Back to the future

From new releases in the Bond and Batman series to follow-ups to Blade Runner and Beetlejuice. 

Sequels to a number of classic films, plus new instalments in long-running movie franchises are on the horizon. Here's our pick of the crop.

Sequels

Blade Runner 2

British director Ridley Scott will make a follow-up to his 1982 cult classic, Blade Runner, arguably one of the finest sci-fi films ever made. Inspired by Philip K Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the original film was set in a dystopian Los Angeles in 2019. Humans have genetically engineered "replicants" who take on the human form but were designed to serve exclusively as labourers and entertainers. "Replicants" are illegal on earth and "blade runners" like Deckard (Harrison Ford) are employed to root out and kill them. The film combines stunningly surreal imagery with an atmospheric soundtrack. As well as being an impressive thriller, the film explores what it means to be human.

Producers Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove say: "It would be a gross understatement to say that we are elated Ridley Scott will shepherd this iconic story into a new, exciting direction ... This is a once in a lifetime project for us." Kosove added that filming could begin in 2013 at the earliest, with the film not being in cinemas until at least 2014.

Last year Ridley Scott directed Robin Hood and next year sees the release of Prometheus, an adventure film set in outer space. 

Beetlejuice

The writing and producing pair David Katzenberg and Seth Grahame-Smith are working on a sequel to Tim Burton's 1988 horror-comedy Beetlejuice.. The original was about a couple of ghosts, Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis), who find that a family is moving into their new home. Their attempts to scare the family away fail because their eery ways become a money-making scheme. The ghost couple recruit Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) to help, but soon find him hard to control.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly Katzenberg and Grahame-Smith said that the film will not be a remake and will advance the plot of the original:

When Warner Bros. came to us about it, we said the only way we'd do it if we got Tim [Burton's] blessing and involvement, and we got that, and the star of the movie has to be Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice, and it's a true continuation 26 years later. Not just throwing him in as a cameo going, "Hey, it's me. I endorse this movie." We're not there yet [with Keaton] because we don't have a film to present to him.

Last year Keaton was the voice of Ken in the critically-acclaimed Toy Story 3 and played Captain Gene Mauch in Adam McKay's The Other Guys.

Tintin 2

The first person to direct three major films simultaneously, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson will direct Tintin 2 after The Hobbit. Anthony Horowitz, author of the popular Alex Rider spy novels series was hired last year as the writer for the project. Horowitz's script is likely to be based on an amalgamation of two adventures: Prisoners of the Sun and The Seven Crystal Balls and might be called The Adventures of Tintin: Prisoners of the Sun

The first film in the Tintin series is released this December, directed by Stephen Spielberg and produced by Jackson. The details of the third instalment are to be confirmed.

New instalments

Bond 23 "Skyfall"  

Following on from Quantum of Solace, shooting has begun for the the 23rd Bond film, Skyfall, which will be released in October 2012. Revelations about M's (Judi Dench) past test Bond's loyalty to her, and he must also protect MI6 from attack. The new Bond girl is Sévérine played by Bérénice Marlohe, a French television actor. The film's budget is rumoured to be £125m.

Director Sam Mendes talked about Skyfall at its launch in London: "I'm incredibly excited to be doing it and it has, I think, all the elements of a classic Bond movie including, to quell rumours, a lot of action and many other things too." he added that the action would "co-exist with the drama ... That's the balancing act to strike."

The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale is back as Batman in Christopher Nolan's last film in the series. Set for release on 20 July 2012, the film is currently in its post-production stage.The cast includes Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Tom Hardy as the villanous Bane, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

From TV to film: Arrested Development

Five years since it was on television screens, the Emmy-award winning American sitcom Arrested Development will now become a film. Earlier this year, Arrested Development's creator Mitchell Hurwitz told Digital Spy that he was starting work on a feature film adaptation with co-writer Jim Valley. The film will follow the shooting of the long-awaited fourth season of the sitcom next summer. The film does not have a release date yet, although Hurwitz has said that its creative side is mostly already planned out.

Arrested Development focuses on the life of the formerly rich and dysfunctional Bluth family. The cast includes Jessica Walter, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi and Michael Cera. Although the sitcom never achieved especially high ratings, it attracted a strongly devoted fanbase. The sitcom is so funny that the viewer hardly has time to laugh at all of the jokes and its return is very welcome.

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Paul Auster's 4 3 2 1 is by turns rewarding and maddening – just like life

Auster’s epic new novel of immigration, politics and consciousness is rich but imperfect.

It’s a cliché, or a joke: the immigrant who arrives in the New World from the Old Country, to be greeted by an official who promptly renames him, mishearing the strange tongue that the arrival speaks. Paul Auster’s new novel begins: “According to family legend, Ferguson’s grandfather departed on foot from his native city of Minsk with one hundred rubles sewn into the lining of his jacket, travelled west to Hamburg through Warsaw and Berlin, and then booked passage on a ship called the Empress of China, which crossed the Atlantic in rough winter storms and sailed into New York Harbor on the first day of the twentieth century.”

Ferguson’s grandfather is called Isaac Reznikoff. Another Russian Jew advises him that it will be wiser to give his name as “Rockefeller” to the official. “You can’t go wrong with that.” But when it is his turn, “the weary immigrant blurted out in Yiddish, Ikh hob fargessen (I’ve forgotten)! And so it was that Isaac Reznikoff began his new life in America as Ichabod Ferguson.”

A joke or a fable: the way that so many stories begin in America, the stories of those who sailed past the Statue of Liberty and the words inscribed on its base, words to welcome the tired, the poor, those masses yearning to breathe free. And so Auster, in his first novel in seven years, presents the reader with an Everyman, Ferguson-who-is-not-Ferguson, not the man who stepped off the Empress of China but his grandson, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the cranky protagonist and hero of this tale.

Ichabod begat Stanley and Stanley begat Archie, who was born, like his creator, in Newark, New Jersey, in 1947. This nearly 900-page epic is a Bildungsroman, though it would be more accurate to call it a Bildungs-Bildungs-Bildungs-Bildungsroman, because Archie’s story is told not once but four times. There are that many versions of the protagonist: in each version, his life takes a different turn, and so everything that follows is altered.

Auster is something of a prophet in exile in his own land. His brand of existentialist postmodernism – in which characters with the author’s name might appear, in which texts loop back on themselves to question the act of writing, in which the music of chance can be heard loud and clear – has sometimes found greater favour in Europe than it has in his native United States. For example, City of Glass, the 1985 meta-detective novel that forms part of The New York Trilogy, will be adapted for the stage here this year.

But City of Glass, like all of Auster’s previous books, is a slender novel. The New York Trilogy as a whole comes in at just over 300 pages. Where much of Auster’s work is elliptical, 4 3 2 1 can be overwhelming, but that is precisely the point. The author creates a vast portrait of the turbulent mid-20th century by giving his protagonist this series of lives. The book is divided into sections that clearly mark which Ferguson we are getting: 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 or 1.4.

Yet there is nothing supernatural about this journey lived and relived, as there was in Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. The only magic involved is the magic of the novelist’s imagination, which allows both writer and reader to juggle realities as if they were balls in the air.

However, it is not as if one Ferguson is midshipman and another a circus performer, or one a loudmouth and another shy and retiring. The strength of this novel is that Ferguson remains himself while events shift around him, changing the course of his life. Ferguson’s father dies, or Ferguson’s father lives but divorces his mother, Rose. What happens then? Rose is a talented photographer; does she continue her work when Stanley prospers and they move to the suburbs, or does she take up golf and bridge? Ferguson is a good student, always a writer: does he go to Princeton or Columbia? What’s the difference between translating poetry in a Paris attic and working as a journalist for the Rochester Times-Union?

At its best, 4 3 2 1 is a full immersion in Ferguson’s consciousness, which, perhaps, is a consciousness not too far removed from Auster’s. His protagonist’s youth is wonderfully, vividly conveyed. Even if you don’t care about baseball, you’ll come to care about it because Ferguson does. The details of the young Ferguson’s life are carefully and lovingly created: the powder-blue Pontiac that his mother drives, the pot roast and cheese blintzes served at the Claremont Diner in Montclair, New Jersey – and  the floorboards in an old house that creak when two young lovers make their way between their separate rooms in the middle of the night. Auster builds a world of heartfelt, lived-in detail.

But this is a novel of politics, too. Ferguson is a young man during the tumult of the late 1960s, when dozens were killed and hundreds injured during riots in Newark in 1967; when students at Columbia occupied the campus in protest over the war in Vietnam; when young men such as Ferguson could be drafted to fight in that war.

It is in this last third of the novel that the book flags a little, as lists of events tumble on to the page: one paragraph contains the My Lai massacre, the killing of the Black Panther Fred Hampton and the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont. At times, history lessons threaten to overwhelm the narrative, and Ferguson’s story/stories lose the texture and particularity that have made them so compelling. And its ending is abrupt, a tying-up of loose ends that fragments on the final page.

But then lives – real lives – have strange, abrupt endings, too. This is a rich, imperfect book, often rewarding, occasionally maddening. Again, like life, or at least if we’re lucky.

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster is published by Faber & Faber (880pp, £20)

Erica Wagner is a New Statesman contributing writer and a judge of the 2014 Man Booker Prize. A former literary editor of the Times, her books include Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of “Birthday Letters” and Seizure.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era