fbpx 2020 in Movies, Steampunk Edition: From Dolittle and Jungle Cruise to The King’s Man, a look at films likely to have steampunk appeal | The Steampunk Explorer

2020 in Movies, Steampunk Edition

From Dolittle and Jungle Cruise to The King’s Man, a look at films likely to have steampunk appeal

Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Movie posters
The King’s Man (20th Century Fox), Gretel & Hansel (Orion Pictures), Dolittle (Universal Pictures)

At least on the big screen, no steampunk blockbusters appear to be on the horizon this year. But lots of movies on the 2020 calendar are likely to appeal to steampunk fans, including several period fantasy adventures. Among them: Dolittle, starring Robert Downey Jr. as a Victorian-era doctor who talks to animals, and Jungle Cruise, which takes Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt on a voyage through the Amazon in the early 20th century. Also of note: A comedic retelling of David Copperfield with an all-star UK cast, and The King’s Man, a prequel to the Kingsman spy movies whose release has been pushed back to September.

Here’s a look at these and other movies likely to be of interest, in order of opening dates.


Opens: Jan. 17

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jessie Buckley, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Carmen Ejogo

Based on Hugh Lofting’s The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, the film stars Robert Downey Jr. as a Victorian-era veterinarian who talks to animals. The story involves a quest to a mythical island, where the doctor seeks a cure for an ailing Queen Victoria. The animals are voiced by an all-star cast that includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Ralph Fiennes, and Selena Gomez.

The cast, setting, and fantasy elements should give the film some steampunk cred. But studios often save their clunkers for release in January, and this one required 21 days of reshoots after the producers were unhappy with an early screening. It was originally slated for release in April 2019.

The Turning

Opens: Jan. 24

Director: Floria Sigismondi

Cast: Mackenzie Davis, Brooklynn Prince, Joely Richardson, Mark Huberman

This supernatural horror film is a contemporary adaptation of Henry James’ 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw. Mackenzie Davis portrays a nanny caring for two disturbed orphans in a haunted mansion in Maine.

Gretel & Hansel

Opens: Jan. 31

Director: Oz Perkins

Cast: Sophia Lillis, Sam Leakey, Charles Babalola, Alice Krige

A dark fantasy based on the Brothers Grimm tale. It stars Sophia Lillis and Sam Leakey in the title roles with Alice Krige as an evil witch. Tagline: “A Grim Fairy Tale.” Hashtag: #FollowTheCrumbs.


Opens: Feb. 14 (UK), Feb. 21 (U.S.)

Director: Autumn de Wilde

Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves

An adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1815 comedy of manners about a young upper-class woman who meddles in the lives of her friends. Anya Taylor-Joy plays the title role.

The Call of the Wild

Opens: Feb. 21

Director: Chris Sanders

Cast: Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, Cara Gee

Set in the 1890s, this film is based on Jack London’s adventure novel about a dog stolen from his California home and taken to the Yukon. It’s a live action film, but the dog is a CGI character. Fans of The Expanse on Amazon will recognize Cara Gee as Camina Drummer, a Belter officer in seasons 2-4.

The Invisible Man

Opens: Feb. 28

Director: Leigh Whannell

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer

The H.G. Wells tale is reimagined as a contemporary psychological thriller. Elisabeth Moss plays a woman who escapes from an abusive relationship with a wealthy sociopathic scientist. He later commits suicide, or so we’re led to believe. You can guess what happens next.

The film was produced by Blumhouse Productions for Universal Pictures, which originally planned a series of horror films in a shared cinematic universe based on classics like Frankenstein, The Mummy, and Phantom of the Opera. After a remake of The Mummy proved to be a flop, the studio changed course and decided to make standalone movies. Projects in the works include Renfield, based on the character from Dracula, and The Invisible Woman, a reboot of a 1940 Universal film. Elizabeth Banks will direct and star in the latter.


Opens: Feb. 28

Director: Benh Zeitlin

Cast: Devin France, Yashua Mack

Another reimagining of a classic tale, this time J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Wendy and her brothers are taken by Peter to a mysterious island where “they discover a wild new world, one without grown-ups and suspended in time,” we’re told. “Reveling in their youthfulness and sprawling freedom satisfies the kids at first, but nostalgia for their lives left behind seeps in.” It’s the second film by Zeitlin, whose Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

It is set to premiere Jan. 26 at the Sundance Film Festival and hits movie screens on Feb. 28.

The Secret Garden

Opens: April 17

Director: Marc Munden

Cast: Dixie Egerickx, Colin Firth, Julie Walters

This British fantasy drama is the latest adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 children’s classic about an orphaned girl sent to a mysterious Yorkshire estate. It appears to be set in the same time period as the novel.

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Opens: May 8

Director: Armando Iannucci

Cast: Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Ben Whishaw, Paul Whitehouse, Gwendoline Christie

A comedic retelling of the Dickens novel with Dev Patel in the title role, along with Tilda Swinton as Betsey Trotwood, Hugh Laurie as Mr. Dick, Peter Capaldi as Mr. Micawber, and Ben Whishaw as Uriah Heep. The film premiered Sept. 5 at the Toronto International Film Festival and scored well with critics.

Director Iannucci is best known in the U.S. as the creator of Veep and the forthcoming sci-fi comedy, Avenue 5, both on HBO.

Jungle Cruise

Opens: July 24

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti, Édgar Ramírez

This period adventure stars Dwayne Johnson as Frank, a riverboat captain who takes scientist Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) on a voyage through the Amazon in search of a tree with healing powers. As with Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s based on a Disney theme park ride, and the studio apparently hopes it will be the basis for a new blockbuster movie franchise. It’s set during the early 20th century, and if it’s any good, it will probably have lots of appeal for steampunk fans.

Bill & Ted Face the Music

Bill & Ted in phone booth
Photo: Orion Pictures

Opens: Aug. 21

Director: Dean Parisot

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, William Sadler, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Samara Weaving, Anthony Carrigan, Kid Cudi, Jillian Bell, Hal Landon Jr., Amy Stoch, Jayma Mays, Erinn Hayes, Beck Bennett, Holland Taylor, Kristen Schaal

Time-traveling slackers Bill and Ted, now middle-aged fathers, receive a visitor from the future who warns them that they must create a song that will save the universe. William Sadler returns as the Grim Reaper, and Anthony Carrigan plays a villain. Rapper Kid Cudi stars as himself.

The film comes more than 30 years after Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, in which the teen-aged Bill and Ted traveled through time to avoid flunking their high school history class. The script is by Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon, who also penned the first two Bill & Ted movies. Parisot is best known as the director of GalaxyQuest.

The King’s Man

Opens: Sept. 18

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Harris Dickinson, Gemma Arterton, Rhys Ifans, Matthew Goode, Tom Hollander, Daniel Brühl, Djimon Hounsou, Charles Dance, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Stanley Tucci

This prequel to the popular Kingsman spy movies is set in the early 20th century. The Duke of Oxford (Ralph Fiennes) joins forces with a young protégé (Harris Dickinson) to foil an evil plot by a group of tyrants and criminal masterminds, including Grigori Rasputin (Rhys Ifans). It was set for release on Feb. 14, but was pushed back to Sept. 18.

And There’s More. . .

In addition to these films, lots of forthcoming science fiction, fantasy, and superhero movies are generating early buzz. They include:

Birds of Prey, a spin-off of Suicide Squad about a team of DC Comics superheroes. The cast includes Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, and Ewan McGregor. (Opens Feb. 7)

Fantasy Island, in which the old TV series is reimagined as a horror thriller. (Feb. 14)

The New Mutants, a spin-off of Marvel’s X-Men franchise starring Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, and Alice Braga. (April 3)

Black Widow, a Marvel superhero film with Scarlett Johansson in the title role dealing with the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War. (May 1)

Artemis Fowl, based on Eoin Colfer’s fantasy adventure book series. It’s directed by Kenneth Branagh. (May 29)

Wonder Woman 1984, with Gal Gadot returning as the DC Comics superhero. (June 5)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a sequel to the original Ghostbusters movies. It stars Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, and Paul Rudd, with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts reprising their previous roles. (July 10)

Tenet, a sci-fi action thriller by Christopher Nolan that involves time travel and an effort to prevent World War III. (July 17)

Monster Hunter, a fantasy thriller based on a popular video game series. (Sept. 4)

Bios, a post-apocalyptic drama starring Tom Hanks as the last man on Earth. (Oct .2)

The Witches, a dark fantasy comedy based on a Roald Dahl novel and directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future). (Oct. 9)

The Eternals, yet another Marvel superhero film, this one starring Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree, and Salma Hayek. (Nov. 6)

Dune, another attempt to bring the Frank Herbert sci-fi novel to screen, with Denis Villeneuve serving as director. (Dec. 18)

The Tomorrow War, in which scientists draft soldiers from the past to battle an alien invasion. The cast includes Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, and J.K. Simmons. (Dec. 25)

Keep up with news in the world of steampunk. Sign up for our free weekly Steampunk Digest, delivered to your inbox.

Support The Steampunk Explorer!

Patreon: Make a monthly pledge of $1 or more. Includes premium content.

GoFundMe: Make a one-time donation.

CafePress: Buy T-shirts, buttons, or tote bags with our logo.

Stories by Category: