2023 promises a glut of amazing films, franchises, and features. Here’s what filmmakers and cinephiles should be looking for.
Let’s get ready for a new year of cinematic experiences. Here’s a rundown of what we’re looking forward to in 2023. Bears, Barbies, and Atom Bombs, oh my!
Let’s get the juggernauts out of the way. The modern movie-going experience has been dominated by the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a decade or more now, and in 2023, we’re getting the first chunk of Phase Five — the middle chunk of the Multiverse Saga. Marvel has super-sized the trilogy experience into year-long narrative blocks. Even though they have a hundred million issues of comic continuity to draw from, it’s impressive that each film manages to retain its own character while drawing out an important part of the larger narrative.
Marvel Marvel Marvel: You Can’t Escape It
The phase starts with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, wherein several generations of super-heroes go micro and discover an entire universe on the head of a pin. In addition to all the familiar faces on-screen, this’ll be Peyton Reed‘s third time in the director’s chair for an Ant-Man film. At this point, the machinery is well-tuned enough that this is going to be two hours of solid CGI entertainment. I mean, save the experimental stuff for late in the summer, when we’re all bloated and sun-burned and yearning for something out of the ordinary.
We can check those same boxes for James Gunn‘s third outing as director of Guardians of the Galaxy 3, which drops in May. This’ll be Gunn’s last Marvel film, as he was recently named co-CEO of DC Studios, where he’s in charge of the creative aspects of the DC Cinematic Universe. Given his previous outings there (The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker), we suspect that universe will continue to be dark and cynical.
Make It Go Faster
Since we’re charting our way through the franchises, we should note that the Fast & Furious crew will be back again in Fast X, the tenth installment in the Vin Diesel-led series about family and fast cars. Well, and tanks and subs and who knows what they’ll come up with in this latest installment? We hear the production budget is around $340 million, making Fast X the fifth most expensive film of all time. Of course, it’ll recoup that amount in its opening weekend, so the accountants shouldn’t be too worried.
Fast X is directed by French filmmaker Louis Leterrier, who got started in the industry with The Transporter, a Luc Besson vehicle for Jason Statham, which makes Fast X a bit of a reunion for both Statham and Leterrier. (Also, for deep weeds trivia buffs: Matt Schulze was also in The Transporter. He played dodgy street-racing brother Vince in the first and fifth Fast & the Furious movies.)
Greying But Still Going
And speaking of reunions, Indiana Jones is coming back this year. The first trailer has dropped, and it’s mostly a long tease about treasure hunting, chase sequences, Indy bringing a whip to a . . . ah . . . a gun fight, and a sidekick who is neither a love interest nor a smart-talking street kid.
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is the first Indy film to not be directed by Steven Spielberg or written by George Lucas. James Mangold had a hand in the script, and he’s the guy behind the camera, and while purists might be alarmed at this change, we’re happy to note that Mangold gave us Logan and Ford v Ferrari, both of which received Academy Award nods in the writing and directing categories, respectively. Mangold will honor the previous films, naturally, just as those fondly recalled the old adventure serials of the mid-20th century, but we anticipate this outing to set its own standard.
Plus Mads Mikkelsen, who is a reason to put on pants and leave the house.
And speaking of dressing appropriately for the weather, we hear that Mads and Jonas Åkerlund have teamed up again for The Black Kaiser, a sorta sequel/not-a-prequel to Polar, the 2019 Netflix action thriller based on Victor Santos’s graphic novel of the same name. We’re conflicted about whether we need another sequence of Mads hunting assassins in the snow without any clothes, but we’ll report back after seeing The Black Kaiser.
Dialed to Eleven
Meanwhile, Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise have cherry-picked all the best cinematic moments from the last thirty years of action films and crammed them into the two-and-a-half minute trailer for the next Mission: Impossible film. Dead Reckoning is the seventh installment in this franchise, which has been firing on all cylinders since McQuarrie took over with 2015’s Rogue Nation.
We don’t really know what McQuarrie has in store for Tom Cruise and the rest of his team in Dead Reckoning, but a script by McQuarrie is reason enough to show up (The Usual Suspects, anyone?), and we suspect the upcoming Mission:Impossible film will be more than the sum of its parts, which appear to be knife fight, gun fight, car chase, another knife fight, sniper action, sword fight, train sequence, another car chase, and Tom Cruise running.
The last is a contractual obligation, we suspect, and this time — wisely — McQuarrie isn’t making Cruise run along rooftops and make extremely long jumps between buildings.
The Finest Space Opera
Denis Villeneuve returns to Arrakis this year with the second part of his widescreen imagining of Frank Herbert‘s Dune, the science fiction classic about worms, messiahs, and ecological transformations. Herbert’s book is dense, and doing it justice requires a lot of spectacular world-building and rich character development. Villeneuve managed to distill the essence of Herbert’s sprawling saga into a two and a half hour visual feast, and with all groundwork laid down for us, we anticipate the second half of Villeneuve’s Dune will finally do right by Herbert’s seminal work.
Inspired By True Events
Okay, so what’s NOT a sequel or another installment in a franchise? Well, how about Cocaine Bear? It’s a quiet little tale about a bear who discovers a bunch of cocaine that has fallen from the sky. The bear, naturally, snorts a bunch of the white powder up and then goes on a drug-fueled rampage. True story, honest!
Cocaine Bear stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, and we know there is likely a fan theory circulating out there that this is all another one of those crazy The Americans spy plots, and we wouldn’t put it past director Elizabeth Banks to give us a wink or two in that direction. Banks’s previous outing in the director’s chair was the 2019 reboot of Charlie’s Angels, which was a well-crafted update of the classic TV show. She knows how to walk the tightrope of earnest homage while delivering a thoroughly modern take on material. We suspect Cocaine Bear will be a smartly crafted take on the ludicrous low-budget horror film. More Jaws and less Jaws: The Revenge, but in the woods.
Christopher Nolan returns with Oppenheimer, which is the story of American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and the development of the atomic bomb. Nolan makes films that are spectacles, and even when they are overly complicated and tied in too many knots, they are technically marvelous and very watchable. And while we’re not entirely sure how Nolan is going sustain narrative tension for a couple of hours — we do know how this one ends, after all — we’re definitely curious how he’s going to make this work. Though we suspect it’ll be more like his Interstellar than Part 8 of the third season of David Lynch‘s Twin Peaks.
And Now For The Fun Things
Indie darlings Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach are bringing Barbie to the big screen. There’s been a long tradition of making films out of children’s toys, and some of them have been moderately successful (Transformers) and some of them have not (Battleship). For Barbie, Gerwig and Baumbach have enlisted iconic film stars (Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling) to play Barbie and Ken, which is a smart nod to the viewing audience about the nature of our fascination with beauty and appearance. But is there more going on here than a cheap nostalgia grab?
Well, Gerwig has been nominated for a couple of Academy Awards for her screenwriting and directing. Baumbach’s had a couple of nods as well. Additionally, Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto has three nominations (as well has having worked with a long list of award-winning directors); Production Designer Sarah Greenwood has six nominations; and Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran has seven, along with two wins in this category. That’s a lot of talented people making a movie about a doll.
And finally, your Valentine’s Day plans should include seeing Magic Mike’s Last Dance, because Steven Soderbergh and Channing Tatum know what they are doing, and that is sexy bodies, fancy stage lighting, and abs for days. We’ve had more than a lifetime of angst and frustration and anger these last few years; we’re overdue for some fun.
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