Wednesday 31 July 2019

Joss Whedon's THE NEVERS announces cast

HBO has announced the cast list for The Nevers, it's first television collaboration with Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, The Avengers) and Whedon's first television series since Dollhouse ten years ago.

From left to right, Olivia Williams, Nick Frost and Ann Skelly.

The series is set in Victorian England and deals with the Touched, people with unusual abilities who are in danger of being exploited or destroyed for their powers. Whedon is the head writer, showrunner and director on the show, and has been joined by Buffy vets Jane Espenson and Doug Petrie, along with Melissa Iqbal (Humans), playwright Madhuri Shekar and journalist Laurie Penny on the writing team. Bernadette Caulfield (Game of Thrones) is handling much of the organisational side of production.

Laura Donnelly (Outlander) is playing protagonist Amalia True, "the most reckless, impulsive, emotionally damaged hero of her time."

Olivia Williams (Dollhouse) is playing Lavinia Bidlow, a wealther spinster and champion of the Touched. She is the founder of the Orphanage, where Amalia and many of the Touched live.

James Norton (Grantchester) as Hugo Swann, a club owner who collects information and intelligence. He is fascinated by the Touched and may or may not be an ally.

Tom Riley (Da Vinci's Demons) as Augustus Bidlow, Lavinia's younger brother, Hugo's best friend and keen ornithologist. He develops an infatuation with one of the Touched.

Ann Skelly (Little Women) as Penance Adair, Amalia's dearest friend and a fellow member of the Touched. She is a devout Irish Catholic, which guides her moral choices.

Ben Chaplin (Snowden) as Detective Frank Mundi, a police officer with a sense of morality but who is driven to drink by the moral quandaries he finds himself in. He runs afoul of the rich and powerful, who ignore the laws of the land, and becomes aware of the presence of the Touched in London.

Pip Torrens (The Crown) as Lord Massen. A former general in the British Army and now a Peer of the Realm, Massen fears that the Touched are a danger to the Empire.

Zackary Momoh (Seven Seconds) as Dr. Horation Cousens. Another of the Touched and an ally of Amalia. As a doctor with a wife and son, he has a respectable place in society.

Amy Manson (Being Human) as Maladie, another of the Touched but one who has been driven mad by its powers. She now lives underground and has been blamed for a murder spree.

Nick Frost (Into the Badlands, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) as Declan Orrun, the Beggar King. Charismatic but brutal, Declan runs most of the crime gangs in the city. He has been both an ally and an enemy of the Touched, as he is happy to back them in return for favours but also doesn't have a problem selling them out to a higher bidder.

Rochelle Neil (Episodes) as Annie Carbey, aka Bonfire, a career criminal and one of the Touched, with the power to manipulate fire. She is a lone operator and not interested in working with others.

Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) as Mary Brighton, an aspiring singer.

Denis O'Hare (Big Little Lies) as Dr. Edmund Hague, a gifted American surgeon.

The Nevers started shooting last month in London and should air on HBO in mid-to-late 2020.

Saturday 27 July 2019

1981 version of STAR WARS gets a very limited re-release

Back in June, the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles held a special screening of both the original Star Wars (1977) and Rogue One (2016). Fans were expecting Star Wars to be the 2004 version of the film, which is effectively the 1997 Special Edition with some minor tweaks.

Much to their surprise, they instead got what appears to be a completely new print of the 1981 "second version" of the movie, which was re-released in cinemas in the aftermath of the release of The Empire Strikes Back. This is identical to the original 1977 movie with the sole exception that the opening crawl has been adjusted to have the subtitle A New Hope added.

Details are scarce, so it's unclear if the film has been further cleaned up from the original (such as having visible matte lines around models eliminated) or if it's simply a 1981 print of the movie that's undergone extensive restoration work, which is more likely.

This marks the first time that the "original" version of the movie has been released to the public (albeit in a limited way) since the 2006 "extremely limited edition" release of the original trilogy on DVD, which sold out almost instantly and now goes for considerable sums on the collector's market.

Some fans have pondered if this means a wider re-release of the original, unaltered trilogy is on the cards, perhaps to help launch Disney+ later this year. That's entirely possible, although it is also possible that this was for a special, one-off performance. Apparently, George Lucas was asked to give his approval to the showing. Although he no longer has any ownership of the Star Wars franchise, Lucas has been adamant that the 2004 "final" versions of the original trilogy are his preferred edition of the film and he considers them to be canonical. Kathleen Kennedy has indicated that Disney will respect his wishes in this, so those hoping for a wider release may be disappointed, at least at this point.

Still, the fact that Lucas relented on this occasion may give (a new) hope to those hoping to see the original, untouched trilogy back on release at some point in the future.

LORD OF THE RINGS: THE SECOND AGE confirms full creative line-up

Amazon has revealed the full creative line-up behind its Lord of the Rings prequel series set in the Second Age of Middle-earth's history.

J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay (various unproduced scripts) are the head writers and showrunners on the project.

J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, A Monster Calls, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) is directing the first two episodes and will serve as executive producer alongside his regular collaborator Belen Atienza.

Lindsey Weber (10 Cloverfield Lane), Bruce Richmond (Game of Thrones, Westworld), Gene Kelly (Boardwalk Empire) and former Amazon head of genre programming Sharon Tal Yguado are serving as executive producers on the project.

Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad), Jason Cahill (The Sopranos, Halt and Catch Fire), Helen Shang (Hannibal) and Justin Doble (Stranger Things) are serving as writer-producers.

Bryan Cogman (Game of Thrones) and Stephany Folsom (Toy Story 4) are serving as consulting producers and writers. Ron Ames (The Aviator) is also serving as a producer.

Kate Hawley (Suicide Squad) is serving as main costume designer, with Rich Heinrichs (The Last Jedi) as production designer and Jason Smith (The Revenant) as visual effects supervisor.

Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey is serving as a creative consultant on the project, alongside famed Tolkien artist John Howe as an illustrator and concept artist. Howe also served in this capacity on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

Production of Lord of the Rings: The Second Age (not necessarily the final title) will begin with some preliminary shooting next month in New Zealand, followed by the full production schedule kicking in next Spring. On that basis, the show is unlikely to air before mid-2021.

THE EXPANSE renewed for fifth season at Amazon

In an impressive display of confidence, Amazon has renewed The Expanse for a fifth season, despite Season 4 not being due to air for another five months.

The first three seasons of The Expanse were produced by Alcon Entertainment for SyFy, but SyFy cancelled the show after the third season due to low ratings and high costs, despite the show delivering blanket critical acclaim and giving the network its biggest critical hit since Battlestar Galactica ended a decade ago.

The series was revived on Amazon after negotiations, during which it was revealed that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was a huge fan of both the TV series and the original books written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (under the pen name "James S.A. Corey").

The early renewal appears to be down to the show's production requirements, with cast and crew already ready to roll on the next season, and the desire to limit the gaps between seasons. This move should allow Season 5 to air a year or maybe even less after Season 4.

Season 4 of The Expanse is due to hit Amazon Prime on 13 December 2019.

Producers confirm three-season run for HIS DARK MATERIALS

His Dark Materials executive producer Jane Tranter has confirmed that Bad Wolf Productions are currently planning to adapt Philip Pullman's novel trilogy across three seasons. This is a change from when the series was announced in 2017, when the BBC was considering adapting the books as 40 episodes to air across five seasons.

The reason for the change seems to be a simple one: the age of the young stars. Actress Dafne Keen, who is playing the protagonist Lyra (who is 11 when the events of the books begin), was 13 when they started shooting, is 14 now and will turn 15 during production of the second season (started to begin imminently). Actor Amir Wilson, who has been cast as Will for the second season, is in a similar situation. A five-season run would make both around 18-19 when the show ends, which would be difficult to make work for the story.

The move also makes it far more likely that the series will be completed. Season 1, adapting Northern Lights (known as The Golden Compass in some territories), will likely air in October or November this year. Season 2, adapting The Subtle Knife, is already greenlit and in pre-production. That makes it much more likely that the BBC and their American funding partner, HBO, will greenlight a third and final season, adapting The Amber Spyglass. The Amber Spyglass is significantly longer than the first two books, but it's also generally accepted to be the weakest of the three novels and could probably benefit from some judicious editing.

If the series is successful, it'll be interesting to see if the BBC and HBO move on to an adaptation of Philip Pullman's Book of Dust trilogy, where serves as both as a prequel and sequel series to His Dark Materials.

Friday 26 July 2019

George Miller back at work on MAD MAX: FURY ROAD follow-up

Australian writer and director George Miller has resumed work on the follow-up to his highly-acclaimed 2015 movie Mad Max: Fury Road.

After Fury Road turned out to be an unexpected success, the studio put both a sequel and a spin-off (focusing on Charlize Theron's Furiosa character) into development. However, Miller was forced to take legal action against the studio for non-payment of $7 million in bonuses from the movie's much higher-than-anticipated global box office. Warner Brothers' merger with AT&T then further delayed the process, although it also resulted in a change of regime at the studio, which Miller has indicated has suddenly removed some of the obstacles to the next film happening.

Miller had previously touted ideas for a fifth and sixth Mad Max movie, with the fifth having the working title The Wasteland, as well as a Furiosa spin-off. As the delays stretched on, Miller chose to shoot an unrelated movie, Three Thousand Years of Longing (starring Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba), which is due to begin filming early in 2020.

We're still probably 3-5 years away from seeing Mad Max back in the cinema, but at least things are now moving in the right direction.

DUNE wraps shooting, SISTERHOOD spin-off shows gets writing team

Principle photography of Denis Villeneuve's new adaptation of Frank Herbert's novel Dune has wrapped.

Denis Villeneuve (right) on location in Jordan during the production of Dune.

The movie was filmed on soundstages in Budapest, Hungary and on location in the Jordanian desert. Now the long process of editing and post-production begins. The new film will only adapt the first half or so of the first Dune novel, and the second part will only be greenlit if the movie is a success

Dune will hit cinemas on 20 November 2020.

Meanwhile, the unasked-for Dune TV series, The Sisterhood, has gotten a writing and showrunning team. Dana Calvo (Good Girls Revolt) and Jon Spaihts (Prometheus, allegedly a very good script before Damon Lindelof got his hands on it) will be the main showrunners and writers, with Jordan Harper (Hightown), Sarah Carbiener (You're the WorstRick & Morty), Erica Rosbe (Homecoming, Rick & Morty), and Minhal Baig (Hala) also working as writers. Reza Aslan, a non-fiction writer and producer on shows including The Leftovers, is also working on the project.

The Sisterhood is one of the first original shows greenlit for HBO Max, WarnerMedia's new streaming service.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

RIP Rutger Hauer

Dutch actor and writer Rutger Hauer has sadly passed away at the age of 74.

Born in Breukelen in the Netherlands in 1944 (when the country was still under Nazi occupation), Hauer grew up in Amsterdam. A restless teenager, he literally ran away to sea at the age of 15 and spent a year working on a freighter. He also served as a combat medic in the Netherlands army before taking acting lessons.

Hauer spent several years in an acting troupe where he caught the eye of renowned Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, who cast him as the lead role in the medieval drama series Floris (1969). Verhoeven was concerned about Hauer's lack of experience, but thought he looked good on a horse and wielding a sword, and the production saved some money because Hauer was eager to do all his own stunts.

Verhoeven and Hauer soon became a team, working together on Soldier of Orange (1977) and Spetters (1980). Hauer could speak English and made his debut in that language in The Wilby Conspiracy (1975), a film about apartheid in South Africa. The film was not successful, so he had to wait several years until he got his second chance at an English-speaking role, in Nighthawks (1981), where he appeared alongside Sylvester Stallone.

The following year, Hauer was cast by Ridley Scott in his science fiction film Blade Runner (1982). Hauer played the renegade android Roy Batty, the ostensible villain of the film, but his sympathetic performance contributed greatly to the character's ambiguity. For his death scene, Hauer took the existing dialogue and ad-libbed new material around it to create one of the most famous monologues in cinematic history.

Additional roles followed in Eureka (1983), The Osterman Weekend (1983), Flesh & Blood (1985, again with Verhoeven), Ladyhawke (1985) and The Hitcher (1986). Paul Verhoeven, who was also blowing up in Hollywood at this point, wanted Hauer for the title role in RoboCop (1987) but the role went instead to Peter Weller after it was discovered that Hauer couldn't fit inside the mechanical suit.

By the start of the 1990s, Hauer's career appeared to be in decline with less prominent Hollywood roles being offered. However, things picked up when he was picked to star in a long-running series of adverts for Guinness, which made him a familiar face on television. He secured the role of the villain in the original movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), where he was extensively praised by scriptwriter Joss Whedon for his professionalism and conduct on set (in stark contrast to co-star Donald Sutherland). In 1994 he played the lead role in HBO's adaptation of Robert Harris' alternate-history novel Fatherland, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe.

By the 2000s, Hauer had become a cult favourite, especially for his appearances in science fiction and fantasy projects. He was cast in roles on television series such as Smallville, Alias and Merlin. He also appeared in the lead role of Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) and guest-starred in the sixth season of True Blood (2013). In 2015 he appeared in the opening episode of The Last Kingdom.

Hauer passed away on 19 July 2019 - the same year that Blade Runner takes place in, coincidentally - after a short illness. An intense, versatile and memorable actor with many great appearances, he will be missed.

Hulu developing new HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY TV series

The American Hulu streaming service is planning a fresh adaptation of Douglas Adams' science fiction comedy franchise, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Originating as a radio series in 1978, the story has been adapted as five novels, a BBC TV mini-series in 1981 (recently reissued on Blu-Ray), several video games and a 2005 Hollywood movie which was, to put it mildly, not great.

The new project is being spearheaded by producer Carlton Cuse (Lost) and writer Jason Fuchs (Wonder Woman). It is unclear which of the several different competing versions of the story they will be adapting, although the smart money is on the novels, which took the story further than any of the other mediums.

The BBC mini-series only adapted the first two books, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), so a fresh TV version could take the story further by adapting Life, the Universe and Everything (1982), So Long and Thanks For All the Fish (1984) and Mostly Harmless (1992).

BBC America recently used Adams' other major genre work, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, as the inspiration for a two-season TV show that was well received but not successful in the ratings game.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

First castmember confirmed for LORD OF THE RINGS: THE SECOND AGE

Variety has the scoop on the first actor cast for Amazon's Lord of the Rings: The Second Age TV series.

Australian actress Markella Kavenagh (the Romper Stomper TV series) will be playing a role apparently code-named "Tyra" in the series. For series with a high degree of secrecy like this one, it's not unusual for characters to be given new or misleading names in casting sides until the studio judges it time to reveal their true role.

As, in Tolkien's legendarium, elves are immortal and Numenoreans can live for 200-300 years, the actress' youth doesn't necessarily mean she's playing a young character.

Assuming this isn't a totally brand-new character, possibilities for Kavenagh's role include Tar-Telperien, the Ruling Queen of Numenor at the time that Sauron forges the One Ring; her ancestor Tar-Ancalime; potentially Tar-Ancalime's mother Erendis, from Tolkien's only narrative story from Numenor ("Aldarion and Erendis", which can be found in Unfinished Tales); or even a younger version of Galadriel, one of the few Lord of the Rings characters expected to play a role in the new series (alongside Elrond and Celeborn, possibly Thranduil from The Hobbit).

More news as we get it. With filming due to start before the end of August, it's likely most, if not all, of the casting has already been completed and more news will be released (or leaked) soon.

Sunday 21 July 2019

DUNE board game due in September

Gale Force Nine Games is gearing up for the release (or, more technically, re-release) of their Dune board game. The game is due to hit retail in late August or early September.

The game is a re-release of the original Dune board game released in 1979 and revised in 1984 to tie in with the release of the David Lynch movie. Way ahead of its time, the game is regarded as one of the best board games of all time, with second-hand copies still enthusiastically swapping hands on eBay. It was developed by some of the same team behind Cosmic Encounter, another game which has enjoyed tremendous longevity.

Gale Force Nine's version has been revised by some of the original designers and is launching ahead of the Dune roleplaying game from Modiphius (due a few months down the road), and is part of a general gearing up of the franchise ahead of the release of the new movie in late 2020.

CBS reveals first details about STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS

CBS have revealed details about Star Trek: Lower Decks, a new animated series in the Star Trek universe.

The series is set in 2380, one year after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis, on the USS Cerritos, one of the least-important ships in Starfleet. The focus is on four newly-assigned ensigns working on the ship in junior roles, with occasional appearances by the ship's command crew.

The main cast consists of Ensigns Tendi (Noel Wells), Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), Mariner (Tawny Newsome) and Boimler (Jack Quaid); Lt. Shaxs (Fred Talasciore), Commander Ransom (Jerry O'Connell), Dr. T'Ana (Gillian Vigman) and Captain Freeman (Dawnn Lewis).

Mike McMahan (Rick & Morty) is the showrunner of the new series. It was inspired by the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Lower Decks, which was written from the POV of several junior officers on the Enterprise-D. The series is also drawing inspiration from Star Trek: The Animated Series which was ran for two seasons in 1973-74. Most notably, Dr. T'Ana is a Caitian, the same feline species as Lt. M'Ress in the original animated series.

Star Trek: Lower Decks will debut on CBS All Access in 2020 with a ten-episode order.

SF&F Questions: Which is the longest-running SF or Fantasy TV series?

This sounds like a fairly straightforward question, but is more complicated than it sounds because of the different ways it can be counted.

The BBC science fiction series Doctor Who may at first glance be the obvious answer. It aired its first episode, An Unearthly Child, on 23 November 1963 and its 851st, Resolution, on 1 January 2019. In that fifty-six-year period, Doctor Who has produced 37 seasons of television, with the 38th season due to air in 2020. Approximately 413.3 hours of material has been produced, not including the spin-off shows (Torchwood, The Sarah-Jane Adventures and Class) in that time. This is more than twice as much material as has been produced by the likes of Stargate SG-1 and The X-Files, which have both erroneously been claimed to be the longest-running SF show in the past.

So, in terms of both length and quantity of material produced, Doctor Who is the clear front-runner.

However, some may dispute the position on several grounds. Doctor Who spent seven years off-air between 1989 and 1996, when a 90-minute special was produced, and then another nine years off-air between 1996 and the rebooting of the show in 2005, so it has not been in continuous production for all that time. Furthermore, when Doctor Who returned in 2005 it was officially designated and treated as a new show: the season count was reset to 1, so the most recent season to air is counted by the BBC as Series 11, not Season 37. This is counter-disputed because of legalities and technicalities: reprising Doctor Who in 2005 using the same framework as in place in 1989 was impossible, so the show had to be counted as a new series for technical purposes, but in terms of title, characters and continuity it is clearly meant to be a continuation of the 1963-89/96 series.

Despite that, it is certainly true that Doctor Who is not automatically the longest-running, continuously airing science fiction or fantasy TV series in the world. That honour is claimed by several other shows.

Paranormal adventure series Supernatural began airing in September 2005 and will conclude in 2020 with its sixteenth season. By the end of that season, it will have aired 327 episodes with a combined run-time of 239 hours and 48 minutes. This eclipses Doctor Who’s tally of 155 continuously-produced episodes since March 2005, totalling 124 hours and 20 minutes, almost only half of Supernatural’s run-time.

A wild card to throw into the mix is the web series Red vs. Blue, which began airing on 1 April 2003 and aired its most recent episode on 25 May 2019. It has totalled 364 episodes and 17 seasons released to date. However, Red vs. Blue’s episodes only average about 7 minutes in length, with the total length of the entire series to date weighing in at a relatively modest 41 hours, 57 minutes.

So the answer to this question is as follows:

Doctor Who is the longest-running SF series in the world in terms of total number of episodes produced, hours aired and seasons made, including hiatuses.

Supernatural is the longest-running fantasy series in the world in terms of total number of episodes produced, hours aired and seasons made. It is also the longest-running SF or fantasy series in the world in terms of the continuous number of episodes made.

Red vs. Blue is the longest-running, continuously-produced SF or fantasy series in the world in terms of dates, predating Doctor Who by two years and Supernatural by two-and-a-half years, but it has produced significantly less content than either.

Note: for the purposes of this article I have considered only live-action shows. Animation would be a different and potentially more difficult question.

Completed Shows

Again not counting animation, the longest-running, completed SFF series is Dark Shadows, a supernatural soap opera. Although it only ran on American TV for six seasons between 1966 and 1971, it amassed an enormous 1,225 episodes in that time, for a total run-time of 612 hours and 30 minutes.


This has a more straightforward answer. The longest-running science fiction or fantasy franchise, spanning multiple shows, is Star Trek. It aired its first episode, The Man Trap from Star Trek, on 8 September 1966 and its most recent, Such Sweet Sorrow, Part II from Star Trek: Discovery, on 18 April 2019.

On television (not counting the movies), Star Trek has spanned seven distinct series: the original (1966-69), The Animated Series (1973-74), The Next Generation (1987-94), Deep Space Nine (1993-99), Voyager (1995-2001), Enterprise (2001-05) and Discovery and its related Short Treks spin-off (2017-present). It will soon be joined by Picard, Lower Decks and Section 31.

In that time the franchise has amassed 762 episodes in total, amassing a grand run-time of 555 hours and 21 minutes.

Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.

Marvel reveal their movie and TV line-up for the next two years

Marvel and Disney have confirmed their upcoming slate of movies and TV shows for Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Cinematic Universe head honcho Kevin Feige announced the projects at the San Diego Comic-Con, outlining their release schedule for the next five years (although, as with the previous phase, there may be some variations to this schedule as things crop up). He also confirmed that Avengers: Endgame is imminently poised to surpass Avatar at the box office to become the biggest-grossing movie (unadjusted for inflation) of all time. 

The movies and TV series confirmed and announced are as follows: 

Black Widow
1 May 2020
Directed by Cate Shortland 

Starring Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova
Also starring David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, O.T. Fagbenie and Ray Winston.

Set shortly after the events of Captain America: Civil War, this long-awaited stand-alone movie for Black Widow will also feature flashbacks to earlier in her life and career, including the much-discussed “Budapest incident.”

The Eternals
6 November 2020
Directed by Chloé Zhao 

Starring Angelina Jolie as Thena, Salma Hayek as Ajax, Don Lee as Gilgamesh, Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, Brian Tyree Henry as Phasots, Lauren Ridloff as Macary, Richard Madden as Ikaris and Lia McHugh as Sprite.

The Eternals introduces a completely new group of characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a powerful race of extra-powerful beings whose attention is called to Earth by recent events.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Autumn 2020 on Disney+ (6 episodes) 
Starring Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier, and Daniel Bruhl as Helmut Zemo, with Emily VanCamp reportedly in discussions to reprise her role as Sharon Carter.

The first Marvel show for Disney+, this series will pick up after the events of Avengers: Endgame and explore Falcon’s role as the new Captain America. He and Winter Soldier team up for apparently a lower-key, grittier story more in the tone of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Zemo, the villain of Civil War, returns and apparently will don his iconic costume at some point.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
12 February 2021
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton 

Starring Simu Liu as Shang-Chi and Tony Leung Chiu-wai as the Mandarin. Also starring Awkwafina.

The introduction of a new superhero, who has mighty martial arts skills. Shang-Chi will be fighting the Mandarin, the real Mandarin after a fake one appeared (contentiously) in Iron Man 3.

Spring 2021 on Disney+ 
Starring Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff, Paul Bettany as Vision and Teyonah Parris as Monica Rambeau.

This series is interesting because it is set after Infinity War and Endgame, which obviously raises the question of how Vision is in it. The mini-series has been described as a major event series which will have major ramifications for the MCU going forwards, including immediately setting up the events of the Doctor Strange sequel, so the smart money is that this series will introduce the Marvel Multiverse in full (after teasing it in Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home).

Spring 2021 on Disney+ 
Starring Tom Hiddleston as Loki

This mini-series will explore both what happened to the alternate-universe Loki introduced during the events of Avengers: Endgame and will also expand on Loki’s backstory, featuring flashbacks to key moments in Earth history where it will be revealed that Loki had a hand. 

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
7 May 2021
Directed by Scott Derrickson 

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange and Elisabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

This sequel to Doctor Strange is apparently the MCU’s first “horror movie” and will explore the ramifications of the discovery of the Multiverse, with Scarlet Witch providing continuity from her mini-series. It’s unclear if Benedict Wong or Chiwetel Ejiofor will be returning at this time. 

What If?
Summer 2021 on Disney+ 
Starring Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher, Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger, Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier, Josh Brolin as Thanos, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Natalia Portman as Jane Foster, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine, Taika Waititi as Korg, Toby Jones as Arnim Zola, Djimon Hounsou as Korath the Pursuer, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, Michael Rooker as Yondu Udonta and Chris Sullivan as Taserface.

The MCU’s first official animated series is an anthology alternative-universe show, narrated by Jeffrey Wright as The Watcher. Each episode explores a different “what if?” possibility from the MCU, such as Peggy Carter becoming the super-soldier instead of Steve Rogers. 

Autumn 2021 on Disney+ 
Starring Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye

A mini-series focusing on Hawkeye as he meets a talented young woman, Kate Bishop, and trains her to effectively become his replacement.

Thor: Love and Thunder 
5 November 2021
Directed by Taika Waititi 

Starring Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie

The sequel to Thor: Ragnarok, although this film feels like it will need to jump a little bit to address the ending of Avengers: Endgame (which seemed to be setting Thor up as a member of the “Asgardians of the Galaxy”). The big news is that Natalie Portman is returning to the MCU for the first time since Thor: The Dark World in 2013 (although she did provide a brief voiceover in Endgame, but the physical footage of her in that movie was cut material from The Dark World). The story will seem to revolve around Jane gaining the powers of Thor, a story arc drawn from the comic books.

Date and director to be confirmed
Starring Mahershala Ali as Blade.

In a surprise move, Marvel confirmed that they are rebooting the Blade character in the MCU. Wesley Snipes previously played the character in Blade (1998), Blade 2 (2002) and Blade: Trinity (2004). Blade is, historically, the first movie made by Marvel under the deal that would eventually pave the way to Iron Man ten years later. Snipes had been hoping to reprise the role in the MCU, and played a satirical version of the character in What We Do in the Shadows earlier this year (in an episode directed by Taika Waititi!), but going with fresh blood makes sense.

This also marks the first time a major actor from one of the Netflix shows has appeared in the films as a separate character, as Mahershala Ali had previously played Cottonmouth on Season 1 of Luke Cage, furthering he likelihood that Marvel no longer regards the Netflix shows as canon.

Other Projects
Feige also confimed that more movies are on the way. He formally confirmed that Captain Marvel 2 was coming and reconfirmed that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will be in production as soon as James Gunn finishes up on The Suicide Squad for Warners. More surprising was the absence of Black Panther 2, as they seemed ready to roll into production quite soon. The packed schedule suggests we won’t see that film until early 2022 at the earliest, a full four years after its predecessor.

In more exciting news, Feige also formally confirmed that the Fantastic Four will be introduced to the MCU, but they don’t have a schedule for that just yet. Mutants – presumably the X-Men sub-universe – are also on the cards, but are again even further down the pipe. Feige had previously suggested that we wouldn’t see the X-Men show up until 2023 and Phase Five at the earliest, and that seems to track with that.

Noteworthy by their absences are Ant-Man 3 and any future Avengers movies, which you assume has to be a shoe-in after the titanic success of Endgame, even if the next Avengers movie features a very different roster to the previous ones. There was also no confirmation for the Hulk Disney+ series that had been mooted with the possible aim of bringing in She-Hulk, or the mooted Thunderbolts film and Power Pack series for younger viewers, all of which are presumably now on the backburner.

More news as we get it.

AVENGERS: ENDGAME becomes the highest-grossing film of all time

Avengers: Endgame has surpassed Avatar's box office to become the highest-grossing movie of all time (unadjusted for inflation). Marvel Studios supremo Kevin Feige announced the feat at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Not only has Endgame achieved the feat, it has done so about half the time that Avatar managed. The film remains in cinemas and may get an additional boost from re-releases further down the line (something Avatar also made use of to achieve its haul).

For the first time since the release of Titanic in 1997, James Cameron is no longer the highest-grossing director of all time, having passed that baton on to Endgame directors Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. However, Cameron will come out swinging as Avatar 2 is scheduled for release on 17 December 2021, and he'll be wanting his crown back.

Disney, which owns both Marvel and, after the acquisition of 20th Century Fox earlier this year, the Avatar franchise, is of course laughing all the way to the bank.

Saturday 20 July 2019

THE ORVILLE moves from Fox to Hulu for Season 3

In a surprise move, Fox's science fiction dramedy show The Orville will be moving to Hulu for its third season, after Fox already renewed the show.

Creator/showrunner/star Seth MacFarlane confirmed the move had come about through mutual discussions, as production requirements for The Orville had become more elaborate over the course of the first two seasons and MacFarlane was unable to guarantee delivery of new episodes before 2020 due to more extensive effects work being required for the new season. Rather than risk there being a hole in Fox's schedule, they agreed to move The Orville to the Hulu streaming service. Fox will now be free to pick up a less intensively-scheduled show as a replacement and The Orville can continue with greater financial and creative freedom.

The move to Hulu will also allow the show to explore more adult themes and humour, if MacFarlane wishes.

The move is extremely unusual, but a sign of the extremely high regard that MacFarlane is held in at Fox, where his animated shows Family Guy and American Dad have provided reliably high ratings hits for the network for two decades.

Some Star Trek fans have expressed amusement at the news, noting that Orville fans were highly critical of the new Star Trek shows being moved behind a paywall at CBS All Access and now the same has happened to that show (although Hulu is much more readily available and has vastly more content than the much newer CBS service).

Unfortunately, the move is unlikely to help British viewers who still can't see the show, at least not in HD: it airs news episodes only on a paywalled channel and past episodes are not available to stream. It is also available only on DVD (in 2019, somehow), and no Blu-Ray release for the series is planned.

WATCHMEN TV series gets new trailer

HBO has released a new, longer trailer for Watchmen, their sequel TV series to the Alan Moore graphic novel.

The TV series is set several decades after the events of the graphic novel. Dr. Manhattan is apparently still living on Mars and the United States is caught in a tidal wave of panic, triggered by a band of vigilantes wearing masks and aping the slain Rorschach. They mount an attack on the police force of Tulsa, Oklahoma, which seems to backfire when it allows police forces across the US to become more militarised and crack down on masked heroes.

Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons) is still around, as apparently is Laurie/Silk Spectre (Jean Smart), now an FBI agent having taken the surname of her late father, the Comedian.

The series will also focus on some new characters, namely a new vigilante named Angela Abar (Regina King) and Tulsa Police Chief Judd Crawford (Don Johnson), as well as Marionette (Sara Vickers) and Mime (Tom Mison), characters introduced in the Doomsday Clock comic series.

Watchmen will debut in the United States on HBO in October and (presumably) will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK.

THE EXPANSE Season 4 gets trailer, clip and airdate

Amazon have released the first trailer and a full clip from Season 4 of The Expanse, and confirmed that the season will hit the streaming service on 13 December.

The fourth season will consist of ten episodes and will draw primarily upon the fourth novel in the book series, Cibola Burn, although elements from the fifth book (Nemesis Games) are also expected to be included. Alongside the returning cast from the previous season, the show is adding Burn Gorman (Torchwood, Game of Thrones, Pacific Rim) as a recurring antagonist character.

The Expanse ran for three critically-acclaimed seasons on SyFy before being cancelled due to the show's expense and declining viewing figures (not helped by SyFy's near absent marketing for the show). Amazon stepped in and saved the show after it was revealed that company CEO Jeff Bezos is a huge fan of the books and the TV series.

Familiar faces join the crew in first STAR TREK: PICARD trailer

CBS All Access has released the first trailer for Star Trek: Picard, their new TV series which picks up with the adventures of the retired Admiral Picard twenty years after his previous appearance in the film Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).

The trailer explains the storyline. Picard is in retirement at his family vineyard in France (previously visited in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 4 episode Family) when he is visited by a young woman named Dahj (Isa Briones), who is in danger. She is attacked by unknown assailants whom she fends off. Picard requests Starfleet's aid in protecting her and ends up assembling a crew consisting of Cristobel Rios (Santiago Cabrera), Raffi Musiker (Michelle Hurd), Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill), Narek (Harry Treadway) and Elnor (Evan Evagora).

More surprising is that Picard is also joined by some familiar faces on his travels, including former Borg agents Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan, from Star Trek: Voyager) and Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco, from three episodes of The Next Generation), and an android played by the redoubtable Brent Spiner. It appears that this android is B-4, the prototype android for Lt. Commander Data. Data's destruction in Nemesis is mentioned as another motivating factor for Picard's mission and the presumed decision to resurrect B-4 for this mission.

It has also been confirmed that Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis will also be reprising their roles as Riker and Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation for the series, although it is unclear how extensive their roles will be.

Near the end of the episode it is also confirmed who the real big bad of the series will be: the Borg! A Borg cube is shown either being constructed or rebuilt, and the Borg threat is presumably what calls Picard (who has a long-standing grudge against them), Hugh and Seven into the fight.

Star Trek: Picard will debut on CBS All Access in the United States and Amazon Prime in the rest of the world in early 2020.

Harmony Gold and Tatsunoko Productions reach major new ROBOTECH deal

American animation producers Harmony Gold and Japanese animation studio Tatsunoko Productions have reached a new deal related to the Robotech and Macross franchises. This deal extends Harmony Gold's ownership of the Robotech franchise for potentially decades to come and allows the planned Sony live-action movie to proceed but will also give Tatsunoko a greater share and say in what happens to the wider franchise.

Rewinding a little, back in 1982 Tatsunoko co-produced (with Studio Nue) Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, a game-changing anime series based around transformable mecha war machines. Harmony Gold bought the rights to Macross and two other unrelated but similar shows (Super Dimenson Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada) and writer Carl Macek combined the three of them into one new franchise, re-dubbed to make it appear that it's the same story unfolding over three generations: Robotech. Launched in 1985, Robotech was a big hit, spawning toys, video games, RPGs and a best-selling novel series by Jack McKinney (a pen-name for Brian Daley and James Luceno).

However, attempts to continue the Robotech franchise ran afoul of declining audience interest and complex rights issues with Tatsunoko and another licence holder, Big West, particularly over vehicle and mecha likenesses, some of which were also licenced to the unrelated BattleTech franchise whilst the iconic Veritech/Valkyrie fighter ended up becoming the Transformers character Jetfire. Tatsunoko and Studio Nue also continued to develop Macross sequel and prequel series (such as Macross II, Macross 7, Macross Zero, Macross Frontier and Macross Delta), which Harmony Gold blocked from release in the United States because of fears of confusing audiences. The previous deal between Harmony Gold and Tatsunoko was due to expire in 2021, which some fans welcomed in the hope that both the original and later Macross series would be available in the United States in their original form.

The new deal between Harmony Gold and Tatsunoko extends Harmony Gold's ownership of the rights needed to continue the Robotech franchise for an unspecified time into the future, although some reports suggest this may be on the order of twenty to thirty years. The deal will also apparently allow for new and greater collaboration between the studios moving forwards, and Tatsunoko and Studio Nue will be given greater credit on future re-releases of the Robotech franchise.

Most critically, the deal allows Sony to move forwards with their planned live-action movie version of the project. A big-budget, high-priority project, directors James Wan (Furious 7Aquaman) and then Andy Muschietti (IT, IT: Chapter Two) have both been attached to the movie. With the rights issue in doubt, Sony moved the project to the backburner and Muschietti has since committed to directing a live-action Attack on Titan movie. It is unclear if Sony will wait for him to finish that project, reconnect with Wan or will start looking for another director altogether.

The immediate impact is that Harmony Gold have re-released the Robotech series on streaming services FilmRise, Vudu and Roku (all US-only, unfortunately) in three formats: the original 1985 version of the series, the "remastered" 2005 version (which has some relatively minor edits) and the original Japanese versions. This is significant as, although Macross has been released several times in its original Japanese incarnation, neither Southern Cross nor Mospeada have been officially released in their original Japanese versions in the West before.

Harmony Gold have also indicated they are willing to work with Tatsunoko to bring the other Macross sequel and prequel series to market in the West, but have not announced firm plans as yet. It should be noted they have said as much multiple times in the past and nothing has happened.

The renewal of the licence also makes other possibilities viable, such as Netflix remaking the original series in a similar manner to their recent reboot of the Voltron franchise.

Netflix drops first trailer for THE WITCHER

Netflix has released the first trailer for its upcoming adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher books.

Based on the trailer, the first season is drawing on Sapkowski's short story collections (The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny) which sets up the world before delving into the five-novel series beginning with Blood of Elves. In addition, the series would appear to be developing some storylines that only appeared briefly in flashback in the books, such as Yennefer's training as a sorcerer and how she cured herself of her birth defects.

Netflix haven't confirmed a release date for the series yet, but the current betting is October or November this year.

Friday 19 July 2019

STRANGER THINGS low-key renewed for fourth season

Surprising no-one, Netflix has renewed Stranger Things for a fourth season. The news hasn't been officially announced yet (that will likely come at Comic-Con this weekend), but Hollywood trade periodicals have confirmed that Netflix have booked studio space for production to begin in October.

It's unknown when Stranger Things 4 would air, but the smart money is around Thanksgiving 2020. The third season is among Netflix's biggest hits to date, scoring over 40 million views during the first weekend on release (that's roughly comparable to the global viewing figures for the final season of Game of Thrones) and more since then, making a renewal a formality.

The key question is whether Stranger Things 4 will be the final season. In the past, co-creators the Duffer Brothers have seemed torn on the issue, saying they felt that four seasons was too short but five might feel too long. Given the number of other Netflix hit shows which have ended recently, I suspect Netflix will be hoping they go longer.

The Leftovers: Season 1

On October 14th, 2% of the world's population - 140 million people - abruptly disappear. There is no explanation, and the people left behind are shell-shocked. Some people lost friends or distant relatives, but others lost their entire families. Three years later, the town of Mapleton, New York stands as a microcosm for the world. Those who stayed behind - the "leftovers" - are trying to move on with their lives but are anchored by grief and incomprehension to their pasts. For one ideological cult, the Guilty Remnant, that isn't enough and they want people to remember more. For another, which follows an apparent prophet named Holy Wayne, they believe the Departure was the harbinger of something more to follow.

The Leftovers was a relatively low-key HBO series which aired for three seasons between 2014 and 2017. Based on Tom Perrotta's novel and produced and largely written by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus) in full-on career-resurrection mode, the series depicts an Earth-shattering, inexplicable event and then proceeds to completely ignore the event itself, instead focusing on the grief and confusion that follows, and how people cope with recovering.

It's a solid and interesting idea, as explaining the Departure seems as inherently problematic as explaining the Island on Lost. Any explanation you could come up with - SF, fantasy, religious, secular, extraterrestrial or mundane - would be ridiculous to a large number of viewers, so they simply don't go there. Some may find this frustrating, but the show is at least up-front about it by opening three full years after the event, by which point people have almost given up looking for a rational answer. That said, the fact that no-one seems concerned that it might happen again at any moment is a bit on the odd side of things.

Instead, The Leftovers is about the people left behind and the lives they are trying to salvage. The first season is a slow burn, packed with apparently unrelated and non sequitur storylines and plot points that feel scattered and disconnected, and the show can feel a little laboured until this tangled web of storylines finally straightens out and then comes together with understated elegance in the season finale. The writing and direction tends towards the weird, with occasional musical montages and surreal dream imagery being used to further the story or muse on the themes of the show. The Leftovers also operates with restraint. It never goes as full-on weird as say Twin Peaks and it withholds itself from the schmaltz that Lost could descend into at its weakest, but it toes a fine line between realism and artistic bizarreness that remains compelling.

The show is beautifully shot - as a HBO production, it looks and feels like a lot of money has been spent on it - and finely written. The cast is extraordinary in quality: Justin Theroux (Mulholland Drive), Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings), Carrie Coon (Fargo), Scott Glenn (The Right Stuff), Amy Brenneman (NYPD Blue), Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Paterson Joseph (Neverwhere) and Ann Dowd (The Handmaid's Tale), along with a host of promising newcomers. All give exceptional performances, with Tyler, Dowd and Brenneman having a lot of work to do as members of the Guilty Remnant, who refuse to communicate verbally. Visually the show is sumptuous in detail and imagery, and well-worth watching in HD (which is problematic if you're in one of those regions where the show has absurdly only been released on DVD, not Blu-Ray). Max Richter's score is phenomenal. There aren't enough superlatives for the amount of work and effort put into the show.

The show also rewards a careful thematic reading, and even rewatching Season 1 once you've seen the flashback episode (the non-ironically-named The Garveys at Their Best) that serves as its penultimate chapter, exploring the characters in the 24 hours leading up to the Departure. Working out the Guilty Remnant's goal and their ideological motivation is interesting, and seeing each episode focus on a character or group of characters and explore them in depth, often with flashbacks, is a great idea (if one Lindelof is recycling from Lost). The series also makes efforts to avoid becoming too one-note, and injects humour and humanity to lighten the gloom and the darkness that could pervade the series if left unchecked. I intercut watching the first season of The Leftovers and the second season of The Handmaid's Tale and it definitely made the latter feel very clunky and incompetent in how to balance a dark premise without descending into voyeuristic misery.

The first season of The Leftovers (****½) is a fantastically-well made and offbeat drama which explores grief, loss and faith through compelling characters, with a cast to die for. It opens a little slow and some may be less keen on the occasional cutaways to apparently unconnected story points, but by the end of the season it has done a fine job of bringing everything together and making sense, setting the scene for the radical change of location and cast in Season 2. It is available via HBO in the United States, but in the UK and other territories you're probably going to have look for an imported Blu-Ray set (the Scandinavian one is compatible with UK players) to get the show in HD.

The BBC unveils a new trailer for HIS DARK MATERIALS

The BBC has unveiled a full-length trailer for His Dark Materials, their new multi-season adaptation of the Philip Pullman fantasy trilogy.

The first season, made by Bad Wolf Productions, is based on Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in some territories), the first novel in the series, and depicts the adventures of Lyra (Dafne Keen), a young girl who is swept up in the machinations of Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) and Ms. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) in a parallel universe version of Oxford.

The book was partially adapted for film in 2007 as The Golden Compass, although the movie was not successful and the second and third novels (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) were not adapted. This time around, the BBC and HBO plan to adapt all three books. Season 2 has already been greenlit and is in pre-production. Early reports suggested that they were looking to adapt the trilogy across five seasons, but the new trailer suggests that the first season may adapt the entirety of the first novel instead.

Season 1 is set to be released in the autumn, with some reports suggesting it may debut around the time that Pullman's next novel in this universe, The Secret Commonwealth, is published (on 3 October). HBO will air the series in the United States.

Wednesday 17 July 2019

Live-action WARHAMMER 40,000 TV series in development

In a startling move, Games Workshop have teamed with veteran US TV producer Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files, The Man in the High Castle) to bring their massive Warhammer 40,000 gothic space opera universe to live-action television, starting with an adaptation of Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn series of novels.

The Eisenhorn saga currently consists of eight novels in three sub-series (with two more novels on the way). The opening Eisenhorn Trilogy (which is actually now four books) tells the story of Gregor Eisenhorn, an Inquisitor whose job is to root out heresy in the Imperium of Humankind and destroy Chaos cults. He is supported in this by a team of investigators and soldiers. Eisenhorn is prepared to use whatever steps are necessary to defend the Imperium, but when a much greater threat is revealed he decides to take some unorthodox and dangerous steps to destroy it, including turning the enemy's own evil powers against it.

The subsequent Ravenor Trilogy follows a former student of Eisenhorn's as he builds his own team and takes on a new threat to the Imperium. The in-progress Bequin Trilogy focuses on a female Inquisitor and a showdown between Ravenor and the now-disgraced Eisenhorn.

This is a very canny move by Games Workshop. Bringing the full epic scale of the Warhammer 40,000 setting - complete with city-sized battleships, skyscraper-sized war mecha, eight-foot-tall superhuman warriors, Cockney wideboy orks, insane magic and even more insane technology - to television is probably impossible even if you had five times the budget of Game of Thrones. But the Eisenhorn stories are much smaller in scale, with a strong focus on a small cast of characters engaging in investigative and undercover work. This will allow the Warhammer 40,000 universe to be introduced gently to sane viewers and will allow them to expand to other parts of the setting later on.

Fans may be slightly disappointed they're not going for something like the Horus Heresy straight out of the gate, and in fact this series probably won't even feature the iconic Space Marines in a major role (a couple of Deathwatch Space Marines play a role in some of the later books, but not up front), but it's a smart and interesting choice by Games Workshop to get casual viewers interested in the setting.

Before we get too excited, though, it should be noted this is a development announcement, not a formal greenlight. Spotnitz needs to get a studio and TV company interested in actually making the show.

TRANSFORMERS finally gets a movie-accurate Unicron toy

It's taken thirty-three years, but finally a movie-accurate Transformers toy of Unicron, the Chaos-Bringer, is set for release...if Hasbro can drum up enough interest.

Introduced in Transformers: The Movie (1986) and improbably voiced by Orson Welles (in his last cinematic appearance), Unicron is a planet-sized robot which consumes entire worlds for fuel. Destroyed in the film but brought back numerous times in different continuities, Unicron is one of the most popular characters in the Transformers mythology. In 1988 his backstory was expanded upon by writer Simon Furman to make him a key part of the origin myth for the entire franchise.

A prototype Unicron toy made in the late 1980s for release as part of the original toyline. Rather fortunately, "Beer Belly Unicron" never made it to the shelves.

The only problem with Unicron is that his size, bulk and shape has made it extremely difficult to base actual toys on him...which for a franchise originally built around selling toys is a bit of a problem. A toy was prototyped to tie in with the release of the original movie, but it ended up looking a bit ridiculous and was shelved.

The first Unicron you could actually buy with real Earth money.

In 2003 Unicron finally did get a toy, albeit one based on his considerably more toy-friendly redesign from the Transformers: Armada animated series. This was re-released with a new colour scheme a year later for the sequel series, Transformers: Energon. This toy has subsequently been re-released several times with a colour scheme and different head design to be more reminiscent of the original Unicron design.

Apart from these, there have been a few non-transforming statues of the character, but never before has anyone attempted an actual, original movie-accurate, transforming Unicron toy. Until now.

"I have summoned you here for a purpose."

Takara and Hasbro have joined forces and created a monster of a toy. This new Unicron, released as part of the War for Cybertron range, is 27" tall in robot mode and 30" in diameter, making him comfortably the largest Transformers toy ever created in the entire history of the franchise. He features over 50 points of articulation and comes mounted on a large stand in planet-killer mode (a necessity given that mode's spherical shape). The toy weighs a whopping 19 pounds (8.61kg).

"Destroy the Matrix. And your bank balance."

If this sounds expensive, you would not be wrong. Hasbro are not mass-producing this toy for the mass market. Instead they are seeking funding it through their Hasbro Pulse initiative. To make the toy practical, they require 8,000 backers to pledge $574.99 apiece (that's about £463) by the end of August. Even given the fanaticism of the Transformers collectors' market, that may be a big ask but we'll see how it gets on.

If funded, the toy would be released in 2021.