My 2022 Pop Culture Outlook
Let’s face it: COVID isn’t going away any time soon. But even so, people can’t stop creating culture, and God bless ‘em for that. In other words, 2022 isn’t even here yet, and it already promises to be chock full of great music, movies, TV shows, and books.
This list is far from comprehensive and contains a lot of quasi-wishful thinking (I’m looking at you, new Cure and My Bloody Valentine albums), but the following are just a few of things that I really can’t wait to hear/see/read in the months to come.
Zones, Drones & Atmospheres by Steve Roach (Jan 14)
Any time ambient maestro Steve Roach announces a new album, I check it out. And given his work ethic, he’ll probably release several albums during the course of 2022. Zones, Drones & Atmospheres — which might be the most Steve Roach-ish album title ever — is being described as “subtle, potent ambient-electronic minimalism” and “an internal opening of the mythic imagination,” which is also very Steve Roach-ish.
Dissolution Wave by Cloakroom (Jan 28)
Cloakroom’s brand of heavy space-rock is as indebted to shoegaze and post-rock as it is metal. Their previous album, Time Well, had some of my favorite tunes of 2017. If early singles are any indication, Dissolution Wave will keep up that trend, with punishing guitars and drums aplenty, and a pretty heavy concept to boot: the album’s a “space western” about musicians rebuilding human society after all art and abstract thought have been wiped out.
From the Womb of the Morning, the Dew of Your Youth Will Be Yours by Ronnie Martin (Jan 28)
What can I say about Ronnie Martin? The man’s a synth-pop genius, as testified by his long recording career as Joy Electric. After a years-long absence, during which he focused on being a pastor and author, Martin returns with a new album of synthesizer goodness. Inspired by the Bible’s wisdom literature (e.g., the Book of Ecclesiastes), From the Womb… is actually the first of four planned albums.
Island on the Moon by Dirk Serries and Trösta
Under the moniker vidnaObmana, Dirk Serries created some of my favorite ambient music of all time. Despite retiring the vidnaObmana name several years ago, Serries has continued recording ambient and drone music. His newest album, Island on the Moon, is a collaboration with saxophonist Trösta, and as the teaser below reveals, the resulting music is full of dreamy, otherworldly atmospherics — which is exactly what you’d expect from such a pairing.
Texas Moon by Khruangbin & Leon Bridges (Feb 18)
Khruangbin’s first collaboration with soul singer Leon Bridges, 2020’s Texas Sun EP, was a match made in heaven. Bridges’ soulful voice pairs perfectly with Khruangbin’s Thai-influenced funk music. So I guess it was only a matter of time before the two reunited for another release. Texas Moon is described as darker and more introspective, but as “B-Side” shows, there’s still plenty of groove.
Sad Cities by Sally Shapiro (Feb 18)
It’s been nearly six years since the enigmatic Sally Shapiro released a new album, but the reigning queen of italo disco is back with Sad Cities. Another collaboration with producer Johan Agebjörn, Sad Cities promises immaculate production, classic beats, shimmering melodies, and Shapiro’s wisp of a voice singing about romance and heartache. In other words, classic Sally Shapiro.
The Cure (TBA)
The Cure’s Robert Smith has been teasing several new albums for years now, and have even performed some new material in recent tours. There was some drama earlier this year with longtime bassist Simon Gallup leaving the band. But Gallup is back onboard and a massive European tour has been announced for 2022, during which new material will be played. Which could, maybe, possibly signify that a new album is imminent.
I know ISON just released a new album in 2021, titled Aurora, which found Daniel Änghede collaborating with a number of female vocalists from the metal and goth scenes. But he’s already been teasing new material on his Facebook page. So could a new album be in the stars for 2022? Rest assured, I’ll be buying it the moment it’s released.
Kendrick Lamar (TBA)
Back in August, Kendrick Lamar announced that his fifth album would be his last one for Top Dawg Entertainment. Beyond that, details are scarce, and Lamar’s own announcement is plenty cryptic: “Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family. While the world around me evolves, I reflect on what matters the most. The life in which my words will land next.”
My Bloody Valentine (TBA)
Much like Robert Smith, Kevin Shields is very adept at promising new material that never seems to, uh, materialize. But there’s always something that gives fans hope. Case in point: Back in March, Shields announced that My Bloody Valentine had two new albums in the works for 2021, neither of which appeared. More than two decades passed between the band’s last two albums — 1991’s Loveless and 2013’s m b v — so hopefully we won’t have to wait that long again.
My favorite shoegazers returned in 2017 with a new album that was everything longtime fans such as myself could’ve hoped for. Since then, the band has performed numerous tours and festival dates while individual members worked on various side projects (e.g., Beachy Head, The Soft Cavalry). But back in the fall of 2020, Slowdive posted several photos on Instagram of them back in the studio, working on their fifth LP. There’s been no official announcements since then, but fans can always hope, right?
The Batman by Matt Reeves (Mar 4)
We don’t really need a new Batman movie, but we’re getting one anyway, with Robert Pattinson taking up the cowl and cape. Considered a reboot of the Batman franchise, The Batman takes place during the early years of the Caped Crusader’s career, and finds him matching wits with the Riddler and the Penguin. I’m really digging the film’s look and feel; it’s gloomy and bleak, but also very noir-ish and atmospheric. The Batman also stars Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman and Andy Serkis as the loyal Alfred.
Everything Everywhere All at Once by Daniels (Mar 25)
Michelle Yeoh stars as the owner of a laundromat who just wants to finish filing her taxes. But that mundane task is made much more difficult when she’s sent on a journey across the multiverse and encounters different versions of herself and her family members. Everything Everywhere All at Once looks trippy as all get-out, especially when you factor in some martial arts, googly eyes, and a raccoon.
The Northman by Robert Eggers (Apr 22)
With The Witch and The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers has established himself as one of American cinema’s most unique voices. His next film, The Northman, will be an epic thriller about a young Viking prince seeking revenge on those who killed his father. The film stars Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, and Björk, and based on the trailer below, promises to be as stylish and atmospheric as it is brutal and bloody.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent by Tom Gormican (Apr 22)
In what might be the most Nicolas Cage movie ever, Nicolas Cage is paid $1 million to attend the birthday party of one of his biggest fans. But when the fan turns out to be a violent drug lord, Cage must recreate some of his most famous characters in order to save his family. This sounds absolutely bonkers, and I can’t wait to see it. The movie also stars Pedro Pascal, Tiffany Haddish, and Neil Patrick Harris.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness by Sam Raimi (May 6)
I was disappointed to learn that Scott Derrickson would not be directing the second Doctor Strange movie. But his replacement is about as good as it gets: Sam Raimi. Raimi has already proven his superhero chops with the Spider-Man movies (we’ll forgive the third one), but he’s also a horror and comedy legend thanks to the Evil Dead movies. All of which will certainly prove handy for the Doctor Strange sequel, which has been described as horror-esque, and finds the Sorcerer Supreme squaring off against his own evil doppelgänger while working with the Scarlet Witch to better understand the multiverse.
Top Gun: Maverick by Joseph Kosinski (May 27)
Along with No Time to Die, Top Gun: Maverick was one of the movies most affected by COVID. Originally scheduled for release in July 2019, the film received multiple delays and pushbacks to the summer of 2022. Tom Cruise reprises one of his most famous roles: hotshot fighter pilot Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who has resisted multiple promotions so he can remain a pilot and instructor in the Navy’s legendary TOPGUN program. Also returning from the original is Val Kilmer as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky, while new faces include Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Ed Harris, Manny Jacinto, and Miles Teller as the son of the dearly departed Goose.
Thor: Love and Thunder by Taika Waititi (Jul 8)
I loved Thor: Ragnarok. Taika Waititi brought an extreme sense of style to the movie, as well as a considerable dose of offbeat humor that worked wonderfully. Presumably, Thor: Love and Thunder will pick up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, with the god of thunder still palling around with Star-Lord, Groot, and the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy. But the movie also sees the return of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who somehow gains the powers of Thor herself, becoming Lady Thor. Which will no doubt come in handy since they’ll be squaring off against Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale).
Mission: Impossible 7 by Christopher McQuarrie (Sep 30)
The best modern action movie franchise returns with its seventh installment. Which I assume means Tom Cruise performing even bigger, riskier stunts — which, let’s face it, is why we watch these movies in the first place. Tom Cruise will be joined by his usual comrades-in-arms (Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson) and will be joined by Hayley Atwell, Vanessa Kirby, Mark Gatiss, and Henry Czerny from the very first Mission: Impossible film.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One) (Oct 7)
2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t just one of the best superhero films of all time; it’s also one of the best animated films of all time, thanks to its breathless and jaw-dropping blend of CGI, cel animation, and comic book design details — and a story that’s by turns hilarious, thrilling, and deeply moving (read my review). Suffice to say, expectations for a new Spider-Verse film — and more wild adventures across the multiverse — are pretty high here at Opus HQ.
Knives Out 2 by Rian Johnson (TBA)
Rian Johnson’s Knives Out is an utter delight of a movie, a smart murder mystery full of twists, turns, and incisive social commentary. So it goes without saying that I want to see even more of Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) solving impossible mysteries. No plot summary has been announced for the Knives Out sequel, but it’s already amassed a stellar cast that includes Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn, Ethan Hawke, Leslie Odom Jr., and Edward Norton. I don’t know about you, but the thought of Kathryn Hahn uttering Johnson’s whip-smart dialog makes me all kinds of giddy.
The Lord of the Rings, Season 1 (Sep 2)
Amazon’s Wheel of Time has been underwhelming, which has probably tempered my expectations for their adaptation of Tolkien’s fantasy classic. Still, this is Tolkien we’re talking about (npi), so I’m contractually obligated to watch. But don’t worry: Amazon’s series won’t be a remake of Peter Jackson’s beloved films. Rather, it’ll be set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the adventures of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. As such, there’s a good chance it’ll focus on Númenor, a powerful island kingdom that was eventually destroyed by Sauron’s machinations.
1899, Season 1 (TBA)
I was utterly enthralled by Netflix’s Dark, a German time travel series with a dense, labyrinthine storyline and mythology. Given the series’ cult status, it was inevitable that Netflix would ink a deal with Dark’s creators, Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar. 1899 is the duo’s next project, about a group of immigrants sailing for New York that encounter another immigrant ship adrift in the ocean — and cue the spookiness and weirdness. But 1899 will be more than just jump scares; the series was influenced by current events, including Brexit and Europe’s ongoing migrant crisis.
Alice in Borderland, Season 2 (TBA)
The first season of Alice in Borderland proved much more engaging than I initially thought it would be. The series, about a group of people who find themselves in an abandoned version of Tokyo and forced to participate in deadly games for survival, ended on a cliffhanger with considerable implications for its world and storyline. Alice in Borderland was based on a long-running manga series, so we could be in for even more seasons of twisted games, gut-wrenching survivalism, and bloody suspense.
Foundation, Season 2 (TBA)
The second season of Foundation has only just begun production, so expecting it to drop in 2022 might be a bit too ambitious. But then, “ambitious” is the perfect word to describe this original Apple series based on Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi epics. Indeed, it might be too ambitious for its own good. Then again, for all its flaws and failings, Foundation’s first season proved quite compelling due its world-building and intriguing characters. Now that season one has done all of the heavy lifting, I hope season two can really dig into the characters and the galaxy’s plight in earnest.
Halo, Season 1 (TBA)
Halo Infinite arrived earlier this month, to considerable acclaim, with many calling it one of 2021’s best video games. Which means that now is the perfect time for the long-gestating Halo TV series to finally see the light of day. But rather than be a simple retelling of the game, the Halo TV series will be set in its own timeline, which allows it to break from game canon. But hopefully not too much. For what it’s worth, I’m hoping that the TV series digs deep into the vast (and convoluted) Halo mythology.
Loki, Season 2 (TBA)
Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has become one of the MCU’s true breakout characters. And indeed, Loki was a showcase for the trickster god, who’s put on trial for crimes against the universe and finds himself chasing himself (sort of, it’s complicated) to the very end of time. A second season is currently in development, and I can only hope we see more of Loki’s interactions with Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius and Sophia Di Martino’s Sylvie. And of course, a whole lot more of Miss Minutes.
The Mandalorian, Season 3 (TBA)
The Mandalorian’s second season ended with Mando handing over Grogu (aka, Baby Yoda) to Luke Skywalker and subsequently finding himself in charge of the entire Mandalorian nation. Presumably, season three will find him navigating the politics of the situation while Grogu begins his Jedi training. And we’ll see who else returns. I know I’m definitely looking forward to some more Greef Karga hijinks.
Moon Knight, Season 1 (TBA)
I love the fact that Marvel is exploring some lesser-known characters with their TV series. Case in point: Moon Knight, which follows the exploits of a former mercenary named Marc Spector who’s given supernatural powers by the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, but at the risk of his own sanity. Oscar Isaac will be portraying Moon Knight, and if that weren’t cool enough, the directing duo of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless, Synchronic) will helm two episodes.
Ms. Marvel, Season 1 (TBA)
Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, has become one of Marvel’s most popular and beloved characters in recent years. Debuting in her own series back in 2014, Khan was Marvel’s first Muslim superhero with their own title. The comic is absolutely delightful, as Khan navigates being a Muslim teenager while exploring her newfound powers. Although Ms. Marvel has appeared in several animated titles, she finally makes her jump to live action, with newcomer Iman Vellani in the title role.
The Sandman, Season 1 (TBA)
Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is one of the most iconic comic book titles of the ’90s, highly praised for its rich and fantastical storytelling. Efforts to bring Morpheus, the lord of dreams, to the screen have floundered for decades, but Netflix is finally doing it, with Gaiman as one of the producers. The series stars Tom Sturridge as the Sandman, who must regain his kingdom of dreams after being imprisoned for over a century. The series also stars Gwendoline Christie, Charles Dance, Jenna Coleman, and David Thewlis.
Star Trek: Lower Decks, Season 3 (TBA)
After a bit of a bumpy start, the animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks has proven to be a real delight, thanks to its humorous and irreverent take on all things Starfleet. Packed full of inside jokes that only a Trekkie could love, Lower Decks is also filled with memorable characters (my favorites are D’Vana Tendi and Sam Rutherford) and hilarious cameos from established Star Trek characters like Q and Riker.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch, Season 2 (TBA)
Most people might be focusing on the various live-action Star Wars series, but I may be more excited by the return of the animated Bad Batch. The unruly and unorthodox group of former Imperial clone troopers may have broken free of Imperial control, but they’re still on the run, taking odd jobs, and protecting a mysterious new clone while dealing with the betrayal of one of their own.
Stranger Things, Season 4 (TBA)
Stranger Things’ third season was something of a mixed bag, and it could very well be that Netflix’s smash hit is running on fumes. There’s a sense of urgency about this fourth season. Not only are the child actors getting older, but as the series’ mythology expands — apparently, season four will work in a ghost story from the ’50s — it risks losing the magic that made it so wonderful in the first place.
Ted Lasso, Season 3 (TBA)
Ted Lasso’s first season was universally beloved, but its second season threw viewers for a loop. Not only did it feature a couple of bizarre episodes (like Coach Beard’s nocturnal adventures), but it felt a little more directionless. And worst of all, it featured a real heel turn by Nate the Great, who became increasingly bitter and vindictive before ultimately betraying AFC Richmond. Will AFC Richmond ever become the champions we want them to be? Will Lasso and Nate patch things up? Will Roy and Keeley’s relationship survive? For everyone’s sake, I hope the answer is “Yes” to all of the above.
Upload, Season 2 (TBA)
At first blush, Upload looked a little too much like The Good Place, albeit with a technological twist. But Amazon’s sci-fi comedy about a man who finds himself uploaded into a virtual afterlife soon established its own gently absurd identity, poking fun at our tech-obsessed world while still delivering an intriguing mystery and some bittersweet character moments. Filming on season two wrapped back in April, so hopefully it won’t be much longer before Upload’s second season begins streaming.
Books & Comics
Silver Surfer: Rebirth by Ron Marz and Ron Lim (Jan 19)
The Silver Surfer is my favorite superhero, and Ron Marz and Ron Lim’s run on the character back in the ’90s still packs quite a nostalgic punch for me. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see them return to the Sentinel of the Spaceways with a story that picks up where their ’90s run left off. The Surfer must team up with Thanos of all people to retrieve a missing Infinity Gem and save all of reality while also dealing with a resurrected Captain Mar-Vell.
Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz (Feb 8)
Dark Horse is the final novel in Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series, which follows the exploits of a former government agent who now uses his elite training to help people in need, while also battling forces and conspiracies from his violent past. The Orphan X novels are the perfect thing for when you just want a good, solid page turner in which each chapter ends on a cliffhanger that compels you to read the next chapter, and the next, and the next…
Memory’s Legion: The Complete Expanse Story Collection by James S.A. Corey (Mar 15)
After having been such a huge fan of the Expanse television series, I’m finally getting around to reading James S.A. Corey’s original novels (and I’m enjoying them). Memory’s Legion collects all of Corey’s short stories and novellas set in the Expanse’s world, as well as the final Expanse story, titled The Sins of Our Fathers.
The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi (Mar 15)
I loved John Scalzi’s Interdependency sci-fi trilogy, which wrapped up with 2020’s The Last Emperox. His latest novel leaves outer space behind, and instead focuses on a group trying to protect fantastical dinosaur-like creatures from another dimension from those who might exploit them. This being a John Scalzi novel, I expect it to be eminently readable with plenty of wit and humor to spare.
The Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss (TBA)
Along with George R. R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, Patrick Rothfuss’ The Doors of Stone has been one of the most anticipated — and delayed — fantasy novels in recent memory. Folks might have given up hope that Rothfuss would ever conclude his Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. But then he read the third novel’s prologue on a livestream, which reawakened hope that maybe, just maybe, The Doors of Stone will be released sooner rather than later.
What music, movies, TV shows, books, and other pop culture titles and phenomena are you looking forward to in 2022? Let me know if there’s anything I’ve missed.