Studios are banking on the revival of blockbuster franchises such as Batman to reboot the industry in a potentially exciting year for cinemagoers, writes Paul Whitington
Will things ever return to “normal”? After another year that began and ended with ramped-up restrictions, only a fool would hope that 2022 will be any different. But in movie terms, the success of No Time to Die and other big releases proves that Covid has not killed the public appetite for cinema-going.
Add to that the fact that studios have been sitting on big releases in the faint hope that cinemas would return to full capacity and must now release them and you have potentially the most exciting year for movie lovers in quite a while.
The Tragedy of Macbeth
Joel Coen has spoken about how odd it felt to make a film without his brother Ethan for the first time in almost 40 years, but at least he had his wife to keep him company. Frances McDormand plays a shrewd and seasoned Lady Macbeth in Coen’s darkly compelling take on Shakespeare’s tragedy, with Denzel Washington as her ill-starred husband.
Brendan Gleeson plays the unfortunate monarch in a film that teases out fresh nuances in a familiar story.
In 1970, 10-year-old Kenneth Branagh left Belfast with his parents to find a new life in England. But his affection for the city of his birth has persisted and finds full expression in this delightful, wistful coming-of-age saga. The protagonist, Buddy (Jude Hill), is a happy-go-lucky boy from a Protestant family who share their street harmoniously with Catholics — until the Troubles erupt. Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe play his parents and Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench play doting grandparents.
It’s a brave man who takes on a franchise so recently vacated by Christopher Nolan, but Matt Reeves seems to know what he is doing and has created an impressively gloomy Gotham City as the backdrop for an adventure starring Robert Pattinson as a young and inexperienced Caped Crusader who is still learning the ropes. Paul Dano is The Riddler and Colin Farrell The Penguin.
Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore
A production that began to seem cursed when Covid halted production and JK Rowling got involved in a transgender row looked positively doomed when Johnny Depp was forced by personal circumstance to quit the role of Grindelwald. Enter Mads Mikkelsen, a better actor than Depp, who will no doubt do the villainous wizard justice. Eddie Redmayne reprises the role of Newt Scamander and Jude Law is the young Albus Dumbledore.
Robert Eggers follows up his acclaimed, but divisive, 2019 film The Lighthouse with a period epic set in 10th-century Iceland and based on the legend of Amleth, a young nobleman who feigned madness to escape the wrath of a vicious uncle. Alexander Skarsgard and Nicole Kidman star.
Knives Out 2
Daniel Craig revealed an unexpected gift for comedy in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, a charming spoof Agatha Christie mystery. Craig may have retired from MI6, but ace detective Benoit Blanc returns in this brand new adventure, which co-stars Dave Bautista, Edward Norton and Janelle Monae.
Top Gun: Maverick
One of the biggest casualties of the pandemic, this much-vaunted sequel to the 1980s action romp will be screened a full three years after its original release date. Tom Cruise, without whom none of this would have been possible, reprises his role as Captain Pete Mitchell, now a wily US Navy instructor, who guides Bradley (Miles Teller) — the son of his old friend “Goose” Bradshaw — towards his dream of becoming a test pilot.
The Gray Man
Expect shades of Jason Bourne in this action thriller directed by the Russo brothers and starring Ryan Gosling as Court Gentry, a veteran CIA agent who is forced on the run after being betrayed. Chris Evans plays Lloyd Hansen, the corrupt colleague who wants Gentry dead, and Ana de Armas, who looks like having a big 2022, also starring in Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, co-stars.
Buzz Lightyear emerges from Woody’s shadow in this Pixar prequel that tells us how the grandiose space ranger fell to Earth. Out goes Tim Allen, vocal Trump supporter and the voice of Buzz in all four Toy Story movies, and in comes Chris Evans to give us a younger — and possibly even more deluded — Lightyear.
“Before Elvis,” John Lennon once said, “there was nothing.” The Tupelo man’s influence on popular music is without compare, which makes it all the more odd that he has never been given a decent biopic. Up steps Baz Luhrmann, never known for his understatement, and perhaps the right fellow to make a film about a sublime singer who ended up lumbering around a Las Vegas stage in a cape and high heels. Austin Butler is well cast as Elvis, with Tom Hanks as Colonel Parker.
What we know about Jordan Peele’s next movie is, well, next, to nothing. It’s a horror film of sorts and stars Daniel Kaluuya, Steven Yeun and Keke Palmer, but if it’s not something special I’ll eat my hat.
Don’t Worry Darling
Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart was so winning and well-made that its financial failure remains baffling. Let’s hope she has better luck with Don’t Worry Darling, which is written by Booksmart collaborator Katie Silberman and set in 1950s suburbia, where unhappy housewife Kate (the reliably brilliant Florence Pugh) discovers that her shifty husband is hiding a nasty secret.
Mission: Impossible 7
It’s a big year for the Cruiser, who may have been caught effing and blinding on the set of this action sequel last summer, but as producer, star and part-backer, he may in fairness have had rather a lot on his plate. It got made, in the end, and MI7 will surely present Ethan Hunt and his long-suffering associates with another existential threat. Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames reprise well-worn roles and Hayley Atwell and Vanessa Kirby inhabit new ones.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The best Spider-Man film by a country mile, Sony’s 2018 animation Into the Spider-Verse won an Oscar, rave reviews and a dedicated teenage following. In that film, African-American high school student Mile Morales was transformed into Spider-Man, only to find out that he wasn’t the only one. Shemeik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld reprise their voice roles.
Thirteen years is a long time to wait for a sequel, but James Cameron plans to bombard us with no fewer than four Avatar follow-ups over the next six years, so brace yourselves. The 2009 was technically original, ahead of its time, and became the biggest grossing movie ever until Avengers Assemble overtook it.
From Whiplash to La La Land and First Man, writer/director Damien Chazelle has surprised and challenged audiences at every turn. His next film, intriguingly, is set during Hollywood’s silent era, when ruthless studio bosses lorded it over a rapidly expanding entertainment empire. Margot Robbie is Clara Bow, Brad Pitt plays a character based on the silent star John Gilbert and Katherine Waterston and Samara Weaving co-star.