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WIRE Buzz: 'Upgrade' upgraded to TV; Nolan avoided 007 making Tenet; Wonder Woman 1984

By Josh Weiss

Upgrade, Leigh Whannell's Blumhouse sleeper sci-fi hit from 2018, is headed for the small screen. The director co-created the series along with Tim Walsh (Treadstone) and both will serve as executive producers, with Walsh occupying the role of showrunner. Jason Blum and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones are producing as well.

In terms of story, the show "picks up a few years after the events of the film and broadens the universe with an evolved version of STEM and a new host - imaging a world in which the government repurposes STEM to help curb criminal activity," reads the synopsis obtained by SYFY WIRE. 

A writer's room has already commenced for the first season and Whannell is expected to direct an unknown number of episodes. The Purge vets Krystal Ziv Houghton and James Roland are also part of the writing team. It's unclear whether or not this is the sequel project Blum confirmed in 2018, or if a big screen follow-up is still in the works as well.

Written and directed by Whannell, the Upgrade movie follows Grey Trace (Prometheus' Logan Marshall-Green), a man left paralyzed by a brutal mugging that resulted in the death of his wife (Melanie Vallejo). Resigned to giving up on life, Grey gets second chance when an experimental chip implant called "STEM" not only makes him mobile again, but turns his body into a living weapon. Armed with deadly skills and STEM's voice inside his head, he sets out to avenge his wife's murder.

The film brought in $17 million against a $3 million budget and currently holds an 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Whannell most recently helmed Universal's The Invisible Man and is already working with Blum on a new movie.

It's no secret that Christopher Nolan is a massive James Bond die-hard. One of his favorite movies ever is On Her Majesty's Secret Service, whose alpine setting inspired Inception's snowy fortress climax. Given his adoration for 007, Nolan actually forced himself to avoid watching any of those films while he was making Tenet, which is meant to be the director's unique contribution to the spy-fi genre.

“This is definitely the longest period of time I’ve ever gone in my life without watching a James Bond film. My love of the spy genre comes from the Bond franchise, and the Bond character very specifically," the filmmaker said during a Total Film interview, admitting that he didn't screen any adjacent films for the cast and crew prior to shooting.

"I think we all have the spy genre so in our bones and in our fingertips. I actually wanted to work from a memory and a feeling of that genre, rather than the specifics," Nolan added. "I don’t need to reference the movies and look at them again."

Even with a meaty trailer released last week, plot details remain hazy. All we know is that John David Washington (BlacKkKlansman) plays a secret agent working to prevent World War III. There's some kind of time manipulation element to the plot as well — a concept that Washington's character refers to as "inversion." Other than that, all bets are off, but you can expect the scope to be huge. So huge, in fact, that Nolan got to crash an actual 747 for one of the action set pieces.

"It’s about trying to re-engage with your childhood connection with those movies, with the feeling of what it’s like to go someplace new, someplace fresh," the director continued. "It actually has to take them somewhere they haven’t been before, and that’s why no one’s ever been able, really, to do their own version of James Bond or something. It doesn’t work. And that’s not at all what this is. This is much more my attempt to create the sort of excitement in grand-scale entertainment I felt from those movies as a kid, in my own way."

The supporting cast is equally as impressive: Robert Pattinson, Kenneth Branagh, Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, Himesh Patel, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, Denzil Smith, Dimple Kapadia, and Martin Donovan.

If Warner Bros. ends up pushing the film to the holiday season as a result of pandemic, then it could potentially go up against the 25th Bond movie, No Time to Die.

Setting her Wonder Woman sequel in 1984 allowed director Patty Jenkins to take full advantage of the time period's fashions, music, economics, and, above all, movie-making. Speaking with SFX Magazine for the publication's June issue, Chris Pine (who is reprising the role of Steve Trevor) compared WW84 to the heyday of Steven Spielberg, which just so happened to be in the 1980s. In particular, '84 was the year that saw the debuts of Temple of Doom and Gremlins.

"This film is fun," Pine said. "We got to use all the great, bold, colorful excess of the '80s, use that aesthetic and tell a really fun story that has a good message at the end. Ultimately, this is in the sphere of that great '80s Spielberg filmmaking."

Wonder Woman 1984

Also chatting with the magazine, Jenkins shed a little more light on what that "good message" is.

"I hope [audiences] will take away really challenging themselves to be heroes in the face of great complexity," she explained. "Because that is what's so important. It is us that has to save the world because there is no Wonder Woman, and it is complex. But the thematics of it really are, we have to look and think about the world we're living in and how we can save it. That's really what I'm trying to do with Wonder Woman in general, is pass it down to the people that watch it. You have to be Wonder Woman now."

Wonder Woman 1984 is slated to hit theaters Friday, August 14. Gal Gadot (Diana Prince), Kristen Wiig (Cheetah), and Pedro Pascal (Maxwell Lord) co-star.