The best new films of 2022

James Oliver 18 January 2022

An assortment of expected Marvel blockbusters, remakes of classic murder mysteries, and avant-garde arthouse films make up an enticing 2022 film schedule

So, hello 2022! And a cheery welcome to whatever COVID variants, global upheavals and assorted catastrophes you have in store for us!

Still, at least we have movies to look forward to*. Quite a lot of them in fact: so many, we wondered if a handy guide might not be in order, to give you an idea of the treats in store...

*Assuming the cinemas aren't forced to shut their doors again because we're in another lockdown.

A Collective Noun Of Superheroes

There will come a day when people tire of superhero movies but judging by the release schedules, that day is some way off.

There are a lot of superheroes lined up for 2022, although you'll have to wait until March 4 for the first one: that's The Batman, in which Robert Pattinson becomes the caped crusader. Judging by that portentous “The” in the title, they're sticking with the grim and gritty approach.

Batman is a major character in DC Comics, whose characters haven't always translated to the screen as well as their counterparts at Marvel Comics. Maybe that will change this year; later in the year Dwayne Johnson takes the title role in Black Adam, a spin-off from Shazam!, a year or so back. After that comes The Flash (he can run really very fast) and Aquaman 2 (he still lives under the sea).

Most intriguing is the animation DC League of Super-Pets, all about the often-overlooked animal sidekicks of superheroes. If nothing else it should be free of the pomposity that often taints these movies.

Meanwhile, Marvel have another bulging slate: Morbius (a minor villain, now given his own movie), Dr Strange (who is, it appears, In The Multiverse of Madness) and their own animated adventure, Spider-Man Across The Spider-Verse (Part One), following the delirious Into The Spider-verse from a year or so back, with a part two to follow in 2023.

Fabulous Foreign Fare

But if you're bored of superhero movies (and you are, aren't you?), help is at hand. Perhaps you might like to sample some of the more rarified subtitled fare on offer. Pedro Almodovar—one of the most accessible arthouse directors—gives us Parallel Mothers (January 21), about two women who give birth on the same day with different results.

The Worst Person In The World was much admired at Cannes last year and is even tipped for Oscar glory—not bad for a rom-com, a form which rarely gets critical plaudits. It gets released on March 25. Also at Cannes, Benedetta proved more divisive but you'd expect that from provocateur Paul Verhoeven, especially when he's dealing with a story about sexually repressed nuns. You can see that from April 4.

And if we're really lucky we'll get Decision to Leave this year too. Directed by Korean maestro Park Chan-wook, little is known about it except that it concerns a police investigation. But since Park Chan-wook is one of the best around right now, it has the potential to be very good indeed.

Movies With Colons In The Title

The colon is an underrated piece of punctuation: you can use it to make lengthy sentences far more comprehensible, but also make things sound really impressive too. This is the year in which Hollywood does its bit to spread the use of this handy device, employing it in a succession of titles.

In ye olden dayes, for instance, we might have had Jurassic World 3. But we're out of the dark ages now and instead, we get Jurassic World: Dominion, with a colon that lends a touch of class to a sequel of a rip-off. Ditto Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledoreexcellent colon action there, making both sound more interesting than they undoubtedly are.

In fact, with the proper use of a colon, any half-baked nonsense can sound vaguely compelling—Minions 2: The Rise of Gru anyone? So naturally, it's been adopted by superhero movies like Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, both already highly anticipated by fans: let's hope it's enough to make 2022 the year of the colon.

The Hardest Working Men In Show-Business

The pandemic caused a backlog of films. Movies that were finished years ago were held up, during which time their creators moved on to other things which make them seem more prolific than usual. Take Joanna Hogg: she has The Souvenir Part II all set for release at the end of this month, but is lining up another film called The Eternal Daughter, which is almost done. Similarly, Wes Anderson: he's at work on something called Asteroid City which ought to see release not 12 months after his last, The French Dispatch.

Guillermo Del Toro, meanwhile, is about to serve up his take on the dodgy psychic/ carnival geek noir Nightmare Alley but if all goes according to plan he'll be giving us a new animated, version of Pinnochio too (although just to cause confusion, Disney have recruited Robert Zemeckis to make a live-action version of their animated version of the same story).

But that's as nothing compared to Kenneth Branagh. The trailers for Death on the Nile, which has been held up for 18 months, are rolling out now, with him as Hercule Poirot (a pale shadow of Peter Ustinov) and may even play before Belfast, the semi-autobiographical (and Oscar-tipped) movie he made in the meantime. But he's not cooling his heels: he's currently beavering away on a biopic about The Bee Gees which is scheduled to “drop” just before Christmas next. Sleep is for tortoises, eh Kenny?

Rule Britannia

Hollywood inevitably is going to dominate lists like these, and not just because they like to work out a release date before their films have even been made. But there's plenty of plucky Brits showing what we can do too!

Things like Downton Abbey 2 or The Nan Movie, in which Catherine Tate takes a character from her teevee show and blows it up for the big screen. Britain has a proud record of big-screen adaptions of small-screen successes, and these look set fair to join the Are You Being Served movie or the On The Buses trilogy in their illustrious cinematic firmament.

Still, The Phantom of the Open looks promising—Mark Rylance stars as the worst golfer in the world in a script written by Simon Farnaby, of Ghosts and Paddington fame. And Operation Mincemeat might be alright: we really don't need more stories about the Second World War but this is one of the more intriguing chapters, the so-called “Man Who Never Was” case, telling the story with more accuracy than the previous film version from 1956.

 

The British Arthouse

Alongside those more commercially minded films are some singular visions: a number of Britain's best filmmakers ought to have new films to show us this year. Alex Garland returns from his TV series DEVS to give us Men, about which little is known except that it's set in the countryside.

Meanwhile, if he pulls his finger out, Jonathan Glazer might have his Martin Amis adaption The Zone of Interest ready this year, although since it's taken him seven years from his last film (Under The Skin), it might not be a good idea to put money on that. Oh, and Peter Strickland has a film called Flux Gourmet. Strickland is one of British cinema's great originals so this is unequivocally GOOD NEWS.

Films With Peculiar Titles

George Miller isn't exactly prolific—he's not made a film since Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015. But he's a good director and anything he chooses to make is automatically of interest. No one is quite sure what his new film (starring Idris Elba) is about and he's making sure we can't guess by calling it Three Thousand Years of Longing. Once we've seen it, no doubt we'll slap our foreheads and exclaim what an obvious, on-the-nose title that is. Until then, we're in the dark.

Miller isn't the only one with an ambitious title. Alejandro González Iñárritu has his christened his new film Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths). Brackets indeed! Doesn't he know all the cool kids use colons these days? Anyway, it's the double Oscar-winning director's return to Mexico City and is a comedy, or so those in the know suggest.

That title however, is as nothing to The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. The film stars Nicolas Cage and he's playing an idiosyncratic film star called... Nicolas Cage. It's probably fictional—“Cage” apparently tangles with the mob—but looks set to reignite the debates around  this most peculiar of talents.

Young Masters

It's easy to be pessimistic about the state of cinema (see: “superheroes”, above) but it's not all doom and gloom. Some really good filmmakers have films set for release this year and while past work isn't necessarily a prediction of future glory, it's enough to get our hopes up.

After his masterful The Lighthouse, anything Robert Eggers does is of interest. So The Northmen (April 22), his Viking revenge film is one of the most exciting prospects of the year. The same is true of Showing Up, which reunites Kelly Reichardt (First Cow) with Michelle Williams, her star of Meek's Cut-Off and Certain Women.

Live-action Disney remakes are obviously a pox on modern cinema, but things get a little more complicated when that live action Disney remake is directed by David Lowery (A Ghost Story; The Green Knight). He's doing Peter Pan and Wendy next and you never know, it might be good: he re-made Pete's Dragon to some acclaim, after all.

A couple of films about old Hollywood to look forward to, both of them apparently quite saucy: Damian Chazelle (La-La Land) presents Babylon, set as Tinsel Town transitions from silence to sound, with Brad Pitt as a star on the rocks; it's already tipped for Oscar glory (at next year's Oscars). Meanwhile Blonde is directed by Andrew Domenik who made The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (in the days before colons). The titular blonde is Marilyn Monroe. We all know how she was chewed up and spat out by the system: reports are this film is unsparing of the process.

Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite) is BACK with the gothic Poor Things (Emma Stone gets a baby's brain implanted in her head—so good clean family fun then) while David O Russell (American Hustle) makes his first film since 2015. No one knows what it's about or even what it's called: Canterbury Glass is the working title and that might stick.

Finally, David Fincher is making The Killer even as we speak and he's promised—hand on heart—he'll have it done by the end of the year (there'll be no supper before bedtime if it isn't, David). It's about an assassin played by Michael Fassbender who develops a conscience but apparently has nothing to do with John Woo's seminal Hong Kong classic.

Auteurs

As if all that wasn't enough, we have the old guard—the guys who have nothing left to prove. Steven Spielberg, for instance: he's making what promises to be his most personal film, The Fabelmans, which draws quite heavily on his own life and upbringing—it's about a young nerd who wants to be a movie director.

Years ago, David Cronenberg made a short-ish amateur movie called Crimes of the Future. His new, very professional, film is called Crimes of the Future as well. Is it a remake? Cronenberg has declined to confirm it yet: we shall find out in good time.

It's possible we'll have a new Terence Malick film as well. His new project is called The Way of  the Wind, or at least it is at the time of writing (it was previously called The Last Planet) and appears to be a biblical drama, about the life of Christ. Obviously predictions are a mug's game but Malick is likely to do more with this material than Mel Gibson did.

And as if all that wasn't enough, there is The Killers of the Flower Moon to look forward to too. Concerning one of the more shameful episodes in the long history of America's treatment of its Indigenous inhabitants, it's got Robert De Niro and young Leonardo DiCaprio so expect some powerhouse acting. What's not been mentioned yet is it's Scorsese's first western. Yee-Haw!

One final note. There was no-one—absolutely no-one—who wanted a sequel to Avatar, James Cameron's 3D eco-fantasia from a few a decade or so ago: the biggest film of all time, which cast no cultural shadow whatsoever. But Cameron has gone and made Avatar 2 anyway. And that is actually a good thing? Because Cameron is one of the great directors and it's fantastic to have him  at work again.

Oh, but there's Top Gun: Maverick (why?), Mission Impossible and... and... and...

Hopefully, too, there will be films not on this list—pleasant surprises that come from nowhere to upset the applecart. There's more to movies than superheroes, and no doubt 2022 will prove it.

Featured image credit: Netflix Media Center

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