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The Walking Dead Movie - What We Know So Far

The Walking Dead television series, based on the comics of the same name, has been stunning audiences with gruesome deaths and wild plot twists since 2010, effectively kicking off the modern obsession with zombie-themed apocalypses that feels so ubiquitous today. The show has enjoyed huge success over the past decade, branching out into spin-off series like Fear the Walking Dead and even video game vignettes from developer-publisher Telltale Games

As one of The Walking Dead's most important characters, Rick Grimes has carried both his fictional apocalyptic-survival clan as well as the show itself to glory all the while, and is regarded as one of the most easily-recognizable and beloved fictional characters of the decade. Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, has made quite the transformation from the unrequited love-lorn man he portrayed in Love Actually to become a preeminent pop culture icon who also commits a teensy bit of murder here and there.

While Lincoln's time on The Walking Dead came to a close after season 9, which ended its run in March 2019, he certainly isn't done playing Rick Grimes. The Walking Dead franchise is set to take off in theaters and manifest another, new cinematic universe — with Rick taking center stage in three feature films. Here's everything we know so far about the first Walking Dead movie. 

What is The Walking Dead movie's release date?

There is no confirmed release date for the Walking Dead movie as of September 2019. If there were a debut date in place, fans likely would have heard it announced at the Walking Dead panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. 

But even without a concrete date locked in, we can piece together information to speculate when the movie might arrive in theaters. For starters, Scott Gimple, former Walking Dead series showrunner and now overall boss for the franchise expansion, previously told Entertainment Weekly that the production timeline on the Walking Dead movie much more akin to a feature film rather than a television movie, which has a shorter production cycle. To quote Gimple directly, he said that the Walking Dead films are "going to be big, so they're going to take a minute to make." Rick Grimes' devoted fans will have to wait a little while — at a guess, two or so years — for the first movie to premiere in (we surmise) 2021 or 2022. 

There are no current plans to halt either The Walking Dead or Fear the Walking Dead on AMC while the Walking Dead movie is underway, so fans won't exactly be left wanting for content in the meantime. Further announcements are also pending for other Walking Dead universe content, though whether it's more feature films or simply expansion television miniseries is yet to be seen.

Who has been cast in The Walking Dead movie?

For the moment, there are only two confirmed returns for the Walking Dead movie: Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, given the trilogy film series intends to focus on him after his last-second rescue from seeming certain death on The Walking Dead season 9; and Pollyanna McIntosh as Jadis/Anne, who rescued Rick on the helicopter and will obviously be part of his entire situation and wherever he is going. 

Danai Guirira is set to exit The Walking Dead after the upcoming tenth season, but that could be for two reasons: a) she's reprising her role as Rick's girlfriend Michonne (who no doubt wonders where the heck her partner is and wants to go looking for him) in the Walking Dead film; or b) she's busy with yet-unspecified MCU work, as she is a major Black Panther character and a sequel to that film is in the works. Or both — probably both.

For now, no one but Lincoln and McIntosh are confirmed to appear in the Walking Dead film trilogy. However, Gimple has touted that the plan going forward is to widen the perspective of the Walking Dead universe and deepen the lore attached to it — which means anything and everything is at hand as the franchise enters non-comic-canonical material following the comic books' unexpected end in July 2019.

What is the plot of The Walking Dead movie?

There's no confirmed plot as of right now, but the first Walking Dead movie will at least begin immediately upon Rick Grimes' departure from the show. 

Rick disappeared beyond the horizon in a helicopter stocked with medical equipment, headed to a (presumably) unknown location. Some fans have theorized that Rick may actually be making his way to the Commonwealth. In loosest terms, the Commonwealth is an aggregate of well-defended communities that house 50,000 survivors, who live lives much closer to what they had pre-apocalypse insofar as technology and some luxury amenities. This would also explain the modern medical technology Rick is shown receiving in his departure episode. Additionally, the Commonwealth is heavily featured in the comic books throughout the last arcs, and is where Rick ultimately dies — first murdered by the son of the Commonwealth's governor, then mercy-killed by his own son, Carl, after he's reanimated. (Fans will know that this is different on the series, as Carl is dead in the show's canon.) 

Gimple himself has muddied the waters of this theory by saying the helicopter is "unrelated" to the Commonwealth, and doesn't necessarily point to this being Rick's ultimate destination — which sounds a bit like showrunner-speak for dodging a question, to be honest. 

Still, there are signs that the Walking Dead movie is meant to enter entirely-non-canonical territory: Gimple's technical title is Chief Content Officer of the Walking Dead franchise, and his work is considered to be operating at a greater overall perspective than any one property. With so little comic material left to operate on and such ambitious intent having been stated for the future, there's nowhere to go but making it up from Rick's show exit. Whether or not that happens, it would be far from the first time the property has diverted from its source material.

Where does the Walking Dead movie take place?

With the arrival of the new year, Scott Gimple sat down with Entertainment Weekly to talk about the future of The Walking Dead as a franchise, which included a bit more information on what we might anticipate in the Rick Grimes-centric film trilogy. Naturally, Gimple was a bit cagey on details, but he did say that since the scale of films (yes, for real, this is a theatrical-release-first situation) is magnitudes beyond television, he and his team are committed to fitting within that larger scale and making these films feel special. This means placing Rick into a "larger world" — a tease for a wide-open setting for the movies.

"Rick will be challenged that, in some ways, everything he's been through has sort of prepared him for," Gimple explained. "It's a much larger world than he had been operating in, and that was challenging in and of itself. Now things are heightened, and just as we're going to the movies — and it is the movies proper, suitably widescreen — we're going to be filling that screen with a brand new world."

A fresh change of physical and narrative landscape does feel very necessary, but what could that mean? Well, going by what we know Rick has been through, those preparatory experiences include learning about leadership, sacrifice, and when and where to clench with an iron fist. That city in a silhouette shown in the teaser trailer certainly qualifies as something bigger and new. If this new world Gimple speaks of is growing, Rick likely won't be the biggest fish in the pond anymore, and that will present all kinds of new challenges. Bigger places mean more people — will he be able to remember how to live in something closer to the world that once was?

Is there a trailer for The Walking Dead movie?

Why yes, there is! Well, sort of. 

The first video footage of the upcoming Walking Dead movie featured as hype content at the Walking Dead panel at 2019's San Diego Comic-Con. There's not much to talk about, however, as the teaser provides little other than the confirmation that the film series is a go. However, it does feature one true surprise: the Walking Dead movie will receive a theatrical release. (It was previously assumed and even quoted by Gimple as "most probably" being a television film release on AMC.) Something must have changed, because not only did Universal enthusiastically pick up the distribution, other Hollywood studios expressed real interest in acquiring the rights. The concept of a cinematic universe is a very sexy one to your average studio executive these days, and as such is sought after with much gusto, so perhaps this should have been expected. We love zombies. We love world-building serials. It's the two great tastes that taste great together.

As for when fans can expect an official trailer for the Walking Dead movie, it will likely drop a few months ahead of the film's release date. If that's in 2021 or 2022 as we predict, it could be at least a year before the footage is ripe for the watching. 

Do you have to be a Walking Dead fan to appreciate the movie?

When prodded about the coming film trilogy on The Hollywood Reporter's TV's Top 5 podcast, Gimple did not open up much about the first movie's plot — but he did go into some detail about how much any given moviegoer needs to know about The Walking Dead before taking in the flick. He stressed that the film does not require a massive depth of knowledge to enjoy: "This is for everyone," he said. "We have to honor fans of the show, absolutely, but I don't think that's mutually exclusive to letting other people in."

Gimple cited an interesting inspiration for the filmmakers: Logan, the swan song for Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, which told its own self-contained story while still satisfying fans of the X-Men franchise. "I think of Logan a lot. Logan is a movie that, if you grew up on X-Men comics and the cartoons... you got this extra thing out of it," he said. "But if you've never seen or read an X-Men thing in your life and you just stumbled onto Logan, I think that movie stands on its own. We need this movie to stand on its own."

Logan does seem like a good conceptual springboard for such an effort. The film had virtually no concrete ties back to previous X-Men movies, and is set many years after the events of the series. Its genius is that it relies on the general cultural value of Wolverine and the emotional weight of the character himself to get you in the door — and it's a bold implicit statement that Gimple believes Rick Grimes has become enough of a pop culture icon to foster that kind of name-recognition draw. 

As chief content officer of an entire franchise, Gimple appears to take seriously the responsibility of bringing in new fans, not just sating the passions of those already knee-deep in The Walking Dead

"I would be unbelievably grateful if we create something that maybe even young people stumble onto, who have never watched an episode of The Walking Dead," he said. "And then, they have this giant library that they can go home and consume, and hopefully have a great time with."