Monday, June 20, 2011

Twelve Reasons Why 2012 Will Be an Awesome Year for Movies

Article first published as Twelve Reasons Why 2012 Will Be an Awesome Year for Movies on Blogcritics.

2012 will be an awesome year in movies. I'm not sure everyone realizes just how incredible it will be. When I first started tracking cinema news, I noticed a trend almost from the start: virtually every long-term project that attracted my attention had a release date scheduled for sometime in 2012. As time went, some of these were delayed and others were fast-tracked, but 2012 is still shaping up to be one of the greatest years for movies in my lifetime. Here's why.

1: John Carter of Mars.

The Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the seminal works in science-fiction writing of the 20th century. Released between 1912 and 1943, its depiction of Mars as a frontier land comparable to the early American West served an inspiration for Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein, not to mention James Cameron (Avatar) and George Lucas (Star Wars).

Now, for the first time, the books are being adapted to screen, by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton (A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, WALL-E). Stanton is a master storyteller, and this film could be one of the defining science-fiction films of the next decade. John Carter is scheduled for a March 9, 2012 release.

2: The Avengers.

This film has been long in the making. Marvel has been laying the groundwork for this movie at least since the 2008 release of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, though in reality the planning began well before then. Having introduced each of the four main characters in separate summer blockbusters -- Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor (review), and Captain America -- Marvel will bring them together with a number of secondary characters and antagonists in The Avengers. The film will be directed by fan-favorite Joss Whedon (Firefly). Marvel has plans to expand this 'Cinematic Universe' even further after this film, but The Avengers already has the potential to redefine the superhero genre. The Avengers will kick off the 2012 summer season with a release date of May 4, 2012

3: Men in Black III

Okay, so I'm not nearly as excited about this one. I just wanted to round out my list to 12. All the same, it looks pretty cool: the film will star Will Smith (Hitch) as a time-traveling Agent J who returns to the 1960s in search of a young Agent K (Josh Brolin from No Country for Old Men filling in as the young Tommy Lee Jones). The release date is May 25, 2012.

4: Brave.

If I were a little girl, this one would probably make me squeal. Formerly titled The Bear and the Bow, this film will mark Pixar's first outing in the fantasy genre (though this is more properly a fairy tale).

It will be set in "the mystical Scottish highlands" (according to the press release), and will feature the first female protagonist in a Pixar film. In short, this will be Pixar's entry into the Disney Princess canon (which I reviewed here).

Why am I looking forward to it? Because it's Pixar, and that's good enough for me. The release date is June 22, 2012.

5: Star Trek 2 [Untitled].

J.J. Abram's 2009 film Star Trek was a brilliant reboot of a dying series and an ingenious reinvention of the main casts' origin stories. Now the award-winning creator of Lost and Alias returns for more. Abrams has been mostly occupied with his latest project, an homage to Steven Spielberg titled Super 8. This means there are few details released for this film besides the fact that it's going to happen. The film is set to be released June 29, 2012.

6: The Amazing Spider-Man

After Sam Raimi's disastrous Spiderman 3, Marvel decided to reboot the series under helmsman Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer).

The film returns Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield, The Social Network) to his high school haunts, and follows the original comics in emphasizing Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone, Easy A) as the romantic lead. The main villain will be Dr. Curt Conners, a.k.a. The Lizard.

I seem to be one of the few reviewers who actually enjoy the origin stories, and I've followed the work of each of these actors, so this film naturally piqued my interest. The release date is July 3, 2012.

7: The Dark Knight Rises.

Christopher Nolan is one of the premier auteurs of modern cinema. He won his reputation for such mind-bending works as Memento, The Prestige, and Inception. He is also the director of two of the best superhero films ever made: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. This film, The Dark Knight Rises, will be the third and final act in his trilogy of Batman films. I don't think I need to explain it any further. Few things are as certain as death and taxes, but the reliable brilliance of Pixar and Christopher Nolan comes close. The film will star Christian Bale (The Fighter) as Batman, Tom Hardy (Inception) as the villain Bane, and Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada) as Selina Kyle, the woman who would one day become Catwoman. The film will be released on July 20, 2012.

8: The Bourne Legacy.

The first Bourne film (inspired by the Robert Ludlum novel The Bourne Identity, reviewed here) was planned as a trilogy. However, not wanting to waste a perfectly good government conspiracy or a film franchise, Universal Pictures is producing another sequel.

The Bourne Legacy is technically a "sidequel" or spinoff, with Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) as the lead, though not as Jason Bourne but as a new character. Jeremy Renner has been a busy man: in addition to Bourne, he is looking to take over the Mission: Impossible series from Tom Cruise in Brad Bird's 2011 film Ghost Protocol, and will likely star in his own feature film as Hawkeye after The Avengers is released.

This is definitely a film to watch, so keep an eye for its release on August 3, 2012.

9: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II.

The main reason I'm including this is because it's the final volume of the Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, and therefore marks the point at which we won't be seeing it in theaters any more. That's enough to redeem it at least partially in my book. However, simply as a cinematic event, this one will rank beside the close of the Harry Potter series (coming up on July 15) in its impact. I may not like it, but a lot of people apparently do, so keep your eyes on its release date of November 16, 2012.

10: Man of Steel.

After the sputtering failure of Bryan Singer's 2006 film Superman Returns, DC Comics wanted to reboot the series. It hired Zach Synder (300, Watchmen) to direct, and brought Christopher Nolan from the Batman franchise to produce and serve as a creative consultant. Nolan's presence is the main reason I'm excited. Most of the initial reports indicate that Nolan is heavily involved in the planning and even the script-writing. If he can do for Superman what he did for Batman, Nolan could dominate the 2012 box office or even the awards season. This film is set to be released sometime in December 2012.

11: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

After his definitive adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson wandered away from the reservation to direct King Kong, produce District 9 with director Neill Blomkamp, and adapt The Adventures of Tintin with Steven Spielberg.

Now he returns to his Tolkien roots for a two-part adaptation of The Hobbit, a prequel to The Lord of the Rings. The film will star Martin Freeman (Sherlock) as Bilbo Baggins and Richard Armitage (North and South, see review) as Thorin Oakenshield.

This looks to be a fantastic film in all senses of the word, including the unfortunate pun. This film is set for a release date of December 14, 2012.

12: 1906.

Brad Bird is a veteran of the animation world, with such classics as The Iron Giant and Pixar's The Incredibles to his name. In December 2011 he will make his first foray into live-action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol starring Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner. The following year he will direct another project, 1906, based on a book by James Dalessandro. According to the author, this was his pitch to studio executives: "Titanic was a boat in the North Atlantic. This is an entire city, the most beautiful we've ever seen, destroyed in 40 hours." This sparked a bidding war and the script was sold within 24 hours to Warner Bros. This will be a disaster film of truly epic proportions, and definitely one to keep your eye on. The film is set to be released on December 14, 2012, though this date may be moved to avoid being released in the same weekend as The Hobbit.

Honorable Mention: Monsters University.

2012 was originally going to mark the first time that Pixar Studios released two films in the same year: the medieval fantasy Brave (see #4 below), and this project, a prequel to Monsters, Inc. Unfortunately this project was delayed, so instead of being released on November 2, 2012, this film will come out in the summer of 2013. In case you are worried that it is is sequel and not an original project, just remember that we're talking about Pixar, and they have a pretty decent track record for their sequels: Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, and the forthcoming Cars 2 (a action-adventure spy film featuring Michael Caine). Pixar doesn't do sequels unless they have a story to tell: that's why they've held back from a long-anticipated sequel to The Incredibles.

Honorable Mention: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters.

Admittedly, the first film, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, was pretty bad. But the first book (reviewed here) was almost infinitely better, and that holds true for its sequels. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan is one of the best young-adult series I've read, and its spin-offs are likewise thrilling. If the new director (Thor Freudenthal) and new writers (Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski) can pull the franchise back from the brink, this could be a phenomenally successful series and a worthy successor to the Harry Potter franchise. The release date is tentatively set for late 2012.

Honorable Mention: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn.

I've been looking forward to this film since I was a little boy. "The Adventures of Tintin" are a series of comic books drawn by the Belgian artist Georges Remi, better known as Hergé.

Tintin is not just for kids. Hergé's early works were fairly straightforward wish-fulfillment fantasy, but after a conversation with a Chinese friend, he realized the potential impact of his work, and began to invest considerable research (both historically and scientifically) into the series. For instance, his breakthrough work is  The Blue Lotus (review), a historical fiction detective-mystery based on the Manchurian Incident of 1931 and the ensuing Sino-Japanese War.

His work, alongside that of Alan Moore (Watchmen), was crucial in legitimizing the comic book and graphic novel as legitimate forms of art and literature. Hergé was cited as a major influence by Andy Warhol, and his work is even today renowned throughout Europe.

So it was something of a big deal when Peter Jackson (The Fellowship of the Ring) and Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark) announced in 2007 that they would collaborate on a trilogy of films adapting the Tintin saga to the big screen. The first of these films would be based on three books: The Crab with the Golden Claws (review), The Secret of the Unicorn (review), and Red Rackham's Treasure (review).

I won't even mention the fact that the stunning 3D-capture technology and technique used by James Cameron in Avatar was originally developed by Jackson and Spielberg for this film. Nor will I mention that two of the greatest screenwriters of our time, Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim v. The World, review here) and Steven Moffat (Sherlock), are working together on the script.

The only reason this gets an honorable mention instead of the top billing is that it's scheduled for release on December 23, 2011, a mere eight days too early. On the other hand, that's eight fewer days we have to wait.

So there's the list! Twelve reasons, plus change, of why 2012 will be one of the best years in recent memory to be a theater-goer. What films are you looking forward to?

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