They're rebooting Spider-Man. They're remaking Total Recall. Sometimes, when you're in the middle of summer movie craziness, it can seem like every movie is based on an already-existing movie. But that's not really true — there are actually tons of genre movies in development that are new concepts, at least as far as the movies go. Some of them have already finished filming, while others will never get made.
Is any of them the next Inception or District 9? We'll find out when you do. But here's our round-up of 50-odd science fiction and fantasy movies in the pipeline that aren't sequels, reboots, remakes or prequels of existing films. Thanks to reader Adam J. O'Donnell, who asked us on Twitter for a list of this sort.
Top image: Cloud Atlas.
There's no way this list can be exhaustive, especially for projects that are still in development hell — so please share with us in the comments anything we've forgotten!
What it's about: An adaptation of David Mitchell's genre-blending novel featuring six different storylines, taking place in the past, the present, the future, and the far future. Starring Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, and tons of others.
Status: Coming out in October.
Prognosis: It sounds as though they've at least tried hard to do justice to the incredibly challenging source material.
Life of Pi
What it's about: Ang Lee adapts Yann Martel's magical realist novel about a boy in a lifeboat, with a handful of animals. And they visit a strange island.
Status: Coming in November.
Prognosis: Ang Lee has almost never let us down before.
World War Z
What it's about: Max Brooks' novel about the zombie apocalypse becomes a big splashy action movie starring Brad Pitt, directed by Quantum of Solace's Mark Forster.
Status: Postponed until next year because of what are reportedly huge problems with the third act. Damon Lindelof has been brought in for massive rewrites.
Prognosis: The best we can hope for is probably a fun generic zombie movie, since it apparently has little to do with the book.
Dinosaurs & Aliens
What it's about: A Grant Morrison graphic novel (in the works) about dinosaurs fighting aliens, being adapted into a movie by Men in Black's Barry Sonnenfeld.
Status: There was a sneak peek as part of Free Comic Book Day last month. Sonnenfeld told us they're about to try and sell the project in Hollywood.
Prognosis: Grant Morrison creating a whole alien culture sounds like reason enough to be interested.
What it's about: Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) adapts Stephenie Meyer's non-Twilight project, about alien parasites who rule the Earth after a successful invasion.
Status: Already done, coming out March 2013.
Prognosis: We actually kind of liked the book, despite some major problems — and this dystopian fake-happy world is right up Niccol's alley.
What it's about: Another adaptation of a comic book you probably haven't heard of. Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges are dead cops, fighting zombies.
Status: Coming out June 2013
Prognosis: It sounds pretty fun, if gimmicky — sort of like Men in Black and Ghostbusters mashed together.
The Seventh Son
What it's about: An adaptation of Joseph Delaney's The Spook's Apprentice. Also featuring Jeff Bridges in a mentor role, the titular Spook.
Status: Coming October 2013.
Prognosis: Sounds sort of like the Nic Cage Sorcerer's Apprentice, but having Jeff Bridges as Master Gregory is a huge, huge boost.
What it's about: The movie adaptation of Orson Scott Card's famous novel about a boy genius who goes to a very special school during a war against alien "Buggers."
Status: Coming out in November 2013.
Prognosis: The makers of the film seem to be going to crazy lengths to be true to the novel, while also making something that looks cool. So fingers crossed!
Jack the Giant-Killer
What it's about: Bryan Singer's long-delayed film about a boy (Nicholas Hoult) who unwittingly opens a portal and unleashes a race of giants, who want to reclaim the Earth. Loosely an adaptation of the fairy tale.
Status: It was supposed to come out this summer, but was delayed until Spring 2013.
Prognosis: A movie being delayed — especially from the summer to the spring — is never a terribly good sign.
Hansel and Gretl: Witch Hunters
What it's about: Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are the stars of the classic fairy tale, now grown up and killing witches.
Status: Like Jack the Giant Killer, it was delayed until next year, in this case January.
Prognosis: It's Jeremy Renner in black leather. Sorry, were you asking something about the potential quality or lack thereof of this film?
What it's about: An adaptation of Isaac Marion's novel about a zombie (Hoult, again) who falls in love with the girlfriend of one of his victims.
Status: Coming February 2013.
Prognosis: Directed by 50/50 director Jonathan Levine, so at least it should be pretty stylin.
John Dies at the End
What it's about: The gonzo novel by Cracked.com's David Wong about a weird dug called "soy sauce" gets a movie adaptation starring Paul Giamatti. Thanks to everyone who reminded me of this one in comments!
Status: It's done the festival circuit, no release date yet.
Prognosis: The buzz from Sundance and other festivals was really strong.
What it's about: Steven Spielberg adapts Daniel H. Wilson's novel about a robot uprising, complete with lavish battle scenes.
Status: Coming in 2014, but filming hasn't happened yet — so anything could happen.
Prognosis: If it actually happens, the robot carnage should at least look amazingly sweet.
What it's about: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain) adapts the Biblical story of Noah's Ark, with Russell Crowe and a cast that might include Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly. Aronofsky also co-wrote a Noah graphic novel (at left.)
Status: Currently in the casting stage, with lots of announcements coming fast and furious.
Prognosis: Aronofsky reportedly wants this film to portray Noah as "the first environmentalist." At the very least, the scenes of global flooding could be fascinating.
What it's about: Anton Yelchin stars in the adaptation of Dean Koontz's book series about a guy who can talk to the dead, and who has an instinct for trouble.
Status: Totally done, although there's no release date yet.
Prognosis: We talked to Koontz recently, and he said it was the first time he'd been happy with the movie version of one of his books.
What it's about: Splice director Vincenzo Natali was officially attached to adapt William Gibson's ground-breaking novel about the sprawl, artificial intelligence, hackers and intrigue.
Status: There hasn't been much news lately and Natali is busy directing the horror film Haunter (see below.) But sometimes it just takes a while to get a script everyone is happy with.
Prognosis: If it actually gets made, it would probably be a fantastic ride. Fingers crossed.
What it's about: Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) will adapt Neal Stephenson's novel set in a corporate-dominated near future, in which Hiro Protagonist investigates a potent new drug that infects users with a computer virus.
Status: Cornish's signing was just announced, so it's way too early to tell yet.
Prognosis: After Attack the Block, we're excited to see Cornish do something more ambitious.
Ready Player One
What it's about: Warner Bros. won an auction to adapt Ernie Cline's novel about a video game nerd who goes on a quest through a 1980s-themed virtual world in the future.
Status: There's lots of speculation about director and casting, but no real news yet. The film might come out in 2014.
Prognosis: Cline has talked a lot about wanting the movie version to embrace some of the wild visuals of the virtual world, sort of like Inception.
We Mortals Are
What it's about: The movie version of the acclaimed Japanese novel All You Need is Kill, about a soldier fighting aliens who keeps getting brought back from the dead over and over. Starring Tom Cruise.
Status: It's cast and everything, but filming doesn't seem to have started yet.
Prognosis: Director Doug Liman had a decent track record with the Bourne movies, before Jumper. And more alien-fighting is never a bad thing.
What it's about: Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror) stars in the movie adaptation of Cassandra Clare's novel about Clary Fray, a teenager who discovers she's the descendant of a demon-hunting clan. Jamie Campbell Bower plays Jace Wayland, a half-man, half-angel.
Status: Filming hasn't started yet, but it's already scheduled to come out in August 2013.
Prognosis: It was originally going to be helmed by Scott Stewart, director of Legion and Priest, but then Stewart dropped out and was replaced by Harald Zwart (Agent Cody Banks, The Karate Kid). So it's probably gone from brooding action to something a bit more zippy. It also sounds like they're rushing to meet a release date that was set ages ago.
What it's about: Tim Burton makes a full-length version of his early short, about a boy who brings his dog back to life, with hilariously spooky consequences. Watch the trailer here.
Status: Coming October 2012.
Prognosis: It's a labor of love, and Burton returning to his roots. So, you know, could be great.
What it's about: Carl Rinsch's film about a robotic servant who flees the police caused a huge firestorm when it came out online a few years ago.
Status: The film launched a small bidding war in 2010, with studios vying to turn it into a full-length movie. Or, according to some accounts, it was over a full-length movie called Small, for which The Gift is a prequel. But there hasn't been any news in a long time.
Prognosis: The short is amazing — look for yourself.
What it's about: Another short that caused a stir online, this film is about 1980s video game characters (8-bit graphics and all) invading New York.
Status: Adam Sandler's production company Happy Madison picked this film up to develop it into a full-length movie, and it's coming in May 2013.
Prognosis: Donkey Kong trashing New York! Again, there is the Sandler Factor. But it looks cute, in any case.
What it's about: This Sundance-winning short film is about a man trapped on an ice planet with an emergency helper robot called Tomo, or friend.
Status: It was reported back in 2008 that this film was being turned into a full-length movie, but there hasn't been much news since then. So we're not sure if it's still happening, but we hope so.
Prognosis: The original short film still looks hella cool.
What it's about: The redundant genes in your body get activated, and mutant freaks roam the streets, thanks to pharmaceutical companies, in this weird and alarming short movie.
Status: As we reported recently, Wayfare Entertainment picked this film up for a full theatrical version, with the same director on board.
Prognosis: Just watch the original short for yourself. It's pretty nuts.
End of the World
What it's about: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg adapt their short Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse. A bunch of celebrities, playing themselves, are at James Franco's house when the apocalypse happens.
Status: Coming in June 2013.
Prognosis: Decide for yourself whether "James Franco, Seth Rogen and Rihanna play themselves in an apocalyptic comedy" sounds like a good thing.
What it's about: A comedy about a boy who can speak to the dead, taking on zombies, ghosts and other supernatural menaces.
Status: Coming August 2012.
Prognosis: It's from the same studio as Coraline, and co-written/directed by Coraline's script supervisor.
What it's about: Adam Sandler stars in this animated film about a resort where Dracula and other movie monsters can hang out — until a random human backpacker shows up.
Status: Coming in September.
Prognosis: Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack), which may be enough to make up for the Sandler factor. Maybe. Probably not. But maybe.
What it's about: The villain of a 1980s arcade video game gets sick of always being a bad guy and goes on the run, visiting other games and trying to prove he can be a hero. Trailer is here.
Status: Coming in November.
Prognosis: We weren't that jazzed about the gimmicky concept, until we saw the fun trailer. John C. Reilly is in full effect, and the cast is generally pretty great. (Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, etc.)
Rise of the Guardians
What it's about: Another "random supernatural people hang out together" movie — this time, it's about Santa Claus teaming up with the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy to stop the Boogeyman. Oh, and Jack Frost (Chris Pine) also joins the heroes. Based on a children's book, The Guardians of Childhood by William Joyce — so this could have been under book adaptations. (And Joyce is co-directing.)
Status: Coming in November.
Prognosis: It's another holiday-themed animated film for kids. It looks perfectly serviceable, but nothing too exciting — check out the first trailer above.
Escape from Planet Earth
What it's about: Brendan Fraser is Scorch Supernova, a heroic astronaut from the planet Baab, who explores with the help of his nerdy brother Gary (Rob Corddry). When Scorch gets trapped in Area 51 by his nemesis Shanker (James Gandolfini), it's up to Gary to save the day.
Status: Coming February 2013.
Prognosis: It sounds cute enough, but probably pretty forgettable. Check out a trailer above.
What it's about: A magical film about the battle between good and evil, starring Beyonce Knowles and Colin Farrell. We just posted the first trailer yesterday.
Status: It comes out May 24, 2013
Prognosis: Fairies ride on hummingbirds, and hang out with cute mice. And Beyonce is a fairy queen. We're in.
Untitled Henry Sellick Film
What it's about: We're guessing this will get a new title at some point? The director of Coraline and Nightmare Before Christmas is hard at work on a new film, about which nothing is known.
Status: Already has a release date set: October 4, 2013.
Prognosis: Without knowing anything but "Untitled Henry Sellick Film," we're already pretty stoked.
What it's about: A new Disney movie, formerly called The Snow Queen. It's an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fable, so this is another one that could have gone under book adaptations. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel head up the voice cast.
Status: Coming in November, 2013.
Prognosis: The early artwork (at left) looks neat. Way too soon to tell, really.
The Good Dinosaur
What it's about: Pixar film about which relatively little is known, but it will show you what it's like to be a dinosaur.
Status: Coming out in May 2014
Prognosis: Is anybody not stoked for Pixar and dinosaurs?
What it's about: Formerly titled Dybbuk Box, this is an example of that rare breed: the Jewish horror film. A couple buys a box at a yard sale, not realizing it contains something... horrifying. Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars. Watch the trailer here.
Status: Coming in August.
Prognosis: The release date for this one has kept getting pushed back, and it's ended up in August. On the other hand, the trailer looked actually scary.
What it's about: Ryan Kwanten is on an airplane that gets haunted by an evil spirit. The latest film from the director of the Grudge movies, Takashi Shimizu.
Status: Coming out in 2013, on an unspecified date.
Prognosis: Release date was pushed back from August 2012, pretty much at the last minute. But ghosts on a plane are always a recipe for good times. Watch the trailer and decide for yourself.
What it's about: Splice director Vincenzo Natali directs a ghost movie, in which Abigail Breslin is a ghost who died in 1986 and is trapped in a house, trying to help save a living girl from suffering the same fate. Also co-starring David Hewlett, aka Rodney McKay!
Status: Filming started back in April. It comes out sometime in 2013.
Prognosis: Natali said the script by Brian King "constructs a Borgian Labyrinth out of the most mundane settings and shows us how even in our everyday lives, we are spirits living in the material world."
What it's about: Barry "The Sphere" Levinson directs a low-budget horror movie about horrifying parasites — check out some concept art we posted yesterday.
Status: Filming ended quite some time ago, and it's probably coming in 2013.
Prognosis: It's reportedly in the same low-budget wheelhouse as Insidious and Paranormal Activity, but with parasites that can eat your tongue.
What it's about: Formerly known as Neighborhood Watch, this is the film about surburban dads who form a neighborhood watch and then confront an alien invasion. The cast includes Richard Ayoade from The IT Crowd.
Status: It comes out July 27, 2012, when it will no doubt knock The Dark Knight Rises right off the box office charts.
Prognosis: Probably depends on whether "Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill" sounds like a dream come true to you.
The Odd Life of Timothy Green
What it's about: From an idea by Frank Zappa's son Ahmet. A couple who can't have a child of their own bury a box in the back yard, with all their wishes for a child. And then a 10-year-old appears and claims to be their son — but he's even more unusual than they realize. Trailer at left.
Status: Comes out August 15.
Prognosis: Dirt baby! You should probably have some sort of drinking game, involving shots every time the kid lifts his arms to the skies or Jennifer Garner does that frowny-smiley face that she used to do when the plot twists on Alias made no sense.
What it's about: Director Rian Johnson reunites with his Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt for a movie about hitmen and time-travel. Bruce Willis plays Gordon-Levitt's older self from the future.
Status: Coming out September 28.
Prognosis: If this can live up to Brick, it should be one of our favorite movies this year.
What it's about: Alfonso Cuaron set a new high-water mark in dystopias with Children of Men, and now he's making a space movie, in which Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut who's lost in space.
Status: Delayed from this November to some time in 2013.
Prognosis: The first test screening yielded mixed reports. Some people say it's gorgeous but not that thrilling — but others say Bullock gives the performance of her career.
What it's about: District 9 director Neill Blomkamp returns with another super-political movie, in which the rich live on a space station, ruled by Secretary Rhodes (Jodie Foster). Matt Damon is a cyborg who's backed into a tough corner.
Status: Coming in March 2013.
Prognosis: It sounds very much like another film in the same super-political mold as District 9.
What it's about: Joseph Kosinski (Tron Legacy) gets to direct an original project. Tom Cruise plays a soldier who's one of the few humans patrolling a desolate planet (which may be Earth), and he's fighting off warlike aliens.
Status: Coming sometime in 2013.
Prognosis: Between this and We Mortals Are, Tom Cruise is going to be our alien-killing mastermind next year. What little we know sounds sort of great, but it's too early to say much.
What it's about: M. Night Shyamalan directs a post-post-apocalyptic film starring Will Smith and his son Jaden Smith. It's been 1,000 years since humans abandoned Earth, but a father and his son crashland here, and the father is injured — leaving the son to fend for himself.
Status: Coming June 2013.
Prognosis: It sounds like it's mostly a vehicle for Jaden Smith, with Will Smith getting injured and thus sidelined. The screenplay is by The Book of Eli's Gary Whitta and Shyamalan himself, although Stephen Gaghan (Traffic) polished it. It really depends on whether you want to give Shyamalan one more chance.
What it's about: Guillermo del Toro makes a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters, with Idris Elba. (What accent do you think Elba will have this time?)
Status: Coming in July 2013.
Prognosis: Last year at Comic Con, del Toro was very effusive about saying this would have the finest fucking monsters and the greatest fucking robots ever.
What it's about: Roland Emmerich (2012) changes gears a bit, from disaster movies to something that's arguably the opposite of a disaster: The Singularity. A nanotech pioneer saves his injured son by transferring the son's consciousness into a swarm of nanobots — but then an evil corporation wants to do evil things with them.
Status: Bumped from May 2013 to November, 2013, at least in part because of script problems.
Prognosis: Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near, has been consulting on the script. So this should be interesting, in any case.
What it's about: The Wachowskis direct their first original project since The Matrix. According to a plot synopsis, Mila Kunis is an immigrant who's scrubbing toilets but doesn't realize she shares the same DNA as the Queen of the Universe. A super-evolved bounty hunter is sent to get rid of her, but they fall in love.
Status: Hasn't started filming yet, possibly coming in 2014.
Prognosis: Let's just hope that plot synopsis was garbled in translation.
What it's about: A famous young writer who's struggling with writers' block starts imagining his ideal woman — and when he writes about her, she becomes real. But can he have a meaningful relationship with his own fictional creation?
Status: Comes out July 25.
Prognosis: It's sort of like Weird Science crossed with Stranger Than Fiction.
Robot and Frank
What it's about: A retired jewel thief gets given a robot companion, and uses its help to court a local librarian and also resume his criminal career.
Status: Comes out August 24.
Prognosis: We really, really loved this one at Sundance. Jordan Hoffman wrote, "Robot and Frank not only nails all the heartwarming family scenes expected of a Sundance dramedy, but also has great insight into the ethical implications of artificial intelligence and the fractured lucidity of memory."
What it's about: A dystopian movie about a world where advertising is really controlling our minds, for real. Starring Ed Stoppard, Jeffrey Tambor, Max von Sydow, Leelee Sobieski and others.
Status: Coming out September 7.
Prognosis: We've barely heard anything about this film, but it could be a sleeper hit. The trailer looks a bit, umm, on the nose with the "evil corporations are evil" stuff, but maybe it'll be our new They Live.
What it's about: Doctor Who's Noel Clarke plays Charlie, a guy who gets trapped inside a storage warehouse with a huge carnivorous alien.
Status: Comes out this week in the U.K. — no clue when the U.S. release date is.
Prognosis: It's Mickey vs. aliens, in an enclosed space! The trailer looks pleasingly claustrophobic, and the soundtrack is great.
Knights of Badassdom
What it's about: A group of LARPing nerds, including Danny Pudi, Summer Glau and Peter Dinklage, accidentally unleash a deadly supernatural force — so it's up to them to stop it. Thanks to everyone who reminded me of this in comments!
Status: It's in the can, and it got a lot of hype at Comic Con a year ago, but apparently there are no plans to release it any time soon.
Prognosis: The trailer is amazing, but nobody's seen the whole movie yet.
What it's about: A humanoid robot escapes from a containment facility and goes on the run, while defending itself by killing lots of government stooges. And along the way, the movie looks like it'll explore questions of humanity, personhood and the Singularity. Confusingly, there's also another science fiction movie called The Prototype listed as coming out next year.
Status: Coming sometime in 2013 — the first trailer just came out the other day.
Prognosis: When we posted the trailer the other day, comments ranged from "this looks horrible" to "impressive robot design."
The Girl From Mars
What it's about: A lonely geek's life is transformed when he meets a girl who claims to be from Mars. Featuring Max Brooks in a supporting role!
Status: Supposedly coming out in November 2013, according to IMDB.
Prognosis: Way too soon to tell much about it, at this point. It sounds quirky.