Upcoming Fantasy Movies To Keep On Your Radar

2022 will have lots of options for fantasy lovers when it comes to new TV shows. Amazon's costly "Lord of the Rings" series will make its debut that year, as will HBO's "Game of Thrones" prequel "House of the Dragon" and Disney+'s "Willow" sequel show. Elsewhere, Netflix will have multiple fantasy offerings for viewers to choose from, including its live-action adaptation of the "Sandman" comic books, the "Witcher" prequel miniseries "The Witcher: Blood Origin," and an animated event series based on the fantasy-themed card game "Magic: The Gathering."

With films, however, it's a different story. Long gone are the days when fantasy epics, adventures, and/or comedies flooded into theaters the way they did in their 1980s heyday. Sadly, there's a reason for that: a lot of now-beloved cult fantasy titles released over the last several decades bombed at the box office, paving the way for superhero movies and comic book adaptations to gradually take their place. Even the Wizarding World has seen its luster diminish in recent years with the "Fantastic Beasts" films, which have so far fallen well short of the benchmark for success set by the "Harry Potter" movies.

But fear not, fellow fantasy film enthusiasts! If "Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore" doesn't interest you, there are other items on the menu for 2022. Let's break them down, shall we?

Turning Red

As Andrew Tejada wrote about in a great article for Tor last year, there's been a problematic trend of recent animated movies focused on characters of color featuring stories where the protagonist spends much of the runtime transformed into an animal or fantastical entity. Pixar's next animated movie, "Turning Red," similarly revolves around a main character, 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl Meilin "Mei" Lee, who turns into a giant red panda when she gets stressed out. Fortunately, there's reason to believe "Turning Red" will buck this frustrating trend by employing its conceit much more sparingly and allowing Mei to be her literal self more often than not.

Why do we think that? Because "Turning Red" was co-written and directed by Domee Shi, the Pixar veteran behind 2018's "Bao," the studio's terrific, Oscar-winning short about a lonely Chinese-Canadian mother who makes a steamed bun (baozi) that magically comes to life. Shi not only managed to serve up a funny, touching story about the experiences of Asian immigrants and their children with "Bao," she did it all in a matter of minutes. And so far, the trailers for "Turning Red" suggest it will touch on related issues in a way that's quirky, moving, and, fingers crossed, gives the non-panda-fied Mei the spotlight.

"Turning Red" will open in theaters on March 11, 2022.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Most of the MCU's superheroes have powers firmly rooted in sci-fi, based on the (perfectly valid) idea that "magic" is just science we don't understand yet. Thankfully, this year's "WandaVision" used that as a springboard to delve even deeper into the realm of pure fantasy by playing up Wanda Maximoff's chaos magic abilities and introducing the Darkhold. (Yes, I know it technically showed up on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." first.) Up next, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" will bring the Scarlet Witch and Sorcerer Supreme together for what looks to be one of the franchise's most mind-bending (and hopefully scary) outings so far.

While it's a shame that "Doctor Strange" director Scott Derrickson isn't returning for the sequel (although it did free him up to make "The Black Phone," so ... fair trade), it's made up by the fact that Sam Raimi has taken his spot. The "Evil Dead" and "Spider-Man" trilogy mastermind hasn't helmed a feature-length film since 2013's "Oz the Great and Powerful," so a horror-tinged, multiversal fantasy romp seems like an excellent way for him to make his comeback. That is, assuming Raimi's trademark gonzo style isn't watered down too much by the extensive reshoots "Multiverse of Madness" is undergoing.

"Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness" arrives in theaters on May 6, 2022.

Black Adam

Most of Dwayne Johnson's recent movies haven't done much for me. Too many of them have felt like someone engineered them by using an algorithm and failed to give The Rock anything challenging or unpredictable to do as an actor. Keeping that in mind, I am cautiously optimistic about "Black Adam," a film that grants Johnson the chance to straddle the line between playing a villain and an antihero for the first time since ... "Pain & Gain"? It's been a hot minute.

Johnson has spent years hyping "Black Adam" as a faithful take on the hardened, magic-fueled character, and this year's DC FanDome first look held up its end of the bargain, showing his character, Teth-Adam, electrifying an unlucky tomb raider to a crisp. The movie also reunites The Rock with director Jaume Collet-Serra, who had to temper his darker inclinations on the pair's "Jungle Cruise" film adaptation but should have more freedom in the DCEU to tap into the energy of his schlocky thrillers like "Non-Stop" and "The Shallows" (many of which I thoroughly enjoyed). As for how this movie will fare when it comes to MENA representation, well, watch this space in the future.

"Black Adam" stomps into theaters on July 29, 2022.

Dark Harvest

We could always do with more Halloween-themed dark fantasy movies, which is part of what makes "Dark Harvest" so exciting. Further aiding its cause, the film hails from David Slade, the director who brought loads of disquieting atmosphere and style to the thrillers "Hard Candy" and "30 Days of Night," as well as his collaborations with showrunner Bryan Fuller on "Hannibal" and "American Gods."

"Dark Harvest" adapts Norman Partridge's 2007 novel about a nameless, dead-end Midwestern town where, every Halloween, a group of teenage boys undergo a grisly rite that pits them against a pumpkin-headed, butcher knife-swinging creature known as Sawtooth Jack (among other names), with the winner landing the coveted "October Prize." It's an alarming social parable that's drawn comparisons to famous stories like Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," and that's more than enough to get me onboard.

Relative newcomer Casey Likes and E'myri Crutchfield ("The Kicks," "Fargo") are starring in "Dark Harvest," which is scheduled to debut in theaters on September 9, 2022.


Belated sequels to comedies have historically proven to be a bad idea, but I love "Enchanted" enough to give its long-awaited followup, "Disenchanted," a shot. Going on 15 years in the making, the movie finds the bubbly, singing, formerly animated Giselle (Amy Adams) in a bit of a rough patch, now that she has to deal with the reality of what "Happily Ever After" actually entails. Like its predecessor, "Disenchanted" is also a full-fledged musical that features brand-new tunes by EGOT winner Alan Menken and brings back Adams' "Enchanted" co-stars Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden, and Idina Menzel.

That all sounds great on paper, but there's no getting around the fact that much has changed since Adams led a show-stopping musical number around Central Park back in 2007 – so much that it's hard not to suspect "Disenchanted" will come across as little more than a stale blend of satire and sweetness. Here's hoping director Adam Shankman ("Hairspray," "Rock of Ages") and his team will surprise everyone or, if nothing else, deliver some cheery song-and-dance sequences.

"Disenchanted" will begin streaming exclusively on Disney+ sometime in Fall 2022.

Hocus Pocus 2

On the topic of delayed sequels to Disney fantasy comedies, the rumors are true: "Hocus Pocus 2" is finally coming to fruition nearly 30 years after the Sanderson Sisters rose from the grave thanks to some disbelieving virgin having the gall to light the Black Flame Candle. Bette Midler, Katherine Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker are returning as Winifred, Mary, and Sarah in the film, with Anne Fletcher ("27 Dresses," "Hot Pursuit") directing and Whitney Peak ("Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"), Lilia Buckingham ("Crown Lake"), and Belissa Escobedo ("American Horror Stories") playing a trio of high-schoolers who do battle with the ridiculous yet undeniably dangerous witches.

As with "Disenchanted," it seems part of the reason "Hocus Pocus 2" finally got a green light is because, frankly, Disney needs more films to release as exclusives on its streaming service. Don't get me wrong: I'm rooting for both movies to defy the odds and offer a welcome dose of fantastical silliness, but I'm also not kidding myself about why they're happening now or pretending that either of them are surefire home runs.

"Hocus Pocus 2" will stream on Disney+ in the fall of 2022.