Before you start reading today’s edition of Popculturology, please pull up Daft Punk’s Tron: Legacy soundtrack and hit play.
OK, now that we’ve properly set the mood, the news broke last week that Disney had once again put a sequel to Tron: Legacy into production, with Jared Leto set to star and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales director Joachim Rønning set to helm the film.
This news is the latest development in a Disney’s decade-long will-they-or-won’t they process of producing a sequel to the 2010 film. In 2015, Disney allegedly greenlight the sequel, which at the time was called Tron: Ascension. Tron: Legacy stars Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde were set to reprise their roles, with Joseph Kosinski returning to direct. Shooting was reportedly going to begin in fall of 2015.
Then Disney ctrl+alt+del’d it.
“I got so close. I really tried. I got close in 2015, and Disney pulled the plug on it,” Kosinski recently told Vulture. “I hadn’t built anything, but I had the whole movie storyboarded and written. I was really excited because it was inverting the idea: It was all that stuff coming into our world, and it was about the blending of the two.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s piece on Tron: Ascension getting killed points the finger at the box office failure of Tomorrowland, an original film from director Brad Bird, and the studio’s the-newfound reliance on live-action adaptions of classic animated features.
Disney has had strong success with its live-action properties recently, including Maleficent and this year’s Cinderella, which earned $527.4 million worldwide. But it recently had a stumble with the $180 million live-action film Tomorrowland, which underperformed at the box office this past weekend with a $33 million U.S. debut.
Disney’s live-action tentpole calendar is pretty full for the next few years, with live-action versions of many of its animated classics in the works, including The Jungle Book, Alice: Through the Looking Glass and Beauty and the Beast.
On top of that, Disney had purchased Marvel and Star Wars in the years since Tron: Legacy had been in production, which Kosinski believed checked off the fantasy/science fiction box for the studio.
“It was a different Disney by 2015,” he told Vulture. “When I made Tron: Legacy, they didn’t own Marvel; they didn’t own Star Wars. We were the play for fantasy and science fiction. And once you’ve got those other things under your umbrella, it makes sense that you’re going to put your money into a known property and not the weird art student with black fingernails in the corner — that was Tron.”
Things were quiet on the Tron front for a few years before a surprising figure entered the picture: Jared Leto.
THR reported in 2017 that Leto was now attached to a Tron film that wasn’t a direct sequel to Tron: Legacy. The actor was reportedly playing a character named Ares. The sequel once again seemed dormant until 2020 when Deadline reported that Lion director Garth Davis would helm Leto’s Tron movie.
And that’s were things stood until last week when Deadline broke the news that Leto would star in Tron: Ares with Rønning directing. Unlike the previous wave of Leto/Tron news, this film is allegedly a sequel to Tron: Legacy.
It’s wild that it’s taken this long to possibly get a Tron: Legacy sequel going. Sure, critics weren’t big on the film, but that isn’t a kiss of death. Tron: Legacy made $400 million worldwide, putting it one spot ahead of Mission: Impossible III — a film from a franchise that somehow got only stronger after that installment — on the all-time global chart. People adore the Daft Punk soundtrack (which I’m honestly listening to as I write this). Kosinski was full of potential, which he just proved with Top Gun: Maverick grossing just shy of $1.5 billion this past year.
I rewatched Tron: Legacy a few years ago and was surprised at not just how great the special effects are (the de-aged Jeff Bridges could use some work), but how imaginative and ambitious it was. (Watching Michael Sheen devour his scenes never gets old either.) Kosinski and screenwriters Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis were building something. They had a plan — and they needed a shot to keep telling that story.
Unfortunately, none of these people are involved with Tron: Ares. We don’t even know if Hedlund or Wilde or Bridges are. (And definitely no word on Cillian Murphy, whose Tron: Legacy character was being set up to have a larger role in a future story.)
Instead we have Leto. The actor has made some, um, interesting choices over the past few years. He’s had two shots at playing the Joker, terrorizing his Suicide Squad costars with bizarre gifts and bringing a meme to life in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. The phrase “it’s morbin’ time” entered our collective culture thanks to Leto’s Morbius film.
Any sequel to Tron: Legacy should be in the hands of Kosinski, Hedlund and Wilde. With Leto as the face of the franchise, we’re a few years away from a press tour that highlights stories of how Leto went method and lived as a CD-ROM for a year or sent mysterious flash drives to his Tron: Ares costars.
Happy Monday, and thanks for reading Popculturology. I’m still mentally processing my Buffalo Bills finding yet another way to lose, but I hope you all had a good weekend. I love writing about pop culture, and I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter. If you do, please subscribe. It’s the easiest way to make sure you get every edition of Popculturology. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter. Now let’s get to the news.
Gabrielle Union: ‘Been developing a [Bring It On] sequel forever’
In this era of legacy sequels, it’s no surprise to hear that Bring It On might join that genre. Sure, there are like half a dozen direct-to-video sequels to Bring It On, but none of them reunited the original film’s cast.
It sounds like Gabrielle Union wants to change that.
The 2000 film was the first studio film directed by Peyton Reed, who is now known for bringing the Ant-Man trilogy to life. I bet there are enough fans of the original Bring It On who would pay to see a sequel that reunites Reed with Union and Kirsten Dunst.
Xosha Roquemore joins Captain America: New World Order
Captain America: New World Order added another member to its expansive cast, with Deadline reporting on Friday that Xosha Roquemore had joined in an a role “being kept under wraps.”
Roquemore has previously appeared in Precious before starring in The Mindy Project and having a role in the wild Atlanta Season 3 finale, “Tarrare.” She joins Anthony Mackie, Danny Ramirez, Carl Lumbly, Tim Blake Nelson and Harrison Ford in the fourth Captain America film.
Jason Momoa on DC Studios: ‘I’m not going anywhere’
As DC Studios co-heads James Gunn and Peter Safran have begun reshaping that cinematic universe, there have been reports that Aquaman: The Lost Kingdom would be the final time that we’d see Jason Momoa in that title role, with the possibility that he’d assume a new role (Lobo?) in the future.
While we’ve gotten both official and unofficial word about several former DCEU stars departing (Henry Cavill, Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot), it’s been quiet on the Momoa front — but now the actor has offered some ambiguous thoughts on his future in the DCU.
“I love [James] Gunn and so there’s gonna be some really cool things, what they’re doing with DC, and I definitely will be in more than just one,” Momoa told Deadline on Friday. “There’s room for me to play a couple different [roles]. I’ve seen other actors do it. Yeah. I want a shot.”
I’m not quite sure what double roles Momoa is referring to when he says he’s seen other actors do it. While there have been several actors who have appeared in different superhero franchises (Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern and Deadpool, Josh Brolin as Cable and Thanos, Chris Evans as the Human Torch and Captain America, Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse and Moon Knight), these cases have all involved characters that don’t exist together. (Cable, the Human Torch and Apocalypse were under Fox’s Marvel banner while Thanos and Captain America are in the MCU proper. The only case I can think of where an actor having two major roles in the MCU would be Gemma Chan, playing Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel and Sersi in Eternals.
Momoa sounds pretty confident about his future as Aquaman, though.
“I’ll always be Aquaman, and there’s a lot of evolution for that,” he said. “So I’m not going anywhere and it’s very exciting.”
There’s always a chance that Momoa, like Zachary Levi insisting his place as Shazam is secure (“we all Gucci”), is sticking with this line to not burden his film’s eventual release with the knowledge that he’s done with the role.
Reed Hastings steps down from Netflix CEO role
Netflix co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings made the surprise announcement on Thursday that he was stepping down from his role as co-CEO of the streaming giant. COO Greg Peters has been promoted to co-CEO alongside Ted Sarandos.
“Going forward, I’ll be serving as Executive Chairman, a role that founders often take (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, etc.) after they pass the CEO baton to others,” Hastings wrote in a post on Netflix’s website.
Hastings has long been a force of change in the evolving media landscape, guiding Netflix from its roots as a DVD delivery service to its current place as the king of streaming. (There was even that Qwikster blip along the way …) There was even a rumor at one point in time that Disney would buy Netflix and make Hastings CEO once Bob Iger stepped down. (Huh, would you look at who’s back in the CEO seat at Disney and is in need of another successor …)
Curtain closes on 39 Regal Cinemas locations
When I was a kid, our go-to movie theater was a General Cinemas. That changed when a fancy Regal Cinemas opened. It had stadium-style seating and multiple snack bars. I was such a Regal Cinemas loyalist, my Regal Crown Club card started with seven zeros. I don’t think I saw a movie in an AMC Theater until I moved to D.C. and started taking advantage of the wealth of movie theater locations the are offered.
Regal Cinemas announced on Thursday that it was closing 39 of its locations, with one of those locations being the Regal Gallery Place in the heart of D.C. The first movie I saw at this location was Drive, and I was seated next to two women who were very clearly expecting The Notebook version of Ryan Gosling. They were not a fan of that elevator scene.
My actual go-to Regal in the D.C. area — the one in Potomac Yard by Reagan National Airport — closed down a few years ago. Even before the pandemic took a toll on Regal and the theater industry, it had been marked for death to make way for a new Metro station.
I’m not sure if it was the belief that it wasn’t long for this world or just Regal not having the money for improvements, but this theater decayed bit by bit during the ten years I spent watching movies there. Entire rows of seats had become unmoored, the drinks were always lukewarm. One time the lights came on too early and you could see how dingy the theaters had become.
I drove past this former Regal location on Saturday while running errands. There’s a full Metro station there now. End of an era.
Stephen King’s Boogeyman now a theatrical release
Has the tide shifted against dumping films on streaming? After a few years of simultaneous theatrical/streaming releases and shortened theater-to-home windows, we’re now seeing studios reconsider the moves they made during the pandemic, whether its Warner Bros. Discovery completely abandoning its strategy of putting films on HBO Max while they were still in theaters or Disney increasing how long people had to wait for MCU movies to hit Disney+.
Disney pushed another one of its game pieces into the theatrical basket this week, with The Hollywood Reporter breaking the news that 20th Century Studios’ adaption of Stephen King’s The Boogeyman would now head to theaters instead of premiering on Hulu. It turns out strong word of mouth and the success of recent horror releases convinced Disney and 20th Century to make the switch.
The move also has echoes of what occurred with Smile, the horror movie directed by Parker Finn. That movie was originally intended for Paramount+, but a strong test screening altered the course of its destiny. The movie, made for only $17 million, received a theatrical release from Paramount last fall and became one of the standard bearers for the latest rise of horror when it grossed over $216 million worldwide.
This isn’t the first time Disney has shuffled a streaming release. We learned in September that Marvel Studios was reconfiguring Armor Wars from a limited series for Disney+ to a full-blown MCU movie.
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Scary movies are not my thing. (I can’t stand having to sit through a bunch of trailers for scary movies whenever I see an R-rated movie.) I don’t enjoy them, but I respect the place they hold in the pop culture landscape.
My Twitter feed on Thursday was inundated with people raving about the first trailer for Scream VI. Apparently Hayden Panettiere returning to the franchise is a big deal, but not a big enough deal to make up for Neve Campbell’s absence?
Scream VI opens on March 10.
Entertainment Weekly debuted a new trailer for Lucky Hank, Bob Odenkirk’s upcoming new series. (I can’t embed it in the newsletter, so you’ll have to head over to EW’s site and watch it on their janky video player. Sorry.)
Odenkirk wasted little time jumping into his next TV project after Better Call Saul ended, sticking with AMC for an adaption of a book about a college professor going through a midlife crisis and threatening to kill geese. (Look, I haven’t read the book and I’m just going off the notes from AMC and Amazon.)
Lucky Hank premieres on March 19.
Weekend of Jan. 20-22, 2023
Avatar: The Way of Water (1)
Weekend gross: $19.7M / Total domestic gross: $598M / Percent drop: -40
Another weekend, another box office win for Avatar: The Way of Water. The movie has now notched six weekends in a row in the No. 1 spot. More importantly, the Avatar sequel has cracked the $2 billion mark at the worldwide box office. The Way of Water is now the No. 13 film on the all-time domestic box office chart (just a few million dollars away from becoming the twelve film to crack $600 million domestically) and is now No. 6 on the all-time worldwide box office chart.
- Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (3)
Weekend gross: $11.5M / Total domestic gross: $126.5M / Percent drop: -21
- M3GAN (2)
Weekend gross: $9.8M / Total domestic gross: $73.3M / Percent drop: -46
- Missing (N)
Weekend gross: $9.3M / Total domestic gross: $9.3M / Percent drop: NA
- A Man Called Otto (4)
Weekend gross: $9M / Total domestic gross: $35.3M / Percent drop: -30
Box office numbers via The Numbers
We caught up on the soon-to-be-Oscar-nominated Elvis over the weekend, and — wow — this is a wild movie. Absurd in all kinds of ways. It somehow felt like a very long movie while also never stopping to breathe.
“Baz Luhrmann is a lot. Perhaps too much,” Caitlin asked me to include with my thoughts. “But Austin Butler did a good job. Tom Hanks was weird.”
Man, was Tom Hanks weird. He made a lot of choices in his portrayal of Col. Tom Parker, and maybe someone should’ve asked him if all those choices were necessary.
I enjoyed Elvis, though. When Butler hosted SNL, I wasn’t sure what his deal was, but after seeing him pour himself into being Elvis Presley, I get it. (I also wasn’t enthused when it was announced that he would be following in Sting’s shoes and playin Feyd-Rautha in Dune: Part Two, but I get that now too.) I’d probably keep talking like Elvis if I spent this much time pretending to be him too.
I appreciated Luhrmann’s For All Mankind-esque attention to properly aging his characters too. When Butler’s Elvis declared “I’m going to be 40 soon,” I laughed.
Here’s the issue with these musical biopics, though. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story nailed every trope of this genre so perfectly, it made it impossible for these movies to be made without them feeling like parodies themself.
Elvis standing forlornly backstage before a show starts? “Dewey Cox has to think about his entire life before he plays.”
A random thought that popped into my head as we wrapped up Elvis: Adam Pally should star in an Elvis movie. I want to see Pally’s chaotic sloppiness portraying every version of Elvis.
The Banshees of Inisherin
I apparently had no idea what to expect going into The Banshees of Inisherin. I knew it was about two guys who stopped being friends, but that was it.
About five minutes into the movie, I began questioning whether I was correct to believe it too took place in modern day Ireland.
It does not.
The surprises kept coming after that.
The Banshees of Inisherin is yet another reminder of how great Colin Farrell is. The chemistry he has with Brendan Gleeson sells the entire film. Why hasn’t a studio locked down Farrell for a major franchise role? (Warner Bros. got so close with Fantastic Beasts, but fumbled it by swapping in Johnny Depp.)
Farrell’s drunken speech about niceness really resounded with me. Who cares about being remembered for hundreds of years. When you go, will people in that moment remember that you were nice?
I also loved Barry Keoghan in this film. He’s the perfect balance of weird and earnest. “Well, there goes the dream” is the perfect delivery of a perfect line.
Between this and Elvis, I checked off two major Oscar contenders this weekend. Tár, All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Fablemans and The Whale are still on my watch list.”
In the post-Andor world of Star Wars, it’s easy to forgot that, at its core, Star Wars is for kids. Kids would like the most recent episode of Bad Batch. Kids aren’t bothered by filler episodes. Podracing was cool back in 1999, so why not do another version of it in 2023?
At least we got to hear Ben Schwartz voicing another droid in the Star Wars universe, even if this one isn’t as famous as the last droid he voiced.
Janelle James has quickly become the MVP of Abbott Elementary. With a few tweaks from the version of Ava we got in the series’ early episodes, she now owns Abbott Elementary. (Waitaminute. That’s not right. The principal just runs the school …)
Here’s hoping ABC treats Abbott Elementary and Janine better than the last time the network had a ribs-loving heroine …
The Last of Us
I did watch the latest episode of The Last of Us on Sunday night, but it was too late to properly write up my thoughts on the episode. Catch them in Thursday’s edition of Popculturology.
- The intertwining history of the Avatar Papyrus font and the SNL sketch that spoofed it (Jake Kring-Schreifels, The Ringer)
- The last days of Hollywood’s most reviled reporter (Jacob Bernstein, The New York Times)
- Trans artist rebinds Harry Potter series to erase J.K. Rowling’s name (Jonathan Edwards, The Washington Post)
- After 30+ years, The Stinky Cheese Man is aging well (Samantha Balaban, NPR)
- Bears were mysteriously missing toes. These scientists cracked the case. (Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post)
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If you follow me on Instagram (or are unfortunate enough to live with me), you know that I’m a sucker for any new candy or soda that I find in stores. I’ll buy anything once to try it. I’m introducing Snack Break, a new and occasional Popculturology section that’ll highlight some of the stupid snacks I’ve purchased — because you gotta eat something while you’re watching TV.
Let me know if there’s a new candy or soda out there I should be consuming. (I learned last week that Pepsi had released a Mtn Dew Energy Code Red that I missed. Bummer.) Also let me know if you hate this section and never want me to talk about it again.
Did you know that Pepsi completely replaced Sierra Mist? (Did you know that up until like a week ago, Sierra Mist still existed?) I found Starry in bottles at Target and bought the Zero Sugar version.
Pepsi says that Starry is “ a game-changing recipe with the perfect balance of lemon lime flavor and sweetness compared to the competition.”
I dunno. Tastes like a more lemony version of Sprite, I guess. It’s nice to have a soda other than Coke Zero around in the house.
Kit Kat Raspberry Creme Miniatures
I lost track of how many Lemon Crisp Kit Kats I ate when they were out around Easter last year. A thousand? (That seems like too many …) I spotted the Raspberry Creme variety in the Valentine’s aisle at Target. They’re pretty good. Not as vibrant of a bite as the Lemon Crisp ones, but they do pass the “am I plotting how to buy another bag?” test.
Oscar nominations announced on Tuesday
I’ll be back with a special edition of Popculturology tomorrow to go over this year’s Oscar nominations.
That’s the end of this issue of Popculturology. Thanks for reading. If you don’t already subscribe, please hit the “Subscribe now” button. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter.