Universal Pictures Reveals New Wicked, Oppenheimer Footage

May 15, 2023

There’s that one note. That incredibly high note at the end of the song “Defying Gravity” from the musical “Wicked.” A note, until the success of “Let It Go,” which defined Idina Menzel’s career. That note was the last thing heard at Universal Pictures’ CinemacCon presentation on Wednesday evening. But this time, the note was sung by Cynthia Erivo and it was glorious. Truly glorious.
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The first part of the Jon M. Chu-directed Broadway adaptation doesn’t hit theaters till November 27, 2024. The film is only halfway through production and it’s hard to imagine a true teaser trailer making it to theaters until this holiday season, but Universal Chairwoman Donna Langley was too excited not to show something to the theater owners and managers assembled from all over the globe. And it was more than a teaser.
The footage began with Madam Morrible (Michelle Yeoh), trying to teach Elphaba (Erivo) how to use her powers. The scope of Oz and Shiz University, where Elphaba and Galinda (Ariana Grande) attend school, is beautiful and decidedly clean. Chu and producer Marc Platt are interspersed with scenes and the former notes how so much of the production is real and not visual effects (over 8,000 tulips were planted for one scene). Fiyero (Jonathan Bailey) spars with Galdinda and is later seen in a musical number at Shiz. You can catch Bowen Yang as Pfanne, a Shiz student in numerous scenes. Roommates Elphaba and Galinda bond. The Wizard of Oz himself (Jeff Goldblum) pulls a magic trick making a coin appear from behind Elphaba’s ear. There is a shot of the yellow brick road. There is dancing. Grande might sing a bit of “Popular.” And, again, Erivo teases us with “Defying Gravity.” Not one false note. Not one concern for any longtime fan of the musical.
Dare I ask, when can we watch it again, Universal?
“Wicked” might have closed out the two-and-a-half-hour presentation, but another highly anticipated film, Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” opened it. The director was on hand to show what he described as a “sights and sounds” preview of the film (an edit that may be substantially different from the new trailer expected to drop before “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 3” next week). Nolan revealed that the film was shot in both color and black and white, but not enough of the latter to concern theater owners. He also referred to J. Robert Oppenheimer as the most important person who ever lived and, why we certainly see his importance to history, that might be something of a stretch.
The “Oppenheimer” footage itself began in black and white with Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey, Jr.) confronting Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) and his colleagues about the recent discovery that the Soviet Union had just set off their own nuclear bomb. How did they figure it out? Was there a spy amongst Oppenheimer’s team? And thus the narrative for Nolan’s period thriller is revealed. Much of the film will cover the development and fear of setting off the first nuclear device, and another part will dive into the investigation of whether or not someone betrayed the United States and gave them the secret of the bomb. There were scenes with Matt Damon as Gen. Leslie Groves, Emily Blunt as Oppenheimer’s concerned wife (let’s hope there is some depth to this character), and Benny Safdie as Edward Teller, distraught over what their work could become.
“Oppenheimer” still looks like it could be an impressive piece of cinema, but from an industry standpoint, nothing shown today demonstrated it can even match the $365 million gross of “Tenet” during the pandemic. Nolan has a fanbase, but does he have enough to cover the film’s $100 million reported cost? Ponder.
Universal had a lot of star power on hand for their presentation. Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake were quite funny presenting new footage from “Trolls Band Together.” Jack Black appeared to act out the plot for “Kung Fu Panda 4” after he discovered there was no preview to show (Po has to find a new Dragon Warrior, but his candidate doesn’t trust him). Will Ferrell brought out his on-screen counterpart Sophia from the very adult doggie flick “Strays.” And Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewer, Tyrese Gibson, and Sung Kang delivered an excruciatingly long introduction for Vin Diesel. The “Fast and Furious” “leader” then rambled for almost 15 minutes before showing an extended preview from “Fast X.” But, the other film that truly popped for the Comcast theatrical division was something of a surprise, David A. Leitch’s “The Fall Guy.”
A former stunt person himself, the “Atomic Blonde” director brought out the Eighty Seven North productions stunt team to perform all sorts of acrobatics, sparring scenes, motorcycle tricks, and, um, use a t-shirt gun to give free merch to the audience. But then stars Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt came out to discuss the movie with Leitch. Gosling singled out the three stunt people who played him in the film who were in the wings adding, “In most films, the actors get all the credit but the stunt performers do all the work.” After some pitch-perfect bantering between Gosling and Blunt, it was time for the first look at what is supposed to be an adaption of the almost forgotten 1980s television show.
The preview begins with Gosling as Colt, a retired stuntman who is now spending his days working as a car valet and pruning his bonsai tree. His relatively peaceful life is disrupted when an old friend, a film producer played by Hannah Waddingham, practically begs him to replace an injured stuntman in a movie directed by one of his ex-girlfriends, Gail (Blunt). Colt had a bad fall on a previous gig which prompted his retirement and Gail? Well, things didn’t exactly end well with her years ago. He still takes the job though where he’ll be the main stunt double for one of the biggest movie stars in the world (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Colt is barely on set before that star goes missing. And that’s where things get even more interesting.
No surprise, Blunt and Gosling, have fantastic chemistry, but overall the movie appears super-fun, action-packed, and, as we’ve come to expect from Leitch, is super creative. “The Fall Guy” doesn’t hit theaters till March 2024, but it could make a killing if Universal moved it to Christmas.
The studio also screened footage from “Migration,” “Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken” and “The Exorcist Believer.”

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