This has been another tough year for the movie industry. Following on from the disaster of 2020 when audiences around the world were shut out of cinemas for months at a time due to restrictions around the world, many hoped that 2021 would signal a return to pre-pandemic levels of box office returns.
While 2021 has indeed been a major improvement over 2020, helped in part by the release of studio tent-poles such F9: The Fast Saga, Black Widow, No Time To Die, and Dune (all were scheduled for release in 2020, but were delayed), total office worldwide still lags 2019 by as much as 70% in some analysts’ estimates. It’s clear that covid-19 is still having a major impact on audience’s reluctance to venture out in their local movie theatre. The impact of streaming services, particularly same-day releases of blockbusters such as Black Widow on Disney+ and Dune on HBO Max, cannot be underestimated in the effect they’ve had on audience’s behaviours and viewing patterns after such a lengthy period of lockdown and home viewing.
Despite this, there are hopes among many that 2022 will signal the full return to the theatrical experience, with studios optimistic that large franchise movies will draw those reluctant viewers back into the cinema. Here are 10 of the biggest blockbusters currently scheduled to release in 2022.
- The Batman (March 4th)
Directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and featuring an all-star cast including Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Andy Serkis, and our own Colin Farrell, The Batman will follow Bruce Wayne through his early crime fighting years as he faces off against corruption and villainy in crime dystopia Gotham City.
A reboot of the character after Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the character in Zack Synder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, Reeves has promised a grittier and more realistic interpretation of the character, presumably bringing it closer to what Christopher Nolan did in his Dark Knight trilogy. Originally scheduled to release in 2021, the movie’s production was suspended in March 2020 in the midst of covid, and didn’t resume until May 2020. Tragically, dialect coach Andrew Jack who worked on The Batman died of complications from covid shortly after the production shut down.
The Batman is now scheduled to arrive in cinemas March 4th 2022.
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (April 8th)
Directed by long time Harry Potter helmer, and what seems like a wizarding world safe pair of hands, David Yates (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2), Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore has had a troubled production history for reasons other than covid. Originally set to star Johnny Depp reprising his role from the previous two instalments as the villainous Gellert Grindelwald, in November 2020 Depp announced that he had left the production (along with his $10m+ salary) after meeting with Warner Bros. executives in the aftermath of his defamation lawsuit verdict.
Replacing Depp in the villainous role of Grindelwald is James Bond alumni Mads Mikkelsen. It’s been four years since the previous instalment of this franchise and it’ll be interesting to see how much appetite there is for this entry when it does eventually release. Apart from the aforementioned Johnny Depp drama plaguing the production of this series, there has also been the deteriorating public reputation of series creator and screenwriter J.K. Rowling and her public comments on the transgender community. Whether this bad publicity behind the scenes affects the quality of the end product or the performance of the movie remains to be seen.
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore is scheduled to be released April 8th 2022.
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6th)
Returning to the world of superhero filmmaking for the first time since 2007’s often maligned Spiderman 3, Sam Rami directs this sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange after original director Scott Derrickson left the project due to creative differences. Said to follow off the heels of multiple Marvel Studios projects such as Spiderman: No Way Home, Wandavision, & Loki, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will bring Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s ally-turned-antagonist Karl Mordo on some form of mystical journey to repair the multiverse following on from the events on Loki and Spiderman: No Way Home.
One of the most interesting things about this movie is that it’s the first major Marvel Studios movie whose plot and events will be directly impacted through the Marvel Studios Disney+ shows, a first for the MCU, and a further sign of confidence in the interconnectedness of the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe on Disney’s streaming platform.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is set to hit cinemas May 6th.
- John Wick: Chapter 4 (May 27th)
Returning to the world of international assassins and underground crime syndicates, John Wick: Chapter 4 reunites all-round nice guy Keanu Reeves with series director Chad Stahelski for another gun-toting, dog-loving adventure. Famed for their exquisite fight choreography, high octane car (or horse) chases and inventive use of murder weapons, John Wick: Chapter 4 is sure to delight fans of the franchise, as well as casual viewers looking for something more violent than your standard summer superhero fare. Joining Reeves are franchise regulars Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and Laurence Fishburne, as well as Hong Kong martial arts legend Donnie Yen.
John Wick: Chapter 4 is scheduled to open in cinemas May 27th.
- Jurassic World: Dominion (June 10th)
Returning to the dino-world of Jurassic Park for this threequel is Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, whose Star Wars Episode IX: Duel of Fates failed to materialise after the critical disaster of 2017’s The Book of Henry and presumably creative differences with Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy (a fixture of the Disney era Star Wars movies it seems).
It is truly baffling that both Jurassic World and its sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom grossed over $1 billion each at the worldwide box office when they are both utterly forgettable movies with bland characters and weightless action. Not much is known about the plot of Jurassic World: Dominion yet, except the welcome news that original stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum (returning after a short appearance in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) will reprise their characters and join series regulars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.
Jurassic World: Dominion is set to release June 10th.
- Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8th)
The second Marvel Studios movie on this list, and the fourth solo adventure featuring Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian god of thunder, Thor: Love and Thunder (truly amazing title) reunites Hemsworth and Taika Waititi after 2017’s crowd-pleasing smash Thor: Ragnarok.
Joining the cast this time around is Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher, along with returning cast members Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), and long-time absentees Jamie Alexander (Lady Sif) and Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), who, over the course of the movie, is destined to become a female version of the mighty god of thunder. With an appearance from the Guardians of the Galaxy, Waititi’s signature sense of humour and a killer soundtrack no doubt, this one is bound to be another crowd pleaser for MCU stans and casual viewers alike.
Thor: Love and Thunder will electrify audiences beginning July 8th.
- Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse 2 (October 7th)
A sequel to 2018’s hugely enjoyable and beautifully animated Spiderman adventure featuring Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as the titular web-head, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse 2, co-written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street), reunites our hero with other interdimensional Spider-people, including Spider-Gwen (Haliee Steinfeld), a dishevelled older Spiderman (Jake Johnson) and newcomer Spiderman 2099 (Oscar Isaac), who first appeared in the post-credits scene of the original movie to recreate the iconic meme of multiple Spidermans arguing with one other. Not much else is known about the movie at this point.
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse 2 swings into theatres October 7th
- The Flash (November 4th)
Finally arriving in 2022 is The Flash, a movie that has been stuck in development hell for years now. Originally announced in 2014 as part of a large slate of DC movies, The Flash, starring Ezra Miller, was originally scheduled to release in 2018. However, after multiple directors and screenwriters entered and exited the project through the years, the movie sat in development limbo until Andy Muschietti (IT, IT: Chapter 2) finally began work on the movie in 2020.
This movie is so long in the making that the CW Flash television show which began airing in 2014, the same year Ezra Miller was cast as the movie version, is currently in its eighth season, while The Flash movie is still yet to appear. 2022 will finally see The Flash arrive in cinemas, and perhaps more exciting is the return of Michael Keaton’s Batman for the first time since Tim Burton’s Batman Returns in 1992. The Flash, partly inspired by the comic book Flashpoint, is due to explore the DC multiverse, hence the return of Keaton’s Batman, as well as Affleck’s caped crusader who is also signed on to appear in the movie.
2022 will therefore see three live-action versions of the Batman character appear on the big screen, a real testament to the continued popularity and love of the character. All of this does create a problem where Miller’s Flash may be outshined in his own long-awaited solo theatrical debut by the presence of Keaton’s Batman, but only time will tell.
The Flash will dash into cinemas November 4th
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11th)
Following the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman, Marvel Studios made the decision not to recast the character and shift emphasis instead to the rich and varied characters of Wakanda for this sequel to 2018’s monster hit Black Panther. Returning to the director’s chair is Ryan Coogler who’s promised his sequel will honour the ground-breaking legacy left by Boseman’s T’Challa. Not much else is known about the movie at this point, except that it will feature the return of fan-favourite characters from the first movie, including Shuri (Letitia Wright), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), M’Baku (Winston Duke), as well as newcomer Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), a character set to star in her own Disney+ series Ironheart further down the road.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will open November 11th
- Avatar 2 (December 16th)
Finally we arrive at the number 10 spot on this list, and a long belated sequel (that no one asked for) to the highest grossing movie of all time (how?): Avatar 2. James Cameron’s return to the plush and ecologically diverse landscapes of Pandora has been a long time coming, seeing as the original movie released all the way back in 2009 (beginning that awful period of 3D movies, which thankfully has died out).
Cameron has been talking about these movies ever since, not directing anything in the interim, and the sequels (Avatar 2 & Avatar 3) were originally scheduled to release in 2014/2015. That never happened, and the dates have been shifting ever since. December 2022 is when the first of Cameron’s four (that’s right) Avatar sequels will hit cinemas, reuniting adoring audiences with fan favourite characters (wink wink) like Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).
It truly is bizarre that such a financially successful movie with four sequels in the works (at least 2 of which have already been filmed) has absolutely no fan base or audience desire at all. Maybe I’m wrong, and when Avatar 2 opens in cinemas (inaudible) fans of the franchise will emerge and justify Cameron’s devotion to this world and these characters, but I am yet to be convinced.
Avatar 2 is finally set to arrive in cinemas December 16th