long awaited “Jumanji” sequel/reboot (take your pick) was not what anyone in the The Colosseum expected. Stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Nick Jonas, Jack Black and Karen Gillan stopped by while Kevin Hart appeared via video. The very long preview set up the movie’s storyline. Four teenage stereotypes (the jock, the geek, the dorky girl, the hot girl) get some sort of detention and are told to clean up a basement (we’ll assume it’s a High School basement because if not that’s sort of creepy). They find a video game from the 80’s or early 90’s called “Jumanji” that they convince each other to actually play. Each picks a character and before the game begins they are literally sucked into it except it doesn’t look like an 8-bit world. They are now in a “real” jungle or as a real as a PG or PG-13 family film with a lot of adult innuendo can be. The other twist is that their characters are not what they expected them to be. The huge jock is now the diminutive Kevin Hart, the geek is Dwayne Johnson, the dorky girl is now Karen Gillan and the hot girl is now horrified to discover she’s…Jack Black. Yeah, Black plays it a bit too effeminately, but it’s all over the top and no one appears unscathed (or that’s what we’re gonna hope). Oh, and did we mention they are told they have three “lives”? Lose them all and they’ll never escape the game. It played like a big hit to the crowd on hand and, thankfully, seems refreshingly different from the original film. (Oh, and Jonas appears to play some sort of Indiana Jones type character they meet while trapped in the game. No, I didn’t get it either.)
Some quick thoughts on a smattering of other previews from Sony’s presentation:
“The Emoji Movie”: Boy, this looks bizarre, painful and, despite some strong voice talent, not very funny. Studio believes in it though as they had costumed characters from the movie to take photos with the attendees after the presentation. And, hey, who doesn’t want a photo with a giant cartoon turd?
“Flatliners”: Is this remake even called “Flatliners” anymore? The movie didn’t have a title card, but that’s pretty much what it is. Beyond the fact it’s plot is strikingly similar now to “The Discovery” and “The OA” it seemed…fine. Ellen Page is very much at the center of it and that is only a good thing. The marketing department did cut some scares into the preview footage, but do yourself a favor and lower your expectations.
“Cadavar”: Unless you’ve watched “Pretty Little Liars” you’ll likely have no idea who star Shay Mitchell is, but props for her somehow getting a title card as the star of this horror flick. It currently has a Feb. 2, 2018 wide release date which is over Super Bowl LII weekend and, frankly, that tells you all you really need to know.
“Proud Mary”: Taraji P. Henson is an assassin who sexily struts her stuff in high heels and, boy, is she objectified like crazy in this preview. The teaser was set against Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” which was also a bit on the nose. Either this movie is gonna turn Henson into an action star or its going to be an extended “SNL” skit. We’re hoping for the former.
“Untitled Dan Gilroy/Denzel Washington Project”: At one time this was referred to as “Inner City,” but apparently no longer. It was hard to tell if the tease featured new footage of Denzel and co-star Colin Farrel or cobbled footage of them from earlier films. It must have lasted 20 seconds.
Look for more coverage from CinemaCon all this week on The Playist. For more from Hollywood’s big sneak follow me on twitter @TheGregoryE or follow my Instagram stories @Gregel17.