2022 has, for the time being, a much beefier line-up of releases than it’s two predecessors, especially on the front of populist, studio-backed, mainstream releases. These most accessible (and most likely to make a dent in at box-office) releases are what we’ll be listing off today, as we run through more or less the entire run of blockbuster productions you can look forward to, with a follow-up on smaller, and more prestige-inclined films coming next week. As new variants continue popping up worldwide, dates are likely to change, but for the time being, here’s what you can expect to see at the cinema and streaming in 2022:
Morbius, a financially risky Sony-cum-Marvel experiment, was originally set to kick off the exhaustive slate of superhero movies for the year before once again being punted down the schedule to April 1st, though Sony will go on to supplement potentially spotty grosses with a sequel to their animated Spider-Man film; Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One) on the 7th of October. Marvel brings us follow-ups to crowd-pleasers in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6) and Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8), while DC counter with sequel Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (the final Comic book film of the year on 16 December), and first outings for Black Adam (July 29) and The Flash (November 4). The two standouts, however, are Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11) and The Batman (March 4). The former already attracting attention via online petitions to recast the beloved Chadwick Boseman in order to continue the legacy of his role, and the later a tantalizingly stylish, mid-90s thriller-esque new take on the world’s greatest detective who also dresses as a bat.
Music biopics remain a stalwart addition to every year’s release schedule, this time we’ve got an untitled Bee Gees film (November 4), reportedly directed by Kenneth Branagh, hot off of his most acclaimed film in years; 2021’s Belfast. You’d think his dramatic sensibilities would be better paired with I Wanna Dance with Somebody (December 23), a chronicling of the troubles of Whitney Houston. Elvis, set for June 24th, will no doubt be impossible to ignore; picture the King’s later, gaudiest years, all flashing lights, tacky costumes and overwhelming entertainment, as seen through the eyes of director Baz Luhrmann (the madman behind Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge!).
The only major biopic release not about a musician that seems to be releasing this year, has drawn much controversy and consternation. Andrew Dominik, the director of Blonde, a Netflix film about the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe, has been pushing for an uncut version of his (supposedly) fictionalized, harrowing and exceptionally explicit film, whilst Netflix scrambles to make the movie palatable to the mass audience they are attempting to attract with the Anna de Armas-starring vehicle.
Kids’ films, some of the only consistently profitable subsets at the box office during the pandemic, continue trucking along with recognizable properties abound. Turning Red (March 11), DC League of Super-Pets (May 20), Lightyear (June 17), Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, and the Cheaper by the Dozen reboot don’t inspire much investigation by older members of the family. Strange World, of which we know next to nothing outside of its alien-planet aesthetic, could be a promising Pixar release; the studio rarely disappoints, while Sesame Street is set to unite a strange gaggle of human guests to the cotton curb, among them Bo Burnham and Anne Hathaway (per reports from nearly three years ago).
Sea of Sequels
As seems to be the status-quo for now, 2022 will be stuffed to the brim with follow-ups to previously successful properties. Scream (Jan 14) should be the first movie of the year to launch the box office in earnest, with a good level of hype behind the return of “Ghostface”, and much of the original cast. Tom Cruise’s fanatical determination to give people a real showstopper, every single time, even if that means dangling out of a plane’s cockpit, should mean that Top Gun: Maverick (May 27) and Mission: Impossible 7 (September 30) will give the people what they’re looking for. Much like Top Gun, Death on the Nile has been delayed, and delayed and delayed ad nauseum, but will finally arrive on the 18th of March.
The Jackass crew’s aging bodies, cracked, bruised and battle hardened all-round haven’t stopped the team from stepping up to the plate for one last hurrah in Jackass Forever (Feb 14). Jurassic World Dominion (June 10) may finally deliver on the rebooted series’ title, since for the concluding film of the new trilogy Dinosaurs will be running amuck all across the planet. Animated sequels include a second Minions movie; The Rise of Gru (July 1), The Bob’s Burgers Movie (May 27) which technically is the series’ first film, but follows up on the events of the show, and the belated Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (September 23).
The Fantastic Beasts series is on its last legs with The Secrets of Dumbledore (July 15), as may be the case for Creed III (November 23), following the tepid reception of the second Creed installment. John Wick seems to have maintained its esteem among the all-important young male demographic in time for Chapter 4 (May 27). Downtown Abbey: A New Era (March 18) will probably be received with a similarly perplexing warmth by older audiences, who can’t get enough of revisiting the Crawleys.
Trading on nostalgia, but hopefully delivering the goods, with any luck Hocus Pocus 2 and Legally Blonde 3 can inject some of the playful abandon of their original installments into the all-too-predictable 2022 movie landscape. But there are only two sequels at the absolute top of our watchlist; Knives Out 2, coming to Netflix from essentially the same team behind the 2019 murder-mystery, and featuring the return of Daniel Craig’s deliciously eccentric detective Benoit Blanc, and the first of the four Avatar sequels, for now simply titled Avatar 2 (December 16). Will the film justify the huge investment in the franchise by recapturing the mania surrounding the first Avatar? Are audiences eager to return to Pandora, despite the internet’s insistence that no one cares all that much for the 2009 film, box-office aside? Director James Cameron is confident.
Non-sequel horror tentpoles are in short supply this year. Netflix seems to be tee-ing up yet another abysmal and grotesque Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot. A new Stephen King adaption will be chipping away at the mountainous pile of yet-to-be adapted stories from the master. Salem’s Lot (September 9) adapts King’s favorite of all of his novels, a distinction which makes sense when you consider that Salem’s Lot is a horror-story featuring a small town, a writer-main character, and vampires. It remains to be seen whether or not the altogether unnecessary and unpopular Halloween Kills has dampened interest in the upcoming and supposedly climactic Halloween Ends (October 14). The most anticipated, but also most secretive horror-production of the year is Jordan Peele’s Nope (July 22). Having received only a teaser poster, we know Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Steven Yeun will star, and beyond that, nothing.
Though we may malign the lack of restraint, subtlety or intelligence, having one or two blatantly brainless action blockbusters can’t hurt. This year, Ambulance looks a little more reined in by Michael Bay standards, since it’s largely focused on a single high-speed car chase involving an ambulance fleeing the scene of a bank robbery gone wrong. Moonfall, on the other hand, looks to be one of disaster movie maestro Roland Emmerich’s most ridiculous, expensive, and monumental undertakings, with an ensemble cast attempting to divert the moon from its collision course with earth.
Three majorly popularly Video game franchises move to colonize the big screen this year. The first is Uncharted (Feb 18), starring Tom Holland, a globe-trotting action adventure with flavors of Indiana Jones, which seems uniquely primed for a movie adaptation. The trailers suggest an underwhelmingly facile product, ala Red Notice, but with Holland’s star power reaffirmed by the latest Spider-Man, and audiences happy to make Red Notice Netflix’s most popular film, Uncharted has a shot at finding a strong audience regardless.
Then there’s Sonic 2 on April 8th, introducing Idris Elba as Knuckles, henchmen to the returning and increasingly unhinged performance of Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik. The bog-standard nature of the previous Sonic film is unfortunate, considering Sonic’s status as the second biggest videogame icon of all time. Hopefully THE most iconic videogame character stands a better chance at landing a befittingly creative movie, though if the studio, reception of the cast, and leaked plans for a franchise “empire” are any sign, the untitled Mario movie may not live up to the trailblazing legacy of the games behind it. Still, it will be one of the biggest films of the holiday season, starting December 21st.
These may not exactly be prestige pictures, artistic projects made for limited audiences, but how these wildcards will perform in the current filmgoing market is a mystery. First is The Lost City (March 25), a gonzo action-adventure-romantic-comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum in a sort of mellowed out Tropic Thunder for novelists. The premise (A reclusive romance novelist on a book tour with her cover model gets swept up in a kidnapping attempt that lands them both in a cutthroat jungle adventure) and star power may be enough to convince audiences to take a chance on an unknown property for some casual entertainment.
Another film that may struggle to find an audience, but whose premise could do most of the heavy lifting, is The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (22 April), in which Nicolas Cage plays a hyper-anxious, fictionalized version of himself, having accepted a million dollar offer to attend the birthday of a billionaire super fan, when things go awry. The Northman, a violent Viking revenge epic directed by the uber-talented Robert Eggers, will have to defy all expectation to avoid becoming a bomb under the weight of its $60 million budget, quite high for a seemingly niche, dark film set in tenth century Iceland. Hopefully the spectacle proves irresistible on April 22nd, and Eggers continues his run of first rate, visionary period-piece dramas.