Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Pictures
It is fairly clear that films like Episode Viii, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, The Fate of the Furious and more will be among the big movie events of 2017. Figuring out who will be the biggest human stars of 2017 is a tougher task, since several of them probably haven't even broken out yet. After all, no one envisioned in Jan 2016 that the one non A-list star of Hail, Caesar would then be cast as young Han Solo by the end of 2016.
Unknown or little known breakouts like Alden Ehrenreich will surely make themselves known through the course of 2017. In the meantime, these big stars or soon to be even bigger stars look poised to be among the most talked about actors and actresses in the next 12 months.
Carrie Fisher & Mark Hamill [Episode VIII]
It goes without saying that Fisher isn't on this list for the most ideal reasons, as Episode VIII will now go down as her final film, and as the final appearance of Fisher's version of Princess/General Leia. As such, every Leia scene is now poised to go down in Star Wars and pop culture history, depending on what she actually does in a role that was already set to be larger than in The Force Awakens. Leia's final act will also be tied to Luke in some way, since this is now the last chance for the twins to reunite on screen.
Either way, Episode VIII is still historic for reasons other than Fisher. The Force Awakens turned Luke into a living MacGuffin, but Episode VIII will be Hamill's first extended and speaking appearance as Luke on the big screen in 34 years. Harrison Ford got the biggest showcase among the original trio in The Force Awakens, and now it is poised to be Hamill's turn.
Will Hamill spend that time aping Yoda and Obi-Wan’s teaching styles with Rey, and perhaps getting into one last lightsaber duel? If Episode VIII is a copy of Empire Strikes Back as some fear, that might not bode well for Luke’s remaining human hand if he sees his nephew again.
The answers to so many burning questions around Luke, Leia, Hamill and Fisher will come on Dec. 15, and won't stop being brought up until then.
Gal Gadot [Wonder Woman, Justice League]
Wonder Woman already had the burden of being the first Marvel or DC heroine of the modern era to actually lead her own movie. Now after DC's various stumbles in 2016, she has the added pressure of being the DCEU's latest potential savior.
Wonder Woman is the latest great hope for DC's redemption, and perhaps the third time in the last year will be the charm after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Gadot was one of the few elements to escape the backlash of Batman v Superman, but she and Diana have been untested in movies that don't only tack her on for a couple of scenes and a third act monster fight.
Giving her a director that isn't Zack Snyder or David Ayer, and who actually seems to film in the sunlight and with colors other than dark grey, may alone be a step in the right direction. Yet with a prequel/origin story that will take her from idealistic warrior to a woman that walked away from "a century of horrors" before Bruce Wayne met her, the film might not end up being the great beacon of hope and optimism the DCEU actually needs.
Nonetheless, Gadot and Diana's second effort to bring in those elements will come as part of a group, when the Justice League is fully formed. If being a lead character doesn't fully pay off on June 2, perhaps having an expanded supporting role on a complete super team, unlike in Batman v Superman, will balance it out on Nov. 17.
Tom Holland [Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Lost City of Z]
Gadot isn't the only one who had an extended cameo in a 2016 superhero civil war movie, before getting a solo movie in 2017. But Holland had a more extended cameo in his 2016 superhero debut, as a character with far more feature film experience.
Holland's act as a younger, more stuttering and excitable Spider-Man than his cinematic predecessors worked in a second act detour for Captain America: Civil War, but now that persona has to carry an entire film. Marvel already green lit a sequel for 2019 to show confidence, yet Sony green lit a lot of Andrew Garfield Spider-Man sequels and spinoffs before that Spider-Man universe came apart.
The MCU may be fine even if Spider-Man: Homecoming is an Amazing Spider-Man like disappointment. However, that may depend on what its long term Spider-Man plans really are, and whether he really has a safety net with the Avengers lined up after Phase Three.
As a warm up act before Spider-Man's third franchise opens on July 7, Holland will take off the tights for a different adventure story with former franchise veterans Robert Pattinson and Charlie Hunnan in The Lost City of Z in late April.
Vin Diesel [xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, The Fate of the Furious, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2]
It will be almost impossible to avoid Diesel in the first half of 2017, as he helps revive three franchises all at once. Of course, the xXx revival is the most improbable of all, given how Diesel last played Xander Cage 15 years ago and was technically killed off screen when Ice Cube succeeded him. But it will get the ball rolling for Diesel's 2017 on Jan. 20 before his even bigger franchises return.
At the least, Diesel will show new sides of himself and his beloved characters in his next two sequels. The Fate of the Furious will actually have Dom Toretto turn evil alongside Charlize Theron, or at least make it look like he has for an act or two, on April 14.
But that is nothing compared to his disappearing act as Groot, as the already adored baby version of the Guardians of the Galaxy's three-word speaking tree steals nuclear bombs and perhaps an entire movie on May 5. Diesel won't even sound like himself in that finale, whether or not moviegoers need a break from hearing him by then.
Dwayne Johnson [The Fate of the Furious, Baywatch, Jumanji]
It seems every year has Johnson as one of its biggest stars now. This time, the defending Sexiest Man Alive will return to one franchise and try to revive two more old ones. The first attempt will be much less kid friendly, when Baywatch has Johnson and Zac Efron go much bluer than David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson did on Memorial Day Weekend.
Like in 2016, Johnson is aiming for a summer action comedy hit and a holiday family hit in the same year. Unlike Moana, this year's Johnson holiday family film is in live action, and unlike in 2016, Johnson and Kevin Hart are waiting until the holidays to team up in Jumanji.
Emma Watson [Beauty and the Beast, The Circle]
It took over five years after Harry Potter, but Watson will get to headline two big movies that have nothing to do with Hermoine Granger. Of course, one of them has Watson stepping into another beloved family classic to play another book smart heroine, although March 17's Beauty and the Beast remake does have Watson in the lead and singing as well.
Over a month later, both Watson and John Boyega will leave the fantasy genre and their British accents aside to discover the dark secrets of Tom Hanks's social network empire in The Circle.
Karen Gillan [The Circle, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Jumanji]
Gillan has popped up in movie supporting roles and in television for years since leaving the Doctor Who Tardis, whether she was recognizable or not. However, 2017 may well have her biggest supporting roles in her biggest movies to date.
As it stands, Gillan will join Watson in The Circle just a week before she expands her role as Nebula in the next Guardians volume. Months later, she will cap off her busy year by teaming with Johnson, Hart and Jack Black in Jumanji, in a remake that has already drawn backlash for Gillan's less than conservative outfit.
Hugh Jackman [Logan, The Greatest Showman]
March 3 and the countdown to it will serve as one long goodbye to Jackman, at least in the X-Men universe. If the next several weeks of Wolverine tributes end with an actual grand finale in his first and last R-rated Wolverine movie, so much the better.
If all works out, Jackman will then be seen in his other favorite genre by the end of 2017, playing P.T. Barnum in his first movie musical since his Oscar nominated Les Miserables. By the time everyone starts making their previews for 2018, there should be a clearer idea of whether history will repeat itself for Jackman.