If you thought 2011 was kind of a humdrum year when it came to movies, you’ve probably got your hopes held high for 2012.
Does anyone even know what the difference was between Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached? Which one had Ashton Kutcher and which one had Natalie Portman? Wasn’t she in the one with Justin Timberlake? Does it even matter?
For that matter, why did we need to have so many just plain awful superhero movies? By my count, there was Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Green Thor — I mean just Thor — and Captain America. Those last two only even existed in order to flesh out the cast of supporting characters that will don their tights for The Avengers, which is coming out on May 4.
I’m sure I can save everyone the time and admission price by summing it up like this: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) will say a lot of smart-alecky things while some bad guy fails in his attempt at world domination. Certainly the Hulk will rip his shorts and utter his catchphrase “Hulk smash!” Classic.
Since this one movie will feature Iron Man, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Thor, Captain America, and Nick Fury, you’d think that there would be some kind of moratorium on all other comic book superhero flicks. You’d be wrong. Also due out in 2012: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Feb. 17), The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3), The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) and Dredd (Sept. 21).
If you’re looking for other big budget blockbusters without capes and tights, then there is much to whet your appetite and satisfy your hunger, all at the same time. The long-awaited Men in Black III (May 25) brings Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones back together for more sardonic, existential glee, and with bigger and stranger aliens than ever before. Wrath of the Titans (March 30) will pick up where 2010’s Clash of the Titans left off, with fan-boy audiences gleefully repeating “release the Kraken” for about a week before the sadness and disappointment set in with a loud clunk.
The safe money is on Prometheus (June 8), Ridley Scott’s pseudo-prequel to the Aliens franchise but with a new tangent on the extraterrestrial influences on life on earth. Finally, there might be some explanation for Charlie Sheen.
Big budgets don’t necessarily mean big payoffs, unfortunately. The week before MIB III arrives, Battleship (May 18) also lands in the ocean with what is expected to be a hasty sinking. If you’ve seen the trailers that have already hit the web then you’ll know what I mean. Liam Neeson … first Wrath of the Titans and now this? I sure hope that The Grey (Jan. 20) or Taken 2 (Oct. 5) will redeem you.
Maybe we should try to characterize 2012 based on the bookends, those films that will come out at the beginning and the end of the year. Let’s see, 2012 kicks off with a re-release of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Jan. 6), this time in 3-D. On the same day, a low budget paranormal thriller called The Devil Inside arrives.
The first one is part of a larger trend in Hollywood, a trend in which former hits return to the cinemas with reverse-engineered computerized 3-D rendering. It not only means that you’ll someday get to see Gone with the Wind coming right out of the screen, but it also means that smaller budget, more idiosyncratic, character-based film festival fare will have an even tougher time reaching a broader audience.
Other releases that are part of this trend include Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Feb. 10), Titanic (Apr. 6) and Finding Nemo (Sept. 14). I wonder how Jar-Jar Binks is going to become more appealing in extra dimensions. I have my doubts.
At the end of the year, things start to look up. That’s pretty typical. On Christmas Day, there will be the release of two fairly strong and interesting films from two unique auteurs. First, Quentin Tarantino brings us another of his characteristic revenge fantasies, this time called Django Unchained. Jamie Foxx plays Django, a slave who rises up against Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
DiCaprio shows up again in Baz Luhrmann’s version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s elegiac Jazz-era masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. If I could, I would already have my tickets.
Interestingly, Gatsby also stars Tobey Maguire, who hits theatres a week before that in Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, based on the bestselling fantasy and religious allegorical novel by Canadian author Yann Martel. Also due out Christmas Day is Brad Pitt’s zombie apocalypse thriller World War Z.
Right before those two show up, one of the most anticipated films in a decade arrives. It’s just a little movie about a little creature who goes on a very big adventure. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14) finally completes the long adventures of Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf. Well, almost. This is only the first of the two parts, the second of which arrives in December 2013. I can’t wait.
There are many other films that are high on my to-see list. These include The Raven (March 9) with John Cusack as Edgar Allen Poe, Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror (March 16), Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (May 25), and David Koepp’s Premium Rush (Aug. 24) starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, one of my new favourite actors.
For the kids, there are The Pirates: Band of Misfits (March 30), Brave (June 22), Ice Age: Continental Drift (July 13), and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie (Oct. 5), the long-gestating feature-length version of the 1984 short film that brought him his fame and went a long way to help him develop his trademark visual style.
If none of these appeal to you, then you can always check out The Hunger Games (March 23) or the final, final conclusion to the Twilight saga of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Breaking Dawn – Part 2 arrives on Nov. 16. That should satisfy many fans while also giving many other non-fans the freedom to enter theatres once more.