We primarily know of Bad Robot Productions as a sturdy pinnacle of big-screen blockbuster success thanks to their Star Wars, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible tentpole spectacles. However, the company spearheaded by J. J. Abrams also showcases a proclivity for dabbling in smaller projects focused on jettisoning relative up-and-coming filmmakers to the Hollywood stage.
The Cloverfield movies — directed by Matt Reeves, Dan Trachtenberg, and Julius Onah early in their careers — kept us all prattling on about marketing ploys and outrageous plot twists over the last decade. And since The Cloverfield Paradox, Bad Robot’s most recent genre triumph comes with Overlord. Directed by Julius Avery, who has otherwise only helmed Son of a Gun thus far, it happens to be an excellent World War II-set horror romp.
An Abrams endorsement can clearly do wonders for a budding filmmaker’s career. This truly bodes well for the six fresh projects that Bad Robot has in the works; yes, there are that many incoming! According to The Hollywood Reporter, the production company has been uncommonly forthcoming with its list of upcoming films and some of the people behind them.
Deadline further reports that this massive project update apparently comes as Abrams meets with major studios during a transitionary time for Bad Robot. Many of the company’s film projects since Cloverfield have come to life at Paramount Pictures, with the exception of Infinity Polar Bear and Abrams’ Star Wars sequels. However, as Bad Robot’s contract with Paramount nears expiration, there is no set movie house behind any of the six planned films.
Regardless of where Abrams takes Bad Robot next, the content is always what matters most. So let’s consider and break down each of the six developing big-screen stories and consider their prospects. At the moment, the list actually seems like a real mixed bag, but there are gems peeking through.
Untitled Time-Travel Movie
Firstly, I’m not sure what to expect from a Ben Shiffrin time-travel story, but that’s apparently happening. All we know for now is that this as-yet-untitled flick definitely won’t skew towards the bombastic end of the sci-fi spectrum. Shiffrin’s only other writing credit is the abysmal talking cat flick Nine Lives, though. A movie about a man getting his psyche trapped in the body of his daughter’s pet cat, of all things, hardly helps us envision an amazing narrative.
Only the Lonely
There’s another sci-fi story in the mix called Only the Lonely, which will be co-penned by Dylan Meyer and Peter Glanz. This time, it’s a romance. Frequent Bad Robot editor Stefan Grube, who specifically cut 10 Cloverfield Lane and will co-edit Star Wars: Episode IX, will make his directorial debut with this project that is kept very much in the dark.
Then there is The Steps, the next feature film project of ex-Attack of the Show! and X-Play head writer Blair Butler. Described briefly as a possession story with a twist, the story’s original idea comes from Grube. Although Butler made her big-screen writing debut in this year’s Hell Fest, which also plays on classic horror tropes including a masked serial killer wreaking havoc on a fairground, it has turned out to be an un-scary generic letdown. Maybe — hopefully — Butler’s team-up with Lars Klevberg (the Child’s Play reboot) will reap more promising results for us to hang onto for this Bad Robot venture.
Everything Must Go
We’re firmly onto the stuff with more potential, starting with Everything Must Go, a vehicle to be co-written by Alex, Inc.‘s Lisa McQuillan and the rapper Logic, marking his first film script. Basically, the movie’s claim to be “Clerks for a new generation” is just plain bold. The combination of Clerks‘ specific era and its micro-budget production lends to its distinctively sharp, lived-in flavor. Many films about relatably aimless youth have spawned since Kevin Smith’s iconic film as it is — Superbad is an immediate noughties comparison — although they leave singular impressions of crudeness and nihilism depending on when they were released. That could be exactly what Logic and McQuillan have going for them; that a Clerks-esque movie right now would be inherently fresh and different if done right.
Untitled Female-Driven Horror Film
Meanwhile, an untitled thriller from a key mind in the comedy genre is in development: Megan Amram is writing her first movie. She is primarily known for her work on TV as a screenwriter for Parks and Recreation, Silicon Valley, and The Good Place. But fun fact, Amram’s collaboration with Abrams feels like a total no-brainer after he featured in her comedy web series An Emmy for Megan. As noted by THR, she is putting together the film characterized as “a female-driven horror allegory.” Nothing else is known about it. Still, judging from Amram’s oeuvre so far, my money (or biggest wish) banks on this leaning into the funnier sensibilities of the horror genre in spite of its exhilarating aspects.
The Seven Sisters of Scott County
Finally, acclaimed costume designer turned filmmaker Courtney Hoffman is prepping The Seven Sisters of Scott County, a movie primed to tackle all things “moonshine, trucking, and sisterhood.” We’ve seen Hoffman’s costuming work in The Hateful Eight, Captain Fantastic, and Baby Driver, just to name a few titles. Her first short film as a director and writer, The Good Time Girls, is a commendably vicious women-centric take on the classic Western starring Laura Dern and Alia Shawkat; 15 minutes of satisfying revenge plot wrapped up in a perfectly moody atmosphere. It’s the perfect indicator for just how proficient Hoffman is at flipping a genre on its head; so much so that she will transform the short into a feature of its own.
Overall, this list is more reassuring than skeptical. We can remain intrigued and pleased by the number of female creatives who have had their movies picked up for development at Bad Robot, and by the individual genre concerns of each piece; all of which easily align with present-day obsessions with sci-fi, coming-of-age, and horror. After all, to trust Bad Robot’s track record with filmmaking newbies wouldn’t be all that foolhardy.