The early months of any year often mean a slow start at the box office, and 2020 is no exception. The new year has given us some surprising hits and quite a few disappointing flops, but getting out of the dreary winter months means a new slew of potential box office hits is coming.
I’m here to break down five of March’s most highly-anticipated films. Whether it’s a Warner Bros. sports drama, a Vin Diesel-led comic book adaptation, the sequel to 2018’s breakout “A Quiet Place,” or Disney’s first two major releases of the year, it looks like March will have something for everyone.
Pixar’s latest film comes from Dan Scanlon, whose resume only consists of the forgettable “Monsters University.” This time around, he’s delivered an original project, which is a welcome change for an animation studio that has seemingly been on cruise control – four of Pixar’s five releases since 2015 have been sequels. “Onward” is a suburban take on the fantasy genre that focuses on two teenage elf brothers on a quest to magically reconnect with their long-dead father. Early reviews suggest it’s another heart-warming winner for Pixar.
“The Way Back” – March 6
Writer-director Gavin O’Connor’s two best films in an almost 20-year career are both sports dramas – “Miracle” and “Warrior.” Now, “The Way Back” finds O’Connor entering the genre once again to re-team with Ben Affleck, whom he directed in “The Accountant” in 2016. “The Way Back” follows Jack Cunningham (Affleck) as he overcomes addiction and a lost marriage in order to turn his former high school basketball team into a group of winners. It looks fairly by-the-numbers, but what’s most interesting will be seeing Affleck take on a role and story that very clearly hits close to home for the actor who has publicly dealt with both alcoholism and divorce.
“Bloodshot” – March 13
Sometimes you just need to go to the theater, turn your brain off for a few hours and let CGI overwhelm the screen while the popcorn crunches between your teeth. That’s where Vin Diesel comes in. The world-famous star of the “Fast” Saga is lending his bald head and buff figure to this comic book adaptation centered on a soldier brought back to life after being killed in action. With new superhuman powers, he makes it his mission to take out the men responsible for messing with his mind and memories of his past life. Naturally, this includes Vin Diesel in a fistfight as he falls down the side of a skyscraper, because of course it does.
“A Quiet Place Part II” – March 20
Spoiler warning for “A Quiet Place”
John Krasinski’s character bit the dust, so his family is now on the run and looking for a new place to call home in the post-apocalyptic United States. Now it’s Emily Blunt’s turn to lead the film, with Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou signing on as two stellar additions to the cast. While the first film largely stayed in one location, Part II will explore different areas, as well as provide insight to the origins of the alien invasion via flashbacks. Plus, with more time and energy to dedicate to directing rather than acting and with one film already under his belt, Krasinski should be more settled at the helm. Don’t be surprised if this ends up being the type of sequel that outclasses the original.
“Mulan” (March 27)
This is going to be one of the year’s biggest wild cards. Thanks to its insistence on leaning into its martial arts roots, “Mulan” is the first live-action adaptation of an animated Disney film to garner a PG-13 rating, and that has certainly raised a few eyebrows. The star, Yifei Liu, has been criticized for coming out in support of Hong Kong police brutalizing protesters, which has led to some calling for a boycott of the film. This iteration of “Mulan” has really been under the gun as soon as it was announced that it would be devoid of the original film’s hit songs, as well as Mushu and any potential romance between Mulan and Li Shang – opting instead to leave the military leader out altogether. On top of all that, the coronavirus is now all but guaranteed to sink the film’s release in China, making things more uncertain than ever. Disney usually doesn’t have much reason to be nervous, but this release will have them crossing their fingers. If nothing else, at least we get to say Niki Caro joins Patty Jenkins, Ava DuVernay and Chloe Zhao as female directors trusted to helm a big-budget studio project. No small feat.
Be sure to check back in throughout the month for full reviews of these films and more, and be on the lookout for our April preview!
Johnny Sobczak is an entertainment journalist and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in Media and Journalism and minored in Global Cinema. Johnny is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has been with Inside the Film Room since August 2019. He was named Senior Writer in January 2020 and co-hosts the Inside the Film Room podcast with Zach Goins. Johnny spends his days job-hunting, watching films and obsessing over every new detail of Denis Villeneuve's "Dune."