Upcoming Christian Bale Movies To Keep On Your Radar

(Welcome to On Your Radar, a series where we take a look at what's next for the biggest actors and filmmakers, and why you should be excited...or not.)

When you stop to think about it, Christian Bale has led a pretty wild acting career. Since breaking out with his role in Steven Spielberg's WWII drama "Empire of the Sun" when he was just a young teenager, Bale has starred in Disney musicals (both live-action and animated), Queer New Wave cult classics, a trilogy of Batman movies, multiple auteur films, and a movie where he played a weirdly human-like version of Bagheera from "The Jungle Book." He's also become notorious for his disconcerting weight gains and losses for roles (something Bale, thankfully, says he's done with), and he infamously overshadowed his on-screen work with his viral rant on the set of "Terminator Salvation" (an incident which, to his credit, Bale has taken actual responsibility for).

After staying off-screen for the last two years, the Oscar-winner could appear in as many as three films in 2022 (with another one already lined up to follow soon after). And much like the rest of his filmography from the past three and a half decades or so, they're all over the map in terms of their genre, scale, and subject matter.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Bale is biting the bullet and joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe via his role in "Thor: Love and Thunder," Taika Waititi's sequel to his unreservedly silly, bombastic MCU romp "Thor: Ragnarok." The film pits the God of Thunder, his buddy and New Asgard's ruler Valkyrie, and scientist/Thor's ex-girlfriend Jane Foster against Bale's Gorr the God Butcher — a character who, as his name implies, seeks to kill all gods after discovering they exist and failed to help those in need on his dangerous home planet. (Honestly, he seems to have a valid point.) "Love and Thunder" will also intertwine that plot thread with a story about Jane becoming a superhero like she did in the "Mighty Thor" comic books.

Where "Ragnarok" put an inventive spin on the MCU's Norse mythology-inspired "Thor" films, "Love and Thunder" finds itself in the precarious position of having to one-up its successor without merely rehashing it. James Gunn found himself in a similar situation when he made "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," an MCU sequel that's at its best when it's being more soulful and not trying to replicate its predecessor's most inspired comedic bits. And while Waititi will revisit at least one of the best gags from "Ragnarok" in "Love and Thunder," the emotionally mature "Jane Foster gains super-powers" and Gorr stories from the comics may be just what he needs to work his magic again.

"Thor: Love and Thunder" opens in theaters on July 8, 2022.

Untitled David O. Russell Film

Bale is reuniting with his "The Fighter" and "American Hustle" helmer David O. Russell for an as-yet-untitled period movie that also stars John David Washington, Margot Robbie, Robert De Niro, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, and many other big-name actors. Between its killer cast and the filmmaker who directed Bale to his first Oscar win calling the shots, this sounds like a slam-dunk ... right?

Here's the thing: Russell has a long history of being unprofessional and downright abusive on the sets of his movies, as documented by leaked videos and interviews like the one Amy Adams gave to GQ in 2016 about the way Russell treated her during filming on "American Hustle." On top of that, Russell's transgender niece filed a police report against him in 2011, alleging that he sexually assaulted her. Russell even partially corroborated her claims, but the police refrained from filing any charges because (per the Chicago Tribune) "the alleged assault wasn't witnessed by police." And yet, none of this has negatively affected Russell's career in any significant way.

Look, I know the question of separating the art from the artist is a complicated one, but for me personally, this is an easy pass. (Not to mention how underwhelming Russell's last film, "Joy," was, or how he treated original writer Annie Mumolo.) For those still interested, Russell's new movie arrives in theaters on November 4, 2022.

The Pale Blue Eye

In a happier example of Bale re-teaming with a filmmaker, he and his "Out of the Furnace" and "Hostiles" director Scott Cooper are hard at work on their third movie together, "The Pale Blue Eye." Where their earlier collaborations took on the forms of a crime drama and western, respectively, the duo's latest venture adapts Louis Bayard's 2006 murder mystery novel about a retired, reclusive police detective who agrees to take a case involving a supposed death by suicide and, bizarrely, a missing heart at West Point Academy in 1830.

The real twist, however, is that Bale's grizzled sleuth gets some unexpected help on his investigation from a moody young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe (played by Harry Melling). Ideally, Cooper's "The Pale Blue Eye" will paint a far more engaging portrait of the macabre literary icon than a by-the-book biopic could, much like 2020's "Shirley" captured the spirit of Shirley Jackson while telling a mostly fictional story. I haven't really loved any of Cooper's films so far, but his darker storytelling style has me hopeful he will be a good match for this eerie narrative.

"The Pale Blue Eye" is now filming and will stream exclusively on Netflix, conceivably as soon as late 2022.

The Church of Living Dangerously

"The Church of Living Dangerously" marks yet another reunion for Bale and one of his previous collaborators. In this case, it's Charles Randolph, the Oscar-winning co-writer of "The Big Short." Bale will portray real-life Living Hope Church pastor John Lee Bishop, with Randolph penning the script and a yet-to-be-revealed director overseeing the project.

The film adapts David Kushner's 2019 Vanity Fair article about Bishop, which is fully titled "The Church of Living Dangerously: How One of America's Biggest Pastors Became a Drug Runner for a Mexican Cartel." As you've no doubt gleaned at this point, "The Church of Living Dangerously" is a stranger-than-fiction story that takes many a wild turn while raising some major questions about the most powerful institutions in modern America. Randolph recycled a lot of the tricks he used on "The Big Short" in his script for 2019's tepid "Bombshell," but the subject matter in "Living Dangerously" seems to be more in his wheelhouse, so hopefully the results will turn out better this time.

New Regency owns the film rights to "The Church of Living Dangerously," but has yet to set a release date.