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All things geek: Is 2020 the year of the sleeper hits?

Matthew Lane • Feb 12, 2020 at 7:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Oscar season is officially over. Hollywood has had its Super Bowl, the awards have all been handed out and the rambling, pointless speeches have been given. And for the most part, it’s time to get back to watching the movies we actually enjoy watching.

However, there was one exception during the awards season this year — “Joker” — which brought home two Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the Clown Prince of Crime.

Even though “Joker” is not a traditional comic book movie in the vein of “The Avengers” or “Justice League,” it is an amazing work of cinema about one of the most iconic villains in all of comic book lore.

Take that, Scorsese.

Now as it stands, this year’s slate of comic book, geek-related movies is rather interesting in my mind. For the first time in years, there’s not an epic sequel in the lineup with a ton of major characters. Plus, we’re seeing lesser-known commodities take center stage.

This year may be the year of a number of sleeper hits. Or it might just be a total bust, and we’ll have to find our solace with the comic book shows on Disney-Plus and the CW. At any rate, here’s a quick rundown on some of the movies I’m looking forward to this year.

“Birds of Prey” (Feb. 7) — The follow-up to 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” “Birds of Prey” has been in theaters a little less than a week, and so far it’s getting plenty of good reviews. Rotten Tomatoes has certified the movie as “fresh,” with a rating from fans and critics at both 80%. It’s the second R-rated movie in the DC Extended Universe and tells the story of Harley Quinn after her split from the Joker. The hammer-wielding lunatic joins up with the Huntress, Black Canary, and Renee Montoya (of the Gotham City Police Department) to save Cassandra Cain (who was Batgirl for a while) from the villainous Black Mask. I’m hoping to add to its $80 million global box office in the coming days.

“Bloodshot” (March 13) — This Vin Diesel led flick tells the story of Raymond Garrison and his transformation into the nanite-infused, super-solider named Bloodshot. It’s the first such movie made about a Valiant Comics character, and apparently the powers-that-be imagine future movies will be made about other characters in the Valiant Comics universe (X-O Manowar or Turok maybe?). I’m a fan of Valiant Comics and firmly believe its titles from the ’90s were some of the best books on the rack. However, after watching the trailer for “Bloodshot,” I’m not exactly excited about its promise. I’m thinking this might just be a rental.

“New Mutants” (April 3) — Good Lord, will this movie ever come out? It was originally slated to air in April 2018, but it got delayed for reshoots. Then it got delayed again. And again. Here’s what I wrote last year about the movie: “The team is a group of teenage mutant ‘superheroes in training’ or basically, the next generation of X-men. It’s a horror movie and not your standard superhero beat-em-up.” The trailer looks good, I like most of the people in the movie and it could truly be a sleeper hit. But it’s from Fox, so who knows?

“Black Widow” (May 1) — Natasha Romanoff has been picking up after the boys for the past 10 years, and she finally has a solo movie under her pouch-filled belt. It’s something that’s long overdue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and one I’m looking forward to. Remember, only Robert Downey Jr. has paid more dues than Scarlett Johansson. The movie takes place in the aftermath of “Captain America Civil War” and dives into the backstory of our favorite femme fatale spy/assassin/super-heroine. David Harbour (of “Stranger Things”) plays Red Guardian and Taskmaster is one of the main villains. How can you not be excited about this?

“Wonder Woman 1984” (June 5) — I just have one question. How in the world is Patty Jenkins bringing back Steve Trevor? He got blown to bits over a German airbase in the first film. I could speculate on his apparent resurrection. Since Maxwell Lord (played by Pedro Pascal) is one of the main villains and has mind control powers, it could be he makes Diana think Steve is alive and well in 1984. It could be time travel, or alternate dimensions or the work of the gods. I have no idea. I only hope it makes sense (in a comic book state of mind). Honestly, I’m just stoked about seeing the big screen debut of the Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah. Go ahead, Google the character. You know you’ll agree.

“Morbius” (July 31) — Jared Leto goes from portraying the Joker in “Suicide Squad” to playing the living vampire for Marvel Studios. Since Sony has had a couple of hits with its Spider-verse movies, why not make a movie about an obscure ’70s vampire named Michael Morbius? Let’s be honest — only comic book nerds know about this character, and if it wasn’t for the success of Venom, this movie would never see the light of day. So what? The trailer looked good, I’m digging its horror vibe and we get to see the return (albeit brief) of Michael Keaton’s Vulture. I’m rooting for Sony to keep its streak alive.

“Venom 2” (Oct. 2) — Less than three months after the release of “Morbius” comes the return of Eddie Brock with “Venom 2.” The 2018 film was a surprise hit (raking in more than $856 million worldwide) and was a much better movie than I ever thought it would be. As teased in the first film, the main villain this time around is Carnage (played by Woody Harrelson) — a serial killer who becomes the host of one of the alien symbiotes. It’s being directed by Andy Serkis (the motion capture acting king) and hopefully, there will be a surprise appearance by Tom Holland.

“Eternals” (Nov. 6) — Here’s Marvel’s gamble of the year. One of the least known groups of super-powered individuals in the entire Marvel universe and they’re headlining their own movie. Cheat sheet time (per Wikipedia: The Eternals are an immortal race of aliens created by the Celestials, who have secretly lived on Earth for over 7,000 years and fight to protect humanity from their evil counterparts, the Deviants. Not exactly Captain America and the Avengers right? But who knows. Marvel made a billion dollars or two with the “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man.” Anything’s possible, I guess.