“Watchmen” (release date: March 6)
With a bounty of long-awaited releases on the way, 2009 is shaping up to be a banner year for sci-fi fans. Topping the list of must-see flicks is the upcoming adaptation of Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.” Those interested in the typical superhero-saves-the-day brand of cape crusaders can give it a pass, but for just about everyone else, this dark story of a fractured band of retired heroes-for-hire holds a lot of promise. And if the trailers for “Watchmen” are any indication, even comic book aficionados can prepare for nearly nitpick-free viewing. Unlike previous attempts to bring Moore’s stories to the big screen (including “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “V for Vendetta”), this one looks like it’s ripped right from the pages of what’s often called “the greatest graphic novel of all time.”
“Star Trek” (release date: May 8) Next up in interest, if not potential quality, is director J.J. Abrams version of “Star Trek,” which promises to boldly go where several installments of the franchise have gone before. OK, this take on “Trek” does veer away from the others in that it shows Trekkies (or Trekkers, let’s not quibble) a glimpse of the younger, hotter days of the original cast of characters. But there’s bound to be a been-there-done-that feel, albeit minus the veteran stars everyone already knows and loves. Whether it succeeds comes down to the new actors ability to make the old characters their own, as well the filmmakers ability to stay true to a story some consider sacred. There’s already debate on the latter point, as would-be watchers busy themselves dissecting the trailer (“Did that kid just say his name is ‘James Siberius Kirk!? It’s Tiberius!”).
“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (release date: May 1) The X-Men may not return to the big screen as a team, but they’re all due for some solo treatment over the next few years. First up and likely the best of the bunch is “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Actor Hugh Jackman reprises his role as everyone’s favorite mutton-chopped mystery man, but this time his mystery gets solved. The prequel focuses on clearing up Wolverine’s cloudy backstory, revealing how he came to join Team X and sport those indestructible metal bits. The only fear for hardcore fans is whether or not the film will make its release date. Jackman, who’s doing double duty as producer on “Wolverine,” has promised a “badass” film that’s worth the wait, however long that is.
“9” (release date: Sept. 9) Based on Shane Acker’s 2005 short film of the same name, “9” has fans in the know hoping for a full-length feature that fulfills the action-packed, eye-candy promise of the original. With experts in the world of visual mayhem, like Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, at the helm, they may just get it. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world not far from our own, in which the fate of humanity hinges on the actions of a team of numbered rice-sack rag dolls. As one might guess, given the title, most of the burden falls to the chosen one, number 9. With an impressive looking trailer and a talent-heavy group of voice actors (including Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, John C. Riley, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly and Martin Landau), “9” could be a sleeper sci-fi hit.
“Terminator Salvation” (release date: May 22) Humanity’s “last, best hope,” John Connor (this time played “Batman Begins” star Christian Bale), returns to the big screen in “Terminator Salvation.” This, the first “Terminator” flick not featuring actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, serves as both a sequel and a prequel to the films that came before it. The future that little John was warned about is here, but it’s not exactly what his time traveling allies led him to believe. Still, it’s up to him to save the world from the evils of Skynet and their coming Terminators. Will he do it? Probably, that’s the whole point of the franchise after all, but whether fans will flock to see it is the real question. A “Terminator” sans Schwarzenegger’s version of the T-800, or possibly featuring a CGI enhanced knockoff, could be a tough sell.