DUBAI: The longest strike in the history of the Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which ran from July 14 to November 9 last year, means that many major movies and shows slated to open this year no longer have confirmed release dates. However, there’s still much to be excited about on the silver screen over the next 12 months, including a slew of superhero and sci-fi epics, intriguing spinoffs, long-awaited sequels and prequels, and some hotly tipped originals. 

Among the latter, look out for Senegalese actor Seydou Sarr’s acclaimed turn in Italian director Matteo Garrone’s “Io Capitano,” a coming-of-age immigration drama that follows two young African men, Seydou and Moussa, as they make the perilous journey from Dakar to Europe. It’s been compared to both “Pinnochio” and Homer’s “Odyssey” — and Sarr’s performance is making waves on the festival circuit.  

We’re also eager to see BAFTA-winning director Mahalia Belo’s “The End We Start From,” a low-key survival drama adapted from Megan Hunter’s climate-change-themed novel, in which Jodie Comer (of “Killing Eve” fame) plays a mother fleeing a flooded London with her newborn baby, desperately trying to find safety.  

Whether either of those films makes an impact commercially as well as critically remains to be seen. Safer bets for box-office returns, as always, lie with established franchises, and 2024 won’t be short in that department.  

Jodie Comer in “The End We Start From.” (Supplied)

There are several films set for release that will flesh out the backstories of successful characters or movies, not least “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga,” in which Anya Taylor-Joy plays a young Imperator Furiosa — previously portrayed by Charlize Theron in director George Miller’s gripping post-apocalyptic adventure “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015). Having been kidnapped by a biker horde as a young girl, the grown-up Furiosa tries to find her way back home through the Wasteland. If it’s even half as good as “Fury Road,” this one will be a lot of fun. 

Meanwhile, the animated fantasy “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim” will take audiences back to J.R.R. Tolkien’s much-loved, much-copied Middle Earth almost 300 years before the events of Peter Jackson’s live-action trilogy from the 2000s to tell the story of Helm Hammerhand, King of Rohan, defending his kingdom from savage human invaders. 

As the name suggests, “A Quiet Place: Day One” focuses on the beginning of the invasion of the sound-sensitive alien killers that terrorized the Abbott family in the two previous instalments of the sci-fi horror franchise. Presumably, there’ll be more dialogue in this one since the new characters won’t yet have learned the consequences of not staying silent.  

“Ballerina” stars Ana de Armas in the title role. (Lionsgate)

Fans of the “John Wick” franchise will get to learn more about the ballerina-assassin named Rooney in “Ballerina,” starring Ana de Armas in the title role (taking over from Unity Phelan). Keanu Reeves’ Wick also makes an appearance. Len Wiseman directs the movie, which is set between the third and fourth installments. 

In terms of superhero movies, the most anticipated of the year is doubtless Marvel’s “Deadpool 3,” in which Ryan Reynolds returns as Wade Wilson, the unkillable, wise-cracking, foulmouthed antihero and forms an unlikely alliance with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to take on “a deadly enemy.” Shawn Levy directs, and the film is due out in May. 

In terms of superhero movies, the most anticipated of the year is doubtless Marvel’s “Deadpool 3,” in which Ryan Reynolds returns as Wade Wilson, the unkillable, wise-cracking, foulmouthed antihero and forms an unlikely alliance with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to take on “a deadly enemy.” (Supplied)

In other Marvel news, “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse,” originally due out in March 2024, should hopefully still see the light of day this year. It’s the third installment in the “Spider-Verse” animated movies centered on Miles Morales and featuring a whole host of incarnations of the web-slinging hero, including one that’s a ninja-vampire. The two previous outings of the trilogy have been brilliant, loved by critics and fans alike. Hopefully they can nail the landing.  

2024 will also see the return of one of cinema’s most popular supervillains, when Joaquin Phoenix returns as Arthur Fleck/the Joker in “Joker: Folie à Deux,” the sequel to Todd Phillips’ acclaimed 2019 “Joker.” Phillips is back behind the camera for this hotly anticipated follow-up to that darkly comic psychological thriller, which will also introduce Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn — a psychiatrist who quickly becomes obsessed with Fleck and begins a romantic relationship with him, with deadly consequences. 

And speaking of sequels, 24 years after his hugely successful original starring Russell Crowe, director Ridley Scott will bring us “Gladiator 2,” in which Paul Mescal plays Lucius — the nephew of Emperor Commodus who was saved by Crowe’s Maximus in the original while a young boy. Having spent 15 years living in the wilderness, Lucius is now a grown man. Egyptian-Palestinian actress May Calamawy also stars.  

The year’s biggest sequel, though, is likely to be “Dune: Part Two,” the second of Denis Villeneuve’s two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic. Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides has united with the Fremen of the planet Arrakis to wage war on those who destroyed his aristocratic family. Villeneuve did a terrific job on 2021’s “Dune,” and we expect the follow-up to be equally gripping. 

If sci-fi is your thing, then keep an eye out for “Mickey 17,” due out in March. It’s the latest feature from acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho (whose 2019 black comedy “Parasite” picked up Best Picture and Best Director Oscars) and stars Robert Pattinson as the title character, an ‘expendable’ space traveler sent on a dangerous mission to colonize an ice planet. When one Mickey dies, another is cloned with most of his memories intact.  


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