Among the sectors that were hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic last year, film industries around the world were one of the worst affected. Shootings were stalled and theatres had to be closed for an indefinite period forcing producers to repeatedly postpone the release of their movies. Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have been a saviour for many, but major production houses still bank on cinemas for the big-budget projects.
Thus, several mega productions which would have otherwise premiered in late 2019 or 2020 haven’t done so yet. Of course, the wait for these highly-anticipated movies has been a trying one for film lovers and makers alike. But with vaccination drives and life slowly moving towards normal, we will finally be able to see some of these movies on the big screen.
Here’s a look at the most highly-anticipated pandemic-delayed movies that you can expect to watch at a theatre this year.
The Tomorrow War
Release date: July 2 (Amazon)
The Chris Pratt film was originally scheduled for release in theatres on December 25, 2020, but a coronavirus-triggered spate of delays led to it being pushed to July 23, 2021. Amazon Studios acquired the film for US$200 million and released it on Amazon Prime Video last week on July 2. The Tomorrow War is one of the major big-budget productions to debut on a streaming platform.
Pratt has become a bona fide blockbuster guarantor following the Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic Park films. In The Tomorrow War, he plays a high school teacher and family man Dan Forester who is among the many in the present time recruited by time travellers for a war against invading aliens in 2051. Yvonne Strahovski and J.K. Simmons play pivotal roles as well.
Expected release date: July 9
Loyal fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have been waiting for this film since the character was introduced in Iron Man 2 (2010). Black Widow was supposed to release on May 1, 2020. Then Disney pushed it to November 6 the same year before moving it to May 7, 2021, due to the ongoing pandemic. Eventually, the company settled on July 9. Fans have kept their fingers crossed.
The film follows the events depicted in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow finds her mysterious past catching up to her, which also includes members of her ‘family.’ Scarlett Johansson returns as the titular character with Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz joining in as two other ‘Black Widows’ — Yelena Belova and Melina Vostokoff, respectively. It will be interesting to watch David Harbour, who is something like a superhero without powers in Stranger Things, play an actual superhero character — Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian.
Expected release date: July 23
Snake Eyes is one of the most famous characters in the G.I. Joe universe. The film tells the origin story of the character before he came to be known as Snake Eyes, the ninja who never speaks and is always masked. Snake Eyes brings together a diverse cast from around the world. British-Malaysian actor Henry Golding essays the titular character while British actor Andrew Koji plays the formidable Cobra operative ninja known as Storm Shadow. Others include Indonesian martial arts legend Iko Uwais as Hard Master, Ghanian-British actor Peter Mensah as Blind Master, Australian actress Samara Weaving as Scarlett and Spanish actress Úrsula Corberó as Baroness. The plot revolves around how Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow started as friends only to end up sworn enemies.
Paramount was set to release the film, then known simply as G.I. Joe, on March 27, 2020. It was then pushed to October 16, and later to October 23. The pandemic subsequently forced the makers to postpone the release by exactly a year, before moving it up to July 23, 2021.
Expected release date: July 30
The Disney film, which is based on the popular theme park attraction of the same name, was originally slated for release in October 2019 but was pushed to July 24, 2020. As the pandemic began spreading across the world, the makers decided to further postpone the release for another 12 months.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall, the adventure fantasy is set in the early 20th century and focuses on the trio trying to find the mythical Tree of Life while encountering all kinds of dangers including a rival German group.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage
Expected release date: September 24
The sequel to Venom (2018), Let There Be Carnage was to be released on October 2, 2020. It was then moved to June 25, 2021, then to September 17 and finally to September 24.
If all goes as planned with the release, the viewers will get to see how the strange relationship that Tom Hardy’s character Eddie Brock has with the alien symbiote, Venom, is moving one year after the events of the first film. The sequel’s title is a reference to its main antagonist — the ruthless Carnage, another alien symbiote similar to Venom whose host body is serial killer Cletus Kasady.
Woody Harrelson plays Kasady while Michelle Williams reprises her role of Anne Weying from the previous film. Naomie Harris has been cast as the villainous Shriek while Stephen Graham joins as Detective Mulligan.
No Time to Die
Expected release date: September 30 (UK), October 8 (US)
Undoubtedly the most anticipated film of this year, No Time to Die is the 25th instalment in the James Bond film franchise. It was supposed to be directed by Danny Boyle but he quit, along with writer John Hodge, following differences with the producers over the script. The makers then hired Cary Fukunaga as the director. This led to the initial delay in the release date from sometime in November 2019 to February 2020 and then to April of the same year. As the pandemic forced theatres to close, MGM and Eon Productions delayed the release to November 12 in the UK and November 25 in the US. With theatres finding no respite from the pandemic, the makers decided to postpone the release to April 2, 2021, and then again to October 8. It was later announced, much to the relief of viewers in the UK, that the film would be screened on September 30 in the country.
Bond fans will be hoping that No Time to Die is not delayed any further. The wait has indeed been excruciating for many especially since the film is coming a full six years after the last Bond film — Spectre (2015). Another reason behind the interest in this film is that it marks the last appearance of Daniel Craig as the fictional British spy.
In No Time to Die, Bond, who has retired from active service and living in Jamaica, is called upon by his friend CIA agent Felix Leiter to help counter a threat that is even more sinister than those he has encountered in the past. Rami Malek takes on the role of Bond villain Safin and Lashana Lynch plays Nomi, the new 007 agent. Among returning stars are Léa Seydoux as Dr. Madeleine Swann, Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Ben Wishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny, Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter and Ralph Fiennes as M.
Expected release date: October 1
In early 2019, Warner Bros. announced that Denis Villeneueve’s Dune will release on November 20, 2020. Within months, the makers pushed it to December 18. As the COVID-19 virus spread, a series of theatrical releases had to be postponed. The domino effect led to Dune getting moved to October 1, 2021. However, the film’s world premiere will be held at the 78th Venice International Film Festival on September 3 this year.
The epic sci-fi film is the first of the two-part series based on the 1965 novel of the same name by Frank Herbert, a book that many once considered to be unfilmable. Set thousands of years into the future, the story revolves around Paul Atreides, the son of a Duke who is forced by circumstances to travel with his father to a dangerous desert planet which is known as the source of “the spice” — an extremely valuable drug that gives humans extraordinary abilities. As his family faces threats from conspirators, he decides to take matters into his own hands.
Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides. His father, Duke Leto Atreides, is played by Oscar Isaac. Also starring in prominent roles are Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Zendaya as Chani, Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck, Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban, Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and Javier Bardem as Stilgar.
The French Dispatch
Expected release date: October 22
Directed by the acclaimed modern-day auteur Wes Anderson, The French Dispatch is one of the most awaited films of 2021. It was originally scheduled for release on July 24, 2020, and was to premiere at Cannes Film Festival before its release, but it could not happen. The film was then set for release on October 16 but was delayed again. It will now premiere at Cannes 2021 in July and will be screened at the 59th edition of the New York Film Festival before eventually hitting theatres on the new expected release date.
According to the distributor Searchlight Pictures, the film “brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city.” Its ensemble cast includes some of the finest performers in cinema today, including Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Elisabeth Moss, Liev Schreiber and Mathieu Amalric.
It is noteworthy that Anderson has received six Academy Award nominations across various categories for his last four consecutive films and one other for his 2001 comedy-drama The Royal Tenenbaums. His films look like moving paintings of the most exquisite kind, glimpses of which can be seen in the trailer of The French Dispatch as well as its official poster which might bring to mind among diligent readers the cover of The New Yorker — the magazine which serves as an inspiration for this film.
Expected release date: November 11
A long-awaited sequel to the original Ghostbusters films, Afterlife is about a single mother and her two children who encounter paranormal activity in a small town where they have moved recently. As they discover their family’s connection to the original Ghostbusters, the children join forces with their friends to tackle a supernatural phenomenon that has started threatening the lives of everyone in the town.
This film is technically the fourth film in the Ghostbusters franchise but a direct sequel to the second film of the series, which was released in 1989. It stars Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd besides Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson who reprise their roles as the original Ghostbusters.
The film was slated for release on July 10, 2020, but was postponed to March 5, 2021. It was pushed again, this time to June 11 before the makers eventually settled for November 11.
Top Gun: Maverick
Expected release date: November 19
When Tom Cruise released the first trailer of this film at Comic-Con International on July 18, 2019, the buzz that ensued was understandable. The sequel comes 30 years after the release of the original — Top Gun (1986), a film that launched Cruise into the elite galaxy of superstars.
Maverick was initially set to release on July 12, 2019, but a decision to delay it to June 26, 2020, was taken almost a year before its initial release date. Paramount then brought the release date ahead by two days to June 24. But the pandemic forced the release date to be postponed again, this time to December 23. Rising COVID-19 cases and conflict with other films further pushed the date to July 2, 2021, before Paramount eventually settled for November 19.
Cruise returns as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a captain with the US Navy who has let go of promotions to continue his passion for flying and is now a trainer. Val Kilmer, who was in the original, is back as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky. The cast includes several new names such as Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Glen Powell and Ed Harris.
West Side Story
Expected release date: December 10
Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the acclaimed 1957 Broadway musical of the same name had completed filming in 2019 and was set for release on December 18, 2020. Eventually, Disney postponed it by one year.
This is the first time the legendary Spielberg has directed a musical, so the anticipation is high. Like the Broadway musical, it revolves around a pair of star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, in New York City of the 1950s and the rival gangs which influence their lives. Ansel Elgort plays Tony while Rachel Zegler is Maria. Others in important roles are Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez and Mike Faist.
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Expected release date: December 17
The delay in the release of the MCU film Black Widow forced the other films in the franchise to be postponed as well. No Way Home is one of them. It was originally set to open in theatres on July 16, 2021. The makers then moved it to November 5 before zeroing in on the current expected date. Thus, if things stand as they are, Spider-Man: No Way Home will be the last big-budget production to be screened this year.
Tom Holland will swing all over New York City once again as our friendly neighbourhood hero and, as Peter Parker, trying to balance his personal life (and love) with Zendaya’s character MJ. Marisa Tomei returns as Aunt May and Jacob Batalon is back as Ned Leeds. Benedict Cumberbatch joins Spider-Man as Doctor Strange. If his appearance in the film is not exciting enough, fans will get to see the return of two iconic antagonists from older Spider-Man films — Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus and Jamie Foxx as Electro. Molina played the same character in Spider-Man 2 (2004) while Foxx played Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014).
These castings and events depicted in the web series WandaVision have led to speculation that Spider-Man: No Way Home deals with the Spider-verse, a fictional multiverse where numerous versions of Spider-Man exist. Whatever be the case, Spidey’s ‘home’ run is certainly getting more exciting.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok
Main and featured images: Courtesy IMDb