DUBAI: As has been the case for the past decade or more, the blockbuster-movie roster for 2022 is dominated by superheroes. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has three films from its fourth phase slated for release as its multiverse becomes ever-more expansive. The most interesting of the three seems to be the one slated to drop first (in May): “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Benedict Cumberbatch reprises his role as the titular magical mystic, whose casting of a forbidden spell opened the door to the whole multiverse thing, and allowed an alternate version of himself to turn up in “our” universe — presumably meaning he’ll have to do battle with himself at some point. Sam Raimi, who helmed the Noughties “Spider-Man” trilogy, directs. July will see the return of the Chris Hemsworth as the lead in “Thor: Love and Thunder” — the fourth solo outing for the Norse god. Taika Waititi is back in charge after directing 2017’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” and has assembled a stellar cast including former Batman Christian Bale as supervillain Gorr, Jeff Goldblum as and Oscar-winner Natalie Portman returning as Jane Foster having skipped “Ragnarok.” The “Guardians of the Galaxy” cast (including Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff and Karen Gillan) also feature. Rounding out the MCU 2022 offerings is “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” The studio chose not to recast the late Chadwick Boseman’s role of T’Challa (wisely, considering how hard it would be for any actor to step into those shoes) and little has so far been revealed of the plot for this November release — although we know that most of the cast of the original “Black Panther” reprise their roles and that British actress, writer and director Michaela Cole (“I May Destroy You”) is an intriguing addition.
On the other side of the DC/Marvel divide, the DC Extended Universe has four releases set for this year: “Black Adam,” “The Flash,” “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom,” and “Batgirl.” We’re most excited about the first of those four, which will introduce the great antihero — and nemesis of Shazam (aka Captain Marvel, confusingly) — played by Dwayne Johnson. “The Flash,” due out in November, also seems interesting, with title character Barry Allen/The Flash (Ezra Miller) traveling back in time to prevent the murder of his mother — and encountering Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton as different versions of Batman on the way (both actors having played the Caped Crusader on screen before). And speaking of Batman, possibly the biggest film of 2022 will be “The Batman” (confusingly not part of the DCEU), due out in March. Directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman, promo material so far suggests it may be an even darker take on the Gotham vigilante’s tale than Christopher Nolan’s excellent trilogy starring Christian Bale. The film is set early in Batman’s crime-fighting career and will see him pursuing the serial killer Riddler (played by Paul Dano). Zoe Kravitz plays Selena Kyle/Catwoman, Andy Serkis plays Wayne’s butler and confidante Alfred, and Colin Farrell plays the Penguin, who is not yet the successful criminal he will ultimately become.
Hopes are also high for October’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One),” the first of a two-part sequel to 2018’s brilliant, computer-animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Shameik Moore will once again voice Miles Morales, the teenager from New York who is tasked with becoming the new Spider-Man.
There are some other high-profile animated movies due out this year, including “Minions: The Rise of Gru” — which will reportedly tell the titular wannabe-supervillain’s origin story; and a double-whammy from the legendary Pixar, “Turning Red,” due out in March — in which a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl called Mei changes into a red panda whenever she gets stressed (which — as you’d expect for a young adolescent — is often) — and “Lightyear.” The latter is the a blatant attempt to milk the “Toy Story” cash cow without actually releasing a “Toy Story” movie — it will apparently tell Buzz Lightyear’s fictional origin story (presumably the back story that originally caused Buzz to believe he was a genuine astronaut crime-fighter, rather than a toy) — but it’s Pixar, so we’ll forgive them.
As you’d expect, there’s a lot of cash-cow milking going on in Hollywood. 2022 should finally see the release of the COVID-delayed Tom Cruise (now 59, but probably still the planet’s premier action star) vehicles “Mission: Impossible 7” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” The latter, in which Cruise reprises his role as Maverick, still one of the US Navy’s top pilots, but now an instructor at the Top Gun academy) is one of a slew of films that will bring old characters from popular films together with new ones in updated versions (see “The Flash” earlier). These include “Jurassic World Dominion,” in which Sam Neill and Laura Dern play the same characters we last saw back in 2001’s “Jurassic Park III” and will join up with the cast of the “Jurassic World” trilogy; “Halloween Ends” — which will once again see Jamie Lee Curtis, as Laurie, face off against the killer she first faced in 1978, Michael Myers; and “Scream” — the fifth installment in the popular slasher franchise (though billed as a relaunch), which will see Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell and others reprising their characters (after an 11-year gap), alongside a group of new youngsters.
Other franchise extensions that should be worth seeing include “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” which takes place in the 1930s, in the lead up to World War II, and continues the adventures (set in the “Harry Potter” Wizarding World, before Harry’s time) of Eddie Redmayne’s ‘magizoologist’ Newt Scamander, as he assists the young Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) in his battle against the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp), and the small matter of the sequel to the highest-grossing film of all time, when James Cameron’s “Avatar 2” comes out in December. Cameron has an impressive ensemble lined up for the follow up to his epic 2009 sci-fi film, with heavy hitters such as Kate Winslet, Edie Falco, Michelle Yeoh and Oona Chaplin joining original cast members Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana et al (and Sigourney Weaver, playing a different character) to continue the story of the blue-skinned Na’vi on their planet of Pandora.
Regionally, the most-anticipated release (arguably) is also a remake — one that’s already been done 18 times, but not previously in Arabic: “Perfect Strangers.” In his feature debut, Wissam Smayra directs an excellent cast including Mona Zaki, Nadine Labaki, Eyad Nassar and Adel Karam in a bang-up-to-date version set over one night during the Lebanese uprising and the COVID-19 pandemic. It is set to stream on Netflix this month.