It's time for the annual look ahead to the new year's most exciting movies! Which — thanks to COVID-19 — is going to read a lot like last year's look ahead to the new year's most exciting movies. Coronavirus! (Shakes fist at sky.) Ah, well. With the understanding that premiere dates can change, let's dive in:
Black Widow (May 7): Finally, finally, finally Scarlett Johansson gets the movie she's deserved since Natasha Romanoff was introduced in "Iron Man 2." It's a particularly poignant film, given the character's fate in "Avengers: Endgame."
Eternals (Nov. 5): I always considered this group to be one of Jack Kirby's lesser creations — sort of Inhumans Lite. But given the star-studded cast, my opinion might be about to change.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (July 9): A product of the goofy kung fu craze of the late 1970s, Shang-Chi is nevertheless a terrific character that I have followed avidly. Initially he was the son of Fu Manchu, but Marvel has subsequently lost the rights to that character, so Shang-Chi is the son of ... well, somebody else.
The Suicide Squad (Aug. 6): The first "Suicide Squad" fell just short of being a good movie. It sounds like Warner Bros. has figured out how to fix that. There was nothing wrong with Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman or Margot Robbie, so they'll be back. New to the franchise are a bunch of A-list actors — Pete Davidson, Idris Elba, Nathan Fillion, etc. — who are appearing as a bunch of D-list supervillains, including John Cena as probably insane superhero Peacemaker, who's getting his own TV show. James Gunn is directing, and if his "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies are anything to judge by, we're in for a treat.
Untitled Spider-Man Sequel (Dec. 17): There are a lot of rumors about this movie, but precious few facts. It may, or may not, include characters from previous Spider-Man franchises. It may, or may not, include Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). All we can be sure of is that Tom Holland will play the lead, and the word "home" is probably going to be in the title somewhere.
Morbius (March 19): I'm of two minds about Sony's efforts to create its own Marvel Cinematic Universe out of nothing but Spider-Man characters. On the one hand, I don't want them to succeed, because I want them to give up and sell Spidey back to Marvel, where he belongs. On the other hand, I want movies starring characters I've loved all my life to be good. Argh! Anyway, this one stars Jared Leto as a character named Michael Morbius, whose attempts to cure his rare blood disease turn him into a science-based vampire.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (June 25): Here's another Sony-Man effort, a sequel to the Tom Hardy-starring "Venom," featuring the one Spider-Man character I actively despise. These Kids Today love Venom, but the "symbiote" is quite literally a parasite. And when introduced he was a visual in search of a character, whose distinguishing quality was constant threats to eat people. The Eddie Brock version did munch on a guy's brain, and the Mac Gargan version had no problem consuming stray limbs. The character has evolved quite a bit from those days, but for me, there's no coming back from cannibalism.