Warning: SPOILERS for various 2021 releases are going to crop up during this discussion of the year in film. Pay close attention to the lineup and feel free to come back once you’ve caught up on specific titles.
2021 was the year we went back to the movies. For better or worse, and while still not at the numbers we experienced pre-pandemic, this was the time that theaters massively re-opened their doors, and history was to be made. Not all of those memories were on a balance sheet though, as there were movies that made themselves known as forces to be reckoned with merely in the realm of discussion.
As we’re wont to do here at CinemaBlend, it’s time to look at 2021’s big ticket releases and pick out the movies we’ll still be talking about in 10 years. It’s a varied bunch, and if you haven’t seen any of these movies, pay close attention to the titles we’re about to display; just so you can avoid spoilers.
No Time To Die
Where better to start our list than with No Time To Die, a movie that was delayed several times and rewarded for maintaining its theatrical exclusivity. Testing the James Bond brand through an extended period of promotion, the movie itself packed a controversial finale when it finally debuted this past fall. The 25th Bond movie saw the man himself perish, and even those in the know from square one were taken aback.
Daniel Craig’s 007 was apparently always fated to die, and keeping it a secret for the past 15 years is something that has to be applauded. Co-writer/director Cary Joji Fukunaga’s film also deserves such applause, as it turned the Bond franchise into more of a dramatic exercise, while still giving us all the action and quips we could want. No matter where James Bond goes after this film, the twists and turns made here will be discussed for years to come.
West Side Story
In the year of the musical, Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake gave the world quite a few subjects to discuss. The overall point of whether or not the genre is dead or not, as well as whether or not the film needed to be remade, are both entry level discussions. Throw in an elephant in the room pertaining to Ansel Elgort and his own personal scandals, and you’ve got a recipe for discourse stew. Putting all of that to the side, there are greater points that will probably carry all talk into the next decade and beyond.
Steven Spielberg finally got to make his musical, and the results have landed rather well with fans in the immediate aftermath. However, the film is a financial flop, which only opens the door to argue whether or not Disney should have released the film in another release window. Is the musical dead or did this particular product find itself eaten up by an error in timing? Time will definitely tell, as this reinterpretation of West Side Story seems to have the bones of either a cult classic or a movie that could find its legs in the long run.
House Of Gucci
Can a biopic trying to tell a true story still be sexy, funny or just plain old soapy fun? Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci might be the movie to answer that question, and more, as it delivers an unconventional approach to “unconventional punishment.” As far as awards season buzz goes, Lady Gaga’s performance as Patrizia Reggiani seems to be the movie’s key to potentially golden glory; which we’ve already seen with some of the early awards races to have begun their run.
Then there’s the fallout that will eventually come from the continued responses of not only Reggiani herself, but also the heirs to the Gucci name, when it comes to the accuracy of the story portrayed on screen. Future biopics may have to adjust their approach even more when it comes to just how much input the real figures involved in said events have over the final product. At the very least, House of Gucci may find itself finally rid of the discourse surrounding Jared Leto’s accent/performance; though that’s probably easier said than done.
Zack Snyder’s Justice League
They said it couldn’t be done. They said it didn’t exist. They even said it’d be a waste of time, and that no one would watch it. Zack Snyder’s Justice League defied all of those expectations, and it did so with a mere streaming-only release. An over four-hour epic that gave the director his final say on what Justice League should have been, this massive film only exists because fans willed it to be at the right time.
Showing that with the right exclusive, your burgeoning streaming platform could benefit from a fanbase’s loyalty, we can now debate whether this is the way to go for “fan favorites” that didn’t get a fair shake. Of course, that’s in between efforts to finally “Restore The Snyderverse,” as the Snyder Cut can now be seen and owned by one and all. Thanks to this success story, that battle will rage on a little longer, with a fanbase’s resolve strengthened by the results.
Daunting tasks aren’t just for alternate cuts demanded by the fans. Author Frank Herbert’s Dune has always been one of those films legendarily deemed “unfilmable,” with many attempting and few succeeding. In light of the storied past of the property, director Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation blew the doors off of that assumption. He delivered proof that with the right approach, you can make a dense literary monolith more accessible, with just enough crazy to entice viewers to demand a Part Two.
Thanks to the results in both its theatrical and streaming run, it’s Muah'Dib time yet again for Timothée Chalamet and the cast, as Dune: Part Two is about to go into production in the months to come. Whether that second half lands or flops, we’ll always talk about how Dune: Part One left it all in the sand and came back a victor. And if anyone wants to revisit the simultaneous streaming model, this is one of those cases that’d bolster the argument for those in favor of HBO Max’s big 2021 experiment.
Legacy-quels are a hot commodity, and the backlash and acceptance of that concept is present in the last three entries to this list. Ghostbusters: Afterlife feels like a great place to start, as that film’s handling of legacy has only grown as a point of order since the film’s release. Above all other subjects, you can expect questions about whether or not reviving Harold Ramis’ Egon Spengler through CGI was the right move to rule the roost in the immediate future.
Of course, the discussion about whether or not the next generation of Ghostbuster or the OG cast benefited more from Jason Reitman’s turn at the franchise wheel will only rage on. Ghostbusters 4’s fast-tracked development will carry that torch for some time, especially since the ending of Afterlife does seem to favor the original cast’s prospects a bit more in the post-credits teases. Finally, expect Ghostbusters: Answer The Call’s place in that legacy to be defined a bit more definitively, thanks to the subject of the 2016 spin-off/reboot being excluded from the franchise box set giving Paul Feig a chance to put his entry back into consideration. (And rightfully so.)
Spider-Man: No Way Home
Whoo boy, does Spider-Man: No Way Home have a lot of potential discussion surrounding its very release. As Disney’s joint venture with Sony seems to have cut into not only one, but two of the studio’s Christmas releases from 20th Century Studios, the discourse around Nightmare Alley and The King’s Man seemingly not getting a fair shake is not going away. With some pushing for Tom Holland’s third solo MCU adventure to get a Best Picture nomination, you’d better gird your loins for some piping hot discussions to come. Controversy and hot takes aside, the thematic implications of Spider-Man: No Way Home more than carry weight in future roundtables on the movie’s shocking turn of events.
Removing Peter Parker’s identity from the concept of Spider-Man is enough of a mind-bender, but with the multiverse in full throttle, there’s a lot of potential for this particular Marvel brand to swing into action. How the future of Tom Holland’s Spidey will connect to the MCU is a hot topic. Even greater is the implication that, thanks to the complete legacy of Spider-Men being invoked in this story, we might see Tobey Maguire and/or Andrew Garfield get another crack at their own incarnations. So many webs to untangle, and so little time.
The Matrix Resurrections
We started the list talking about having the guts to break from tradition and deliver a movie that deserves to be talked about. Bookending that very point, no other movie has been as richly divisive as co-writer/director Lana Wachowski’s The Matrix Resurrections. After months of theories and anticipation, the movie that found its way into the hands of its fans was part meta commentary, part love story and all new compared to what the original Matrix trilogy gave us.
Some think that’s a disappointment, while others believed it was a refreshing change of pace. Both viewpoints are valid, but the truth that stands high above all of the noise is that Ms. Wachowski stayed true to her own vision, and The Matrix Resurrections came from the heart. It may be used as a case for why simultaneous streaming debuts might not work, depending on where the numbers eventually land, and that’s an argument for another day. But the greater talking point will be where, and how, Neo and Trinity’s fourth adventure fits in the greater Matrix universe.
Heading into the new year is exciting on so many fronts, with the future of cinema full of wonderful potential. If you’re feeling a little reflective over the next couple days, or need some easy conversation starters for a New Year’s celebration you’ll be attending, feel free to toss any of these thought grenades into the party. Don’t forget, if you want to cool things down in-between each film’s discussion, you can always open the floor to talking about which 2022 movies everyone’s excited to see.
CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.
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