It’s rare to see main characters of color in sci-fi and fantasy films. However, movies like The Dark Tower and the upcoming installments of Star Wars and Pacific Rim are slowly changing that reality.
Despite the lukewarm reception to the big screen adaptation of The Dark Tower, very little of the criticism was levied against Idris Elba as the famed Gunslinger himself.
While I wish that the adaptation could’ve lived up better to King’s original novel, the inclusion of Idris Elba as Roland Deschain — a character generally depicted as white — was a huge win.
Not only is he a fantastic actor who did a great job with what he was given, he also highlighted the fact that characters of color can and should be a part of the normally very homogenous, white landscape of sci-fi and fantasy films.
Upcoming additions to the MCU, Star Wars and other shared universes aside, here are five more standalone sci-fi and fantasy films featuring characters of color that we’re looking forward to in the upcoming year.
‘The Children of Blood and Bone’
Why I’m excited: Even though we know next to nothing about this movie adaptation, I’ve been excited for this story ever since it was announced back in March.
Tomi Adeyemi’s The Children of Blood and Bone, which is the first in a proposed trilogy, not only landed an impressive seven-figure publishing deal, the movie rights were likewise acquired by Fox 2000 — all before the novel’s release to the general public (it’ll be coming out March 2018).
Adeyemi, a Nigerian-American Harvard grad, weaves West African culture into her YA fantasy novel, which centers on main character Zélie’s journey to bring back magic to her oppressed people.
The novel has been described as Avatar: The Last Airbender meets the Black Lives Matter movement — which sounds absolutely fantastic to me and basically ensures that I’ll be the first one waiting in line for this epic book series and subsequent film.
‘The Darkest Minds’
Release date: September 14, 2018
Starring: Amandla Stenberg as Ruby; Gwendoline Christie as someone badass, I’m sure
Why I’m excited: Set in a world where a horrific disease has killed almost all children, the story focuses on Ruby Daly, one of the few child survivors who likewise develops a dangerous superpower in the wake of the disease.
The Darkest Minds does a great job setting up a nightmarish future, but what makes me so excited is that for the first time since this trend started, we’ll get to see a YA dystopian story with a character of color as the lead.
Just like with The Dark Tower, Ruby Daly was often depicted and fancasted as a white character — despite the fact that all we really know about her is that she has green eyes and brown hair. To see the fantastic Amandla Stenberg portray her on-screen is a major draw for me and likewise another step forward in creating an on-screen future — dystopian and otherwise — that’s much more diverse.
‘A Wrinkle in Time’
Release date: March 9, 2018
Starring: Storm Reid as Meg Murray; Deric McCabe as Charles Wallace; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dr. Kate Murray; Oprah as Mrs. Which; Mindy Kaling as Mrs. Who; Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Whatsit; Chris Pine as Dr. Alex Murray
Why I’m excited:First of all, look at that cast and tell me you’re not excited.
Secondly, remember that the film is being directed by the ultra talented Ava DuVernay and tell me that your hype levels aren’t set to maximum.
Finally, realize that this is a story in which the protagonist is a female character of color who saves her father and the universe and tell me that you’re not beyond inspired by that.
As a small side-note (and something that likely just appeals mostly to me), Deric McCabe — the adorable actor playing Charles Wallace — is mixed Filipino, which is an additional value add for me since I always try and support Filipino actors in Hollywood.
Basically, there are at least twenty different things I’m amped for when it comes to this movie and March 9th can’t come fast enough.
Release date: February 23, 2018
Starring: Tessa Thompson as the The Surveyor; Gina Rodriguez as The Anthropologist; Natalie Portman as The Biologist; Oscar Isaac as The Biologist’s Husband
Why I’m excited: Annihilation was probably one of my favorite books that I read last year that also made me deeply and profoundly unsettled the entire time that I was reading it.
Jeff VanderMeer’s first novel of the Southern Reach Trilogy is a suspenseful sci-fi story that is part psychological thriller, part gothic horror that I’m excited to see on the big screen.
Indeed, the story of a team of women venturing into an unknown, mysterious area where no one ever really returns unscathed — or returns at all — is already incredibly intriguing on its own.
The movie then doubles its appeal by having Alex Garland — who wrote the fantastic zombie film 28 Days Later and the criminally underrated Dredd, as well as directed your favorite unsettling robot film Ex Machina — as both writer and director.
Add in the incredible talents of Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez as members of the team and you’ve got a film that’s sure to draw me to the theater multiple times.
Release date: December 2017
Starring: Will Smith as Daryl Ward; Joel Edgerton as Nick Jakoby
Why I’m excited: As a long time fan of the fantasy genre, the success of adaptations like The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones fills me with great joy.
As someone who enjoys seeing diversity on-screen, the profound lack of it in the expansive casts of fantasy adaptations like The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones fills me with great irritation and anger.
Which is why I’m incredibly excited for David Ayer’s Bright, which takes place in an alternate Los Angeles where fairies and humans coexist and focuses on LAPD Office Will Smith and his Orc partner Joel Edgerton.
This fantasy puts Will Smith at the front and center of this fantastical narrative which, if we’re going by the trailer, is about a magical and super powerful sword that was thought to be destroyed but actually isn’t and will probably decide the fate of the world/universe.
While it may not necessarily be a story that we haven’t heard before, this film does provide us with something we don’t often get to see on-screen — a modern day world filled with magic and fairies, and a high fantasy story with a character of color as the lead.