Like a wheel that never stops turning, Hollywood drives into 2020 off the back of a fantastic year of film. As we approach the end of January (a month that is more likely to help define a previous year than really set up a new one), it’s useful to take a look at some of the most exciting projects on the horizon to keep an eye out for when you take a trip to the cinema.
As I discussed at length in my 2019 retrospective, Disney is the dominant force at the box office, and will the acquisition of Fox a done deal, 2020 looks to be another strong year, albeit with a few more risks. While Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King and The Rise of Skywalker were always going to be hits, the Disney slate this year has interesting potential for both gigantic success but also for minor disappointment. Black Widow and The Eternals, whilst both MCU titles, are less sure fire wins than previous entries. The latter could become the new Guardians of the Galaxy, taking previously obscure characters and blasting them into comic stardom. But success is not guaranteed, and the all star Eternals cast may have to settle for a little less money at the box office than Marvel is used to. Black Widow at least benefits from name recognition (Scarlett Johansson has put in more than enough work in the franchise to deserve a successful instalment of her own), but she’s less of a certainty than some of her other peers like Spider-Man, Iron Man or Captain America. She’s been given the first weekend of the summer, a date given to Endgame last year. Therefore there’s not only the expectation of success, but there’s that added pressure of kicking off the summer season.
Pixar are also following a similar route to Marvel this year, abandoning the sequels for original material. The most likely to make a big impact is Soul, a film boasting the first African-American lead character, and the return of Peter Docter, the director of some fan favourites like Inside Out and Up. Whilst its a risk to deviate from Pixar’s assured success given by entries including Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 (both billion dollar pictures), stand alone features are where the company made a name for itself initially. Let’s hope that in a year’s time, we’ve witnesses the birth of a new Pixar Classic.
Despite this, Disney couldn’t help but include at least one remake amongst the slew of new original content. Yes, Mulan will undoubtedly be a hit come March. But a lack of songs and controversy surrounding star Yifei Liu’s support for the Chinese Government in the wake of the protests in Hong Kong means that even this has an element of doubt regarding its prospects.
For competing studios, this is nothing but a positive. Disney aren’t going anywhere per se, but their slate this year is not on the same level as 2019. Luckily, there are plenty of other films to chew on from alternative origins. Warner Brothers’ are hoping to follow the unprecedented success of `Joker with two new DC releases this year. Bird of Prey, which premieres next week, comes on the heels of the disastrous Suicide Squad, but the immense popularity of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and the interesting visual style evident in the trailers means it should find some sort of audience, albeit not a huge one. Most of Warner Brothers’ eggs will be in the basket of Wonder Woman 1984 however in June. The follow up to Patty Jenkins’ critical and commercial success in 2017 finds Gal Gadot’s Diana in another period setting: the 1980s. As anything on TV will tell you, that decade is inexplicably always in fashion, and the return of Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor means a highly probable repeat of quality and success from Jenkins and the team.
If those blockbusters weren’t enough, Bond is back in 2020 after almost five years away from our screens in No Time to Die. Directed by Cary Fukunaga and seeing the final performance of Daniel Craig in the role that made him a star (I know he said that last time but go with it), this will be hoping to replicate previous successes, most notably 2012’s Skyfall. Interestingly, Christopher Nolan, who is often seen as a fan favourite choice to be a Bond Director, is releasing a very 007-esque movie this summer in Tenet, an action thriller involving some form of time travel narrative device (the mind boggles). It’s nice to see Nolan go back to the slick modern day thriller after his brilliant deviation in Dunkirk.
If it feels like the year is already seemingly going to be dominated by studio blockbusters, then I’m afraid to tell you that that’s the way Hollywood works today. I haven’t even mentioned The Fast and Furious 9, Minions 2, Morbius, Ghostbusters: Afterlife or Top Gun: Maverick and it’s still clear that the year will be dominated by sequels and spinoffs. Luckily however, as the year progresses, independent cinema and prestige directors will start to release a wider variety of films.
I’m personally most looking forward to Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Dune in December. Blade Runner 2049 was one of my favourite movies of the last decade and Villeneuve has proven himself to be an amazing director in the other future sci-fi classic Arrival. Dune is admittedly a difficult beast to adapt, but with a cast including the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Javier Bardem and a slew of other stars, it should turn out to be one of the most discussed films come next awards season. Also in my most anticipated releases is Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, a film centring on a fictional newspaper in France. Chalamet also stars in this film alongside Little Women co-star Saoirse Ronan, continuing their habit of collaborating with each other.
When it comes to Indie’s it’s a little more difficult to look so far ahead, and festivals like Cannes, Venice and Toronto will give us an idea of the heavy hitters of awards season, but taking a peek at the Sundance premieres this month makes me personally excited for The Father starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, Minari, a film hoping to replicate A24’s success with The Farewell (featuring apparently another incredible grandmother performance) and Shirley starring Elisabeth Moss.
Hopefully this has helped fill in the daunting canvas that the beginning of the year brings when it comes to film. Of course, not everything was mentioned here, and I already look forward to the inevitable release of a movie no one considered to be anticipated, only for it to blow everyone away.