This is part of our 2020 Preview. Follow along as we explore all the things that have us mildly hopeful in the new year.
With Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Captain Marvel, and Joker, each bringing home more than a billion dollars at the global box office in 2019, the hunger for comic book adaptations is as insatiable as ever. The new year offers more of the same. Not really.
Yes, the MCU prepares to launch a fresh slate of blockbusters complete with must-see small screen programming on Disney+, and Warner Bros. rises to challenge their dominance with a pair of bright beacons of four-color frenzy, but the product delivered represents restitution for several properties done dirty in the past. Black Widow, your time is now. Harley Quinn, you don’t need that self-serious chucklehead. The New Mutants, we never thought we’d see you. The third time’s the charm for Matthew Vaughn. Valiant Comics, you’re worthy of Marvel and DC, right? Watch out, here comes Netflix! There is a lot to look forward to in 2020, and several excuses to hit up your local comic shop in preparation.
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
After Suicide Squad, the last thing I was aching for was another dip into that miserable muck of machismo. Thankfully, I was not alone. Recognizing the undeniable charismatic charm of Margot Robbie in the role of the Joker’s moll, but ditching the uncomfortably adolescent lingering of David Ayer, Warner Bros. and director Cathy Yan attempt to build a franchise around the joyous trickster using one of the most underrated DC Comics series as their backbone. Birds of Prey looks to be a kickass party movie in which Harley Quinn sheds herself (and frees us) from the routine antics of the Clown Prince of Crime to carve out a proper piece of Gotham for her own. To get the job done, she’s relying on a bevy of fellow street toughs populated by equally charismatic performers. DC is done being dour. Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) is bringing his hyper goth aesthetic, but Harley’s dropping the mallet and unleashing her hyenas on that nonsense. There is no raining on this parade. (Release Date: February 7)
The King’s Man
Technically not based on any particular comic book storyline, but a prequel to a film inspired by the Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons series. This past decade, we lost Matthew Vaughn to the Kingsman films, but he simply refuses to depart until we’re happy with his work. The first film was a stellar adventure oversexed and hyperviolent, but layered in wit and sold by the entirely too delightful duo of Taron Egerton and Colin Firth. The second film…the thrill was gone. In venturing into the history of the Secret Service and its birth amidst The Great War, Vaughn hopes to rekindle the first film’s intoxicating blend of crassness and class. Egerton and Firth are out, but we hardly mind as Ralph Fiennes easily slips into their exceptionally tailored suits. Chip, chip, cheerio – manners maketh man and all that. (Release Date: February 14)
Valiant Comics has long had its sights on a cinematic market. We’ve been promised a Harbinger movie, and a Ninjak flick, but Bloodshot beat ’em to the punch. Are we ready? Do we care? A lot is riding on Vin Diesel, but he often struggles to bring in a crowd minus The Fast and the Furious trappings. First impression? He sure doesn’t look like the chalk-white unkillable assassin from the comics, but the world around him has a vague resemblance to that of the books. Director Dave Wilson has a long history of marketing video game action, and the first teaser gives an indication that his skills in cutting Old Republic trailers will come into good use here, but none of that will matter if he doesn’t deliver a unique mythology. Bloodshot must be more than Universal Solider: Redux. As the first Valiant property onto the screen, the film has to blow minds and leave jaws planted to the floor. If your opening night crowd isn’t screaming, “Oh daaaaayyyumm!” then what hope is there for Ninjak? Still, I’m always rooting for new blood to splatter the arena. (Release Date: March 13)
The New Mutants
I had given up hope. Not only that, I had stopped caring. Along comes the latest trailer, promising to unleash Josh Boone‘s original horrific vision for these marvelous merry mutants, and suddenly, I’m back on board. Was that the Soulsword? Oh, hell yes it was. The 20th Century FoX-Men are dead, long live their rebellious, rageful offspring! Tearing the celebrated “Demon Bear” storyline straight from the comics, and draping it with a dreadful veil of horror, Boone will hopefully take these superhero types where they’ve never gone before – A Nightmare on Marvel Street. Mutation is scary. It’s full-on body horror, and the stuff David Cronenberg’s wet dreams are made of. While The New Mutants won’t offer a splash zone thanks to its PG-13 rating, as long as the film properly mines the psychological torment along with the physical, Boone has an opportunity to provide The Ring-level scares. A tall order, but deliverable now that the film is actually out of the vault. (Release Date: April 3)
The S.H.I.E.L.D. assassin finally gets her due, and she’s already dead. Hurm. Black Widow is a tricky kick-off for the next phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the surface, it does not promise to reveal the grand design behind the next catastrophic Avengers event, but neither did the first Iron Man. What the trailers allude toward is a proper send-off to one of the MCU’s founding figures as well as a passing of the torch to the next generation. If Scarlett Johansson has to go, we can’t ask for anyone better than Florence Pugh. As an added bonus, Kevin Feige‘s crew probably has a better understanding of this character at the start of her journey than they ever did with Natasha Romanoff. (Release Date: May 1)
Wonder Woman 1984
Diana Prince continues her one-woman war on the depravity of man in this neon sequel bopping to a New Order beat. We need that glow almost as much as we need Wonder Woman’s optimism. The darker the gloom outside our window, the more we demand heroes to rekindle the light of hope within. That was the great blessing of the first Wonder Woman. Watching Gal Gadot storm the trenches, taking every single bullet in stride, and revealing the futility of conflict. The bastard on the other side of the bullet is a reflection. We’re only killing ourselves. Once again, Wonder Woman is here to slap some sense into us. (Release Date: June 4)
With Peter Parker still tied up with the Avengers (phew!), Sony Pictures marches forever forward with its SUMC (Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters, yeash). Venom made them a boatload of cash. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse gave them some serious cred. Morbius is here to solidify their flex, and if it doesn’t, that’s okay, Venom 2 is right around the corner. The Living Vampire is a weird strand of Spidey’s web to thread without the wall-crawler present, but not as challenging as the symbiote baddie, so pish-posh apple sauce, never you mind. What do you need to know? Biochemist Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) attempts to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but oops! He transforms himself into an energy or blood-sucking (depending on your canon) vampire instead. He’s not a dark soul. He doesn’t want to feed on just anybody. He wants to use his hunger for humans as an instrument of good! We wish him luck! (Release Date: July 31)
The first film is a whole bucket of awkward crazy, but when Tom Hardy is allowed to dunk his head in the deep end of said mania, the film is a ravenously watchable bit of lunacy. The question becomes, does new director Andy Serkis rein Hardy in, or does he trade lobster tank for a god damn ocean of tasty crustaceans? Considering the addition of Woody Harrelson and his Carnage wig, I don’t think there is any way of dampening the madness on the sequel. Serkis needs to roll with it, adding delicious absurdity wherever available. When all is said and done, and the celluloid is dripping in sinew and blood, there may be no chance for a Tom Holland rumble. Calling Spidey’s greatest nemesis, Dr. Reboot. (Release Date: October 2)
There is a possibility that The Eternals will be as big a revelation for the MCU as were the Guardians of the Galaxy. Their origins are as about as strange as that gang of A-holes, and their comics are even more niche. When Jack Kirby had to dump his New Gods over at DC Comics in 1975, he returned to Marvel, doggedly determined to exorcise his cosmic concepts upon a new batch of galactic superbeings. Spanning thousands of years, The Eternals were the children of Celestials (those giant space gods briefly glimpsed in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie), bred to defend Earth from the warmongering Deviants (who, Neil Gaiman postulated in his 2006 mini-series, were mad because the Celestials grew them to be devoured as a delicacy). Filling out this mondo bizarro roster of weirdos is possibly the most compelling cast of 2020: Gemma Chan, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, Angelina Jolie, Barry Keoghan, Ma Dong-seok, Lia McHugh, Richard Madden, Kumail Nanjiani, and Lauren Ridloff. ‘Nuff said. (Release Date: November 6)
The Old Guard
A group of immortal mercenaries accumulates massive amounts of wealth while applying their trade at the behest of anyone who can afford them. Think your usual mopey vampire saga but trade fangs for frags. Starring Charlize Theron, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and KiKi Layne. From Gina Prince-Bythewood, the director of Love and Basketball and Beyond the Lights. Yo. Need I say more? Coming to Netflix sometime in the very near future. Do yourself a favor and score up all the Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernández comics now. (Release Date: TBD)