This week’s Ketchup brings you more headlines from the world of film development news, covering such titles unveiled at CinemaCon in Las Vegas as Avatar: The Way of Water, Barbie, The Batman 2, Mission: Impossible 7 – Dead Reckoning Part 1, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, and Venom 3.
This WEEK’S TOP STORY
THE BATMAN SEQUEL OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED AT CINEMACON
(Photo by Jonathan Olley/©Warner Bros.)
We may only be a third of the way into 2022 (and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness may change the math), but the current box office champ of the year is The Batman (Certified Fresh at 86%) with $368 million domestically and $759 million worldwide. That being true, one of the biggest announcements out of several from CinemaCon in Las Vegas this week may have also been the least surprising, which is that Warner Bros. has officially started development on a sequel to The Batman. Nothing is known about the premise or the cast just yet, except that Robert Pattinson will return as the title superhero and that it will be directed again by Matt Reeves. We can probably expect that a number of actors and characters from the first film will also return (Andy Serkis and Jeffrey Wright as Alfred and Jim Gordon seem likely), but Pattinson was the only one officially announced at CinemaCon. As for the villain (or villains) to be featured in the sequel, there has been a lot of speculation online in the last two months, including Mister Freeze (from Reeves himself), Egghead (from Nicolas Cage), Calendar Man and the Court of Owls (from Robert Pattinson), Clayface, and many more, including the Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Professor Pyg, and that old chestnut, The Joker (cameo played by Barry Keoghan in The Batman). Another possible addition for the sequel could be Bruce Wayne’s circus acrobat orphan and ward, Robin, whose introduction may have been hinted at by an Alfred line in The Batman. There is currently no release date for The Batman 2, but it’s unlikely to be before 2024. In the meantime, fans can look forward to two spinoff shows on HBO Max, The Penguin (starring Colin Farrell), and a series about Arkham Asylum.
Other Top Headlines
1. JAMES CAMERON’S AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER ACTUALLY EXISTS
(Photo by ©20th Century Fox)
Director James Cameron has been working on his four sequels to the 2009 hit Avatar (Certified Frest at 82%) that one might be forgiven for wondering if the entire franchise was an elaborate prank. Cameron wasn’t physically in Las Vegas for CinemaCon, but instead presented the first footage of the first sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water (12/16/2022), remotely while still working on the films in New Zealand. CinemaCon attendees were given 3D glasses for the trailer, which ran longer than usual and had almost no dialogue, as they saw “different regions across the dazzling world of Pandora through sweeping visuals of the planet’s crystal blue oceans and lakes.” Disney (which acquired Avatar with other 20th Century Fox properties in 2019) also revealed that Avatar: The Way of Water will begin to tell the story of “the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive, and the tragedies they endure.” Returning stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, CCH Pounder, and Giovanni Ribisi will be joined by new cast members Jemaine Clement, Cliff Curtis, Vin Diesel, Edie Falco, Kate Winslet, and Michelle Yeoh. As for the rest of us who weren’t at CinemaCon this week, Disney will attach an Avatar: The Way of Water trailer to screenings of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness when that film opens next week. Looking ahead, Avatar: The Way of Water (12/16/2022) will then be followed by three more sequels, released every two years in December, with those dates being 12/20/2024, 12/18/2026, and 12/22/2028. Disney has not announced the titles for the sequels yet, but a list of titles leaked in November ended up being right about Avatar: The Way of Water, so the others you’ll find there might also be accurate.
2. DIRECTOR JUSTIN LIN LEAVES FAST X
(Photo by Giles Keyte/©Universal Pictures)
Just last week, Vin Diesel took to Instagram to reveal that filming of Fast X had begun on April 20th, along with the logo and official title for the tenth and penultimate film in The Fast and the Furious franchise. At the helm of Fast X was director Justin Lin, who has directed more entries in the series than anyone else, at five. Given how connected to the Fast and the Furious “family” Lin has been, it was even more surprising when, after just one week of filming, he released a statement saying that he was exiting Fast X as director, though he remains on the project as producer and co-writer. Directors drop out of projects all the time in Hollywood, but a departure in the middle of actual filming is much less common and, for Universal Pictures, an extremely costly incident, which they are no doubt racing to correct by finding a replacement as quickly as possible. The plan all along was for the final two movies (10 and 11) to be filmed back-to-back, so Universal is most likely hoping to find a director who can commit to both films. The studio may need to bring in a director that has never worked on a Fast and the Furious film before, as three of the four directors with previous experience are busy with other projects (James Wan on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, F. Gary Gray on Netflix’s Lyft, and David Leitch on Ryan Gosling’s post-Barbie project Fall Guy), while the fourth is embroiled in controversy. In related news, another long-in-development racing project, the movie adaptation of the popular Mattel toy line Hot Wheels, may have inched closer to the starting line with the news that J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company is now working with Mattel and Warner Bros. to get it made.
3. MARGOT ROBBIE’S BARBIE TO FACE OFF AGAINST CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S OPPENHEIMER
(Photo by ©Warner Bros. Pictures)
In our modern era of blockbuster summer weekends, the studio strategy of choosing the perfect release date is like a game of chess, including the occasional strategic move, feint, or bluff. Although filming of their long-in-development live action Barbie movie, directed by Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women), and starring Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, Will Ferrell, Simu Liu, Kate McKinnon, and many more started last month, Warner Bros. didn’t announce a release date until this week, when it was revealed it was scheduled for release on July 21, 2023, up against Christopher Nolan’s ambitious atomic bomb biopic Oppnenheimer, starring Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, and also, many, many more. The decision by Warner Bros. to plant their girl-friendly kids movie squarely against Oppenheimer has many levels of complexity, but the most obvious is that it’s a reaction to Nolan’s well-publicized feud with Warner Bros. over their handling of Nolan’s Tenet (Fresh at 69%) in 2020. Warner Bros. also used their big presentation at CinemaCon as an opportunity to reveal the first image of Margot Robbie in character as Barbie behind the wheel of her pink convertible, confirming that classic Barbie accessory’s inclusion. What will not be in the Barbie movie is the hit 1990s pop song “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, with a representative of the group saying directly, “The song will not be used in the movie.” The reason may relate to a lawsuit filed by Mattel against MCA Records, which reportedly ended with a U.S. Court of Appeals judge ruling, “The parties are advised to chill” (that is a real actual quote). Going back to Oppenheimer, the ever expanding cast added another name this week in Casey Affleck, who became (and this is also real) the 30th confirmed member of the all-star Oppenheimer cast.
4. SPIDER-MAN: BEYOND THE SPIDER-VERSE TO SWING INTO 2024
(Photo by Marvel Entertainment)
Fans of the Academy Award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Certified Fresh at 97%) were no doubt disappointed to hear last week that the sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has been pushed back several months by Sony from October 7, 2022 to its new release date of June 2, 2023. That move also pushed back the third film, which is now titled Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse (formerly Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Part 2), to a new release date on March 29, 2024. Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller showed off the first 15 minutes of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and revealed that the two sequels will have substantially larger ensemble casts, going from 40 characters in Into the Spider-Verse to 240 in Across the Spider-Verse, which will be set in at (at least) six different alternate realities. Within the 15 minutes shown at CinemaCon, audiences got to see Earth-65, the home of Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy, as well as more of Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) and another Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew, voiced by Issa Rae. In related news, Kevin Feige also mentioned at CinemaCon that he will soon be staging a Marvel Studios retreat at which Feige’s team will plan out the next ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To put that in perspective, that’s like Marvel planning Thor: Love and Thunder (7/8/2022) a few months before Marvel’s The Avengers (Certifed Fresh at 91%) came out.
5. VENOM 3 AND NEW GHOSTBUSTERS MOVIE ANNOUNCED AT CINEMACON
(Photo by Sony Pictures)
The CinemaCon in Las Vegas is an opportunity by every major studio to have their own marquee presentation to show off their upcoming films, both imminent and a few years away. In addition to the animated sequels Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, Sony also promised in their presentation that they are actively developing the sequels Venom 3 and Ghostbusters 4 (which will technically be the fifth film, counting 2016’s Ghostbusters, which exists in its own continuity). The exact premises of these sequels aren’t known yet, except that Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Rotten at 59%) suggested the introduction of the symbiote Toxin, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Fresh at 63%) teased the return of Ernie Hudson’s Winston. Other films in Sony’s presentations included the Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody (12/21/2022) and the untitled George Foreman boxing movie (4/7/2023). In related news (not announced at CinemaCon), Sony also hired Hawkeye director Rhys Thomas to work on their long-in-development live-action adaptation of the popular anime series Robotech about giant mech robots fighting off an alien force.
6. ARIANA GRANDE’S WICKED TO BE SPLIT IN TWO FOR 2024 AND 2025
(Photo by Kristin Callahan/Everett Collection)
A seemingly recurring theme as Hollywood studios make their plans for a post-pandemic future is that many of their longest-in-development and often struggling projects are finally getting produced. At Universal Pictures, that bucket list has included a live-action adaptation of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, which has been talked about for most of the 19 years since the Wizard of Oz-inspired musical debuted on Broadway in 2003. The past decade has seen a steady trickle of positive moves for a Wicked movie, including the casting in November of Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo as the two lead characters Glinda the Good Witch (Grande) and Elphaba (Erivo), the eventual Wicked Witch of the West. Director Jon M. Chu (In the Heights, Crazy Rich Asians) took to social media this week to reveal that Universal Pictures has decided to expand the story into two separate feature films to be released on two consecutive Christmas Days in 2024 and 2025. Clarifying the reason for the split, Chu tweeted, “As we tried to cut songs or trim characters, those decisions began to feel like fatal compromises to the source material that has entertained us all for so many years.”
7. UPCOMING MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 7 GETS A RATHER AWKWARD TITLE
(Photo by David James/Paramount Pictures)
Most of the studio presentations at CinemaCon in Las Vegas feature big movie stars, and Paramount Pictures was no exception, as Tom Cruise helped excite the audience of industry professionals about his next (and possibly final) two Mission: Impossible films. Filmed in 2020 and 2021 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic for a budget of reportedly well over $200 million, Mission: Impossible 7 will finally reach theaters next summer (7/14/2023) under the title Mission: Impossible 7 – Dead Reckoning Part 1, which will presumably then be followed by Mission: Impossible 8 – Dead Reckoning Part 2 when that film is released on June 28, 2024. Tom Cruise was not, however, actually in Las Vegas, as he appeared on screen in an antique airplane over a canyon in South Africa, where he and director Christopher McQuarrie are currently filming Mission: Impossible 8. Tom Cruise’s co-stars in the next two films will include Hayley Atwell, Angela Bassett, Cary Elwes, Rebecca Ferguson, Vanessa Kirby, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames. Another title that Paramount announced at CinemaCon was the A Quiet Place spinoff, which is now called A Quiet Place: Day One (9/22/2023), clarifying that the spinoff is also a prequel, presumably focusing on characters other than those played by Emily Blunt and her co-stars, who will instead return for A Quiet Place Part III sometime in 2025. Paramount has not yet announced the cast of A Quiet Place: Day One, but it will be directed by Michael Sarnoski (Pig).
8. HUNGER GAMES PREQUEL THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES AIMING FOR 2023
(Photo by Murray Close/Lionsgate)
The seemingly dominant genre in movies nowadays, at least in terms of box office results, appears to be the superhero movie, but it wasn’t that long ago when all of the pop culture relevance seemed to be strongly in the hands of YA (Young Adult) novels. We’re talking about the time just as the Harry Potter movies were winding down, and movies like Twilight, Divergent, and The Hunger Games spawned their own multi-film franchises. We have known for a while that Lionsgate has the rights to author Suzanne Colliins’ prequel to The Hunger Games, called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which the studio acquired even before that book was first published in May of 2020. Set many years before The Hunger Games, this prequel will focus on the young Coriolanus Snow (originally played by Donald Sutherland) as he mentors the District 12 tribute at the 10th Hunger Games. Director Francis Lawrence (who directed all of the Hunger Games movies except the first one) was in Las Vegas for CinemaCon to represent Lionsgate this week and to discuss his plans to start directing The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes later this year for the film’s release next year on November 17, 2023. Although he was able to talk about the film, what he didn’t reveal was any of the cast, which remains a mystery for now. In related news, Lionsgate’s presentation also included Keanu Reeves talking up John Wick 4, the confirmation that Ana de Armas will soon start filming the John Wick spinoff Ballerina, and hype for Expendables 4, the classic teen novel adaptation Are You There, God? It’s Me Margaret, the video game adaptation Borderlands, and the Dirty Dancing sequel starring Jennifer Grey.
9. RAPPER BAD BUNNY TO WRESTLE AS MARVEL LUCHADOR EL MUERTO
(Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)
There are a lot of similarities between comic book superheroes and professional wrestlers, as they’re both frequently stacked with muscles and have flamboyant aliases (Dwayne Johnson was “The Rock,” Terry Bollea was “Hulk Hogan,” etc). In Marvel Comics, there have even been storylines where superheroes (and supervillains) took to the wrestling ring, such as in the 1980s when characters like The Thing and Ms. Marvel were members of the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (UCWF). The Marvel Comics wrestler that will be getting his own movie was actually not a member of the UCWF, but will instead be the Mexican luchador El Muerto, a relatively obscure Spider-Man villain first introduced in 2006. The El Muerto movie is being developed by Sony Pictures as one of their roster of films about characters that were first introduced as Spider-Man villains or supporting characters, like Venom (Rotten at 30%), Morbius (Rotten at 17%), and the upcoming films Kraven the Hunter (1/13/2023) and Madame Web (7/7/2023). El Muerto will have the distinction of being the first Marvel Comics movie to have a Latino lead, as the luchador El Muerto will be portrayed by Benito Antonio Martinez Ocasio aka the Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny. Although El Muerto is a relatively obscure Marvel Comics character, he is reportedly getting his own movie because Bad Bunny suggested the character to Sony Pictures following his work for the studio on this summer’s Bullet Train (7/29/2022). Although El Muerto does not yet have a screenwriter or director, Sony Pictures has already scheduled the film for release on January 12, 2024.