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Worlds of Wonder: Winter 2018 VFX Preview

This winter offers a franchise reboot, massive destruction on a global scale, and the return of Paddington the bear, but the real story just might be the worlds of wonder conjured up for the Disney adaptation of ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’

Framestore animation director Pablo Grillo and VFX supervisors Andy Kind & Glen Pratt reteam for director Paul King’s ‘Paddington 2,’ arriving in theaters on January 12.

A new year is upon us, bringing a bevy of new visual effects-driven films to theaters, including -- even at this early date -- some of the most hotly anticipated titles of 2018.

There’s action a-plenty, destruction on a massive scale, and a franchise reboot all waiting in the wings, as well as the return of one of the most adorable plush characters known to humanity, but the real story just might be the worlds of wonder conjured up for the Disney adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s iconic book, “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Packed with trailers, stills and notes on the creative teams for each title, here’s a look at some of the biggest VFX-driven films coming to theaters through the season ahead:

The Commuter – January 12 (Lionsgate)

Liam Neeson returns as insurance salesman Michael Woolrich in director Jaume Collet-Serra’s The Commuter, proving that the box office mainstay can sex up even the most mundane of chores: the daily commute.

In the movie, insurance salesman Michael is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding, and he is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for everyone on the train.

Cinesite and Nvizible crafted the visual effects for the movie, overseen by production VFX supervisor Steve Begg.

Paddington 2 – January 12 (Warner Bros.)

With visual effects and character animation provided by Oscar-winning VFX house Framestore, bolstered by Rodeo FX, Paddington 2 brings the return of everyone’s favorite marmalade-eating bear.

Settled in with the Brown family, Paddington the bear is a popular member of the community who spreads joy and marmalade wherever he goes. One fine day, he spots a pop-up book in an antique shop -- the perfect present for his beloved aunt’s 100th birthday. When a thief steals the prized book, Paddington embarks on an epic quest to unmask the culprit before Aunt Lucy’s big celebration.

Framestore Animation director Pablo Grillo and VFX supervisors Andy Kind & Glen Pratt reteamed with director Paul King and producer David Heyman for this second installment, delivering 523 shots for the final film. With visual effects employed for nearly every shot, the scope of work included CG trains, digi-doubles and a CG swan, as well as massive set extensions and, of course, our furry friend.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure – January 26 (20th Century Fox)

Having survived an excruciating labyrinth followed by deadly scorch trials, the escaped Gladers entering their final and most dangerous mission yet in The Death Cure.

In this final maze adventure, our young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure to a deadly disease known as the “Flare.” To save their friends, they must break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions that the Gladers have been asking since they arrived in the maze.

Directed by Wes Ball, the dystopian science-fiction action thriller features visual effects created by Weta Digital and overseen by VFX supervisor Chris White.

Untitled Cloverfield Movie – February 2 (Paramount Pictures)

The third Cloverfield film, originally titled The God Particle, might be the most mysterious movie to appear on the schedule this season.

Directed by Julius Onah, written by Oren Uziel, and staring David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ziyi Zhang, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, and Chris O’Dowd, little is known about the project produced by JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions outside of a series of delays that saw the film pushed from its original release date of February 24, 2017 to October 27, 2017, before finally landing on its current date of February 2, 2018. The visual effects are provided by Canadian studio Atomic Fiction and China’s Base FX.

A little over a month from its official release, there is still no trailer. In the movie, a team of astronauts aboard an international space station find themselves alone after a scientific experiment involving a particle accelerator makes the Earth vanish. When a space shuttle appears, the space station crew must fight for survival following their horrible discovery.

Black Panther – February 16 (Marvel Studios/Disney)

First introduced in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther is set to star in his own stand-along movie, the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

Following Iron Man and Captain America’s showdown in Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa returns home to the reclusive, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country’s new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country. When two foes conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must team up with CIA agent Everett K Ross and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war.

Overseen by production VFX supervisor Geoffrey Baumann, the visual effects for Black Panther were created by Industrial Light & Magic, Digital Domain, Double Negative, Luma Pictures, Mammal Studios, Method Studios, Rise Visual Effects Studios, Scanline VFX, and Trixter.

Alpha – March 2 (Sony)

Following a young hunter who befriends an injured wolf during the Ice Age, Alpha is directed by Albert Hughes and written by Dan Wiedenhaupt. Originally titled The Solutrean, the historical drama stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Leonor Varela and Jens Hultén.

Visual effects for the film were created by Double Negative and MPC under the oversight of production VFX supervisor Jeffrey A. Okun.

Here’s the official synopsis:

While on his first hunt with his tribe’s most elite group, a young man is injured and left for dead. Awakening to find himself broken and alone, he must learn to survive and navigate the harsh and unforgiving wilderness. Reluctantly taming a lone wolf abandoned by its pack, he learns to rely on it, and they become unlikely allies, enduring countless dangers and overwhelming odds to find their way home before the deadly winter arrives.

Red Sparrow – March 2 (20th Century Fox)

Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career in director Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow. Played by Jennifer Lawrence, Dominika is recruited into to Sparrow School, a secret Russian intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. After completing the sadistic training process, Dominika emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow. But her first mission, targeting a CIA agent who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

Also starring Joel Edgerton and Mary-Louise Parker, the visual effects for Red Sparrow were created by Double Negative under DNeg VFX supervisor Paul Riddle.

A Wrinkle in Time – March 9 (Disney)

Director Ava DuVernay’s highly anticipated adaptation of the Newbery Medal-winning book, “A Wrinkle in Time,” boasts an all-star cast, some mind-bending science, and a multitude of off-planet locations.

With the screenplay written by Jennifer Lee, the film stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Storm Reid, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Pine.

In the movie, Meg Murry and her little brother, Charles Wallace, have been without their scientist father, Mr. Murry, for five years, ever since he discovered a new planet and used the concept known as a tesseract to travel there. Joined by Meg’s classmate Calvin O’Keefe and guided by the three mysterious astral travelers known as Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, the children brave a dangerous journey to a planet that possesses all of the evil in the universe.

The visual for A wrinkle in Time were crafted by MPC under VFX supervisors Pete Dionne & Blaine Lougheed, ILM under VFX supervisor: Richard McBride, and Luma Pictures under VFX supervisor Brendan Seals, as well as Crafty Apes and One of Us.

Tomb Raider – March 16 (Warner Bros.)

Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished when she was young. Now a young woman, Lara navigates the chaotic streets of trendy East London as a bike courier. Determined to forge her own path, she refuses to take the reins of her father’s global empire just as staunchly as she rejects the idea that he’s truly gone. Advised to face the facts and move forward after seven years without him, even Lara can’t understand what drives her to finally solve the puzzle of his mysterious death. Going explicitly against his final wishes, she leaves everything she knows behind in search of her dad’s last-known destination: a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. But her mission will not be an easy one; just reaching the island will be extremely treacherous. Suddenly, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Lara, who -- against the odds and armed with only her sharp mind, blind faith and inherently stubborn spirit-must learn to push herself beyond her limits as she journeys into the unknown.

Tomb Raider is directed by Norwegian filmmaker Roar Uthaug (The Wave, Escape, Magic Silver, Cold Prey) from a screenplay written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet. The visual effects are provided by Scanline VFX.

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