One film journalist’s stream-of-consciousness cinematic journey through the pandemic, Part 65
By Laurence Lerman / New York City
The high-speed spread of the Omicron variant has been stunning, as the Northeast is once again derailed by the Covid-19 virus.
But not astonishing in the least is the fact that the new year is overflowing with cinematic sequels. Another Downton Abbey, another Minions, another Mission: Impossible, another Halloween, another Fantastic Beasts, another Jurassic Park—they’re all on the way this year. Batman, Sonic the Hedgehog, Thor, Puss in Boots, John Wick, Jackass, Spider-Man, Creed and Aquaman are also on deck.
Of course, that’s the way the movie business works. And, clearly, these productions have earned their way onto the sequel list, being the franchised progeny of recently released films that have proven their worth at the box office and on streaming services. If only the prospect and arrival of them wasn’t so predictable and…wearying.
Another Jurassic Park? Really?
Encouragingly, there’s a healthy segment of sequels that offer a more sentimental appeal than merely serving as the latest stanchion in a brand tentpole. Some of this year’s slated sequels are follow-ups to films that were released as long as a decade ago. And in some notable cases, even longer.
Here are a half-dozen scheduled sequels for 2022–no Marvel Comics Universe titles, I promise!–that may offer an appealing whiff of nostalgia even as they vie for box office dollars. All are targeted for theatrical release, but that’s subject to change (which at this point you probably assumed, right?).
Scream (January 14)
The first sequel out of the gate in 2022 is this same-named follow-up to the popular slasher mystery series started in 1996. Though it’s being hyped as a “relaunch,” this fifth entry in the franchise is a direct sequel to 2011’s Scream 4, and the first in the series not directed by Wes Craven, who died in 2015).
Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette return to reprise their original Scream roles in this newest entry, and are joined by first-timers Melissa Barrera, Mason Gooding and Jenna Ortega. Knowing the way the Scream films usually unfold, particularly for the young and beautiful, I wouldn’t get too attached to any of the newcomers.
Top Gun: Maverick (May)
After more than two years of Covid-related delays, Tom Cruise takes to the skies once again to relive the glories of the Reagan-era character he retired decades ago (or so we thought) in 1986’s Top Gun. Directed by Joseph Kosinski, who helmed Cruise’s handsome-looking sci-fi action thriller Oblivion back in 2013, this sequel’s need for speed will hopefully be fulfilled with its complex, real-life flight sequences and a limited reliance on computer-generated effects and enhancements.
Hocus Pocus 2 (November)
Nearly 30 years after the 1993 original fantasy-comedy, a moderate box office success that has since become a cult favorite, Hocus Pocus returns. Original stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy are back on their broomsticks to raise some family-friendly hell as the Sanderson sisters, a trio of hijinks-loving witches. Set in modern-day Salem, VEEP veterans Tony Hale and Sam Richardson and Ted Lasso’s Hannah Waddingham hop on board to join the devilish fun.
The sequel to 2007’s Enchanted, which served as a splendid homage and affectionate parody of Disney’s animated movies, stars Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden and Idina Menzel reprising their roles from the original live action/animated musical fantasy romantic comedy.
This 15-years-later tale finds almost Princess Giselle (Adams) and her man Robert (Dempsey) joyously living their happily-ever-after in suburbia until villainous suburban queen bee Malvina Monroe (new franchise arrival Maya Rudolph) begins looking for trouble. Super-duper composers Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz also return for music duties, which include seven new songs.
Avatar 2 (December)
Way back in 2006, filmmaker James Cameron announced that he would like to make sequels to his then-upcoming Avatar (2010) if it was a success. Well, it indeed was, and Cameron quickly announced two sequels that same year, and then two more a couple of years later, slated to be released biannually through 2028. (The filmmaker cited the necessity to develop new technology for each subsequent installment to deliver on the demand for state-of-art effects, including a number of sequences reportedly set underwater.)
Well, after years of delay, Avatar 2 is supposed to finally arrive this December, following more than three years of shooting. Will it be worth the wait? Probably. But as for the subsequent three film, we’ll have to see…
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November)
Alright, I lied. I’ve got to include one Marvel movie in the list, and it’s the sequel to 2018’s very fine Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman, who died of cancer in 2020 and whose presence will be greatly missed. How Coogler is going to meet this challenge in the sequel is being kept closely under wraps, but we’re assuming that returning Panther co-stars Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright are going to be stepping up their roles in this edition,
Here’s hoping that the Coogler and Black Panther team bring with them the kind of grace, respect and solemnity that Boseman injected into the original film.
Laurence Lerman is a film journalist, former editor of Video Business--Variety's DVD trade publication--and husband to The Insider's own Gwen Cooper. Over the course of his career he has conducted one-on-one interviews with just about every major director working today, including Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Kathryn Bigelow, Ridley Scott, Walter Hill, Spike Lee, and Werner Herzog, among numerous others. Once James Cameron specifically requested an interview with Laurence by name, which his wife still likes to brag about. Most recently, he is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the online review site DiscDish.com.