Michael Mann made his Comic-Con debut today alongside "Thor" himself, Chris Hemsworth, at the Legendary Pictures panel. Footage of his cyber thriller was screened, but the only real news is this: it has a title, "Blackhat." Deadline is reporting that it will be qualified for Oscars this year ahead of a Jan. 2015 release, but Universal denies that report. (UPDATE: Indeed, Deadline has changed its language to "may qualify.")
If indeed the studio sets it up for a Dec. qualifying run, it would be a strategy very similar to what they did with Peter Berg's "Lone Survivor" last year and one a great many are anticipating. The fact is, Universal has seen a lot of box office luck opening films in January, but this would give them the chance to offer the film an even bigger boost by insinuating it into the awards conversation. Plus, they only have "Get On Up" and "Unbroken" to work with otherwise, so with this, they would have a pretty healthy Oscar slate on their hands.
Nevertheless, HitFix has been told there are "no plans" to release it this year as of now. The Jan. release date gives them latitude to make that call, but hold your horses for now.
"Blackhat" is Mann's first project since 2009's "Public Enemies" and the ill-fated HBO series "Luck." Set within the world of global cybercrime, the film follows a furloughed convict (Hemsworth) and his American and Chinese partners as they hunt a high-level cybercrime network from Chicago to Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Jakarta. As I've written before, this world sounds like a perfect fit for Mann's icy cool aesthetic, though he's teaming with DP Stuart Dryburgh (who shot the "Luck" pilot) rather than previous DP collaborators like Dante Spinotti or Dion Beebe. I'm obviously stoked for the results.
Mann's biggest Oscar success to date came for 1999's "The Insider," which picked up seven nominations but, despite being THE BEST FILM OF THAT FREAKIN' YEAR, walked away with zero trophies.
"Blackhat" is currently set for a Jan. 16, 2015 release. Here's hoping we might get it sooner.