It is almost summer once again and fantasy, science fiction and horror films rule the roost. This summer has three strong superhero contenders, each poised to possibly take the crown as the best superhero movie committed to film: a bat, a spider, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. A famed director returns to the franchise that cemented his name in genre history as one of the greatest directors of his time. A beloved fairy tale gets another retelling with a popular star championing her challenge to an evil Queen’s rule. Hollywood’s strangest director-actor dream team reunite once again to update a Gothic horror favorite. Another Hollywood star returns to a franchise he helped launch 15 years ago only to travel 40 years into the past. The Joes fight for survival of the world and their franchise. Nineteenth century undead confederates face the fiercest vampire slayer ever known to man during the Civil War. And Tim Riggins joins the Navy to battle an advancing alien armada in a battle of strategy, gun-play and special effects. Here they are: the top 10 fantasy, science fiction and horror films of the summer of 2012.
(May 4 – Paramount)
Official Site: http://marvel.com/avengers_movie
Dir: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Paul Bettany, and Clark Gregg
Fan favorite director, Joss Whedon, writes and directs the film that brings Marvel’s hottest cinematic properties together in one film. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark, Iron Man. Chris Evans is Steve Rogers, Captain America. Chris Hemsworth is Thor. Mark Ruffalo is Dr. Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk. And Samuel L. Jackson is Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Add in Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and you have Marvel’s The Avengers, the first big action, superhero flick of the Summer of 2012. When Thor’s evil brother, Loki, threatens all of mankind, Nick Fury assembles Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together to face Loki’s advancing armies.
With The Avengers, Marvel will complete their goal of building the cinematic world equivalent to their comic universe, a culmination of years of planning and seeding beginning with Iron Man in 2008. The trailers so far are promising spectacular visual treats and are events in and of themselves. Iron Man, Captain America and Thor are all fantastic entries into the superhero movie genre. Even their least successful film, The Incredible Hulk, isn’t too shabby of a product. All the films hint at the coming of The Avengers, combining each of the properties into a single movie. Expectations are high, anticipation is that much higher. The Avengers should be the highest grossing film of the summer, if not the entire year – depending on the final tallies of one Katniss Everdeen. Joss Whedon should deliver the most exciting and sensational superhero of all time. It’s a hit, an epic hit.
(May 11 – Warner Brothers)
Official Site: http://darkshadowsmovie.warnerbros.com/index.html
Dir: Tim Burton
Cast: Johnny Depp, Eva Green, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Gulliver McGrath, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, and Bella Heathcote
The quirky, stylized and accomplished director, Tim Burton, resurrects the 200-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins from Dan Curtis’ Gothic soap opera that ran from 1966-1971. Both he and star Johnny Depp are professed fans of the source material bringing their affection and their unique style to the updated version. The movie’s plot centers around Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley) unearthing and reviving Barnabas (Johnny Depp) in 1972 where the vampire then attempts to reintegrate into the modern Collins family until Angelique, the witch who cursed him 200 years ago, returns to complete her revenge. The trailer infers that Burton’s Dark Shadows plays the material more for laughs than scares, serving up the vampire versus witch and monster out of time angles.
This is a tough call. Mixed expectations and uneven hype could make this a miss as much as it should be a hit. The tone and feel of the trailers promise a return to form for Tim Burton with a zany, bizarre touch and exposition resurrecting fond memories of Edward Sissorhands and Beetlejuice. I’m not convinced the general public is ready for this vision of this property at this time. However, I’m stoked; it looks fantastic and all kinds of wicked bizarre. The unconventional approach to bringing Dark Shadows in front of modern audiences is a risky proposition. It all depends on how the comedy and the horror aspects of Burton’s version reflect and respect the source material. It’s a miss, sadly – but only with its box office, creatively it should be a cult classic in the making.
(May 18 – Universal Pictures)
Official Site: http://www.battleshipmovie.com/
Dir: Peter Berg
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker, and Rihanna
Peter Berg, the director of Hancock, returns with Friday Night Lights alum Taylor Kitsch to re-envision the Hasbro Battleship board game as a science fiction naval war film. Liam Neeson, Alexander Skarsgard, Brooklyn Decker, and Rihanna join Kitsch against the alien invaders. Early trailers illustrate astonishing (and expensive – $200 million budget) special effects that make the film look like a cross between Transformers and Independence Day. It’s the naval fleet versus an alien armada in spectacular end-of-the-world fight-for-survival scenario.
As much as it shouldn’t matter, it regrettably does – Taylor Kitsch is coming off the biggest financial disaster of recent memory, Walt Disney’s John Carter which reportedly lost $200 million. And this film is a tougher sell: a board game mixed with the science fiction alien invasion genre featuring pop diva Rihanna. So far the trailers are extremely confusing, making the film appear like a bastard stepchild of the Transformers movies. The film seems to be struggling for its own identity. However, the special effects do look phenomenal and may save the film. But they’re going to have to be the best damn special effects ever committed to film. It’s a miss.
Men in Black 3
(May 25 – Amblin Entertainment)
Official Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/meninblack3/
Dir: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Alice Eve, Emma Thompson, Bill Hader, and Lady Gaga
Agent J and Agent K return to the big screen for a third installment in the Men in Black franchise directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. When an alien criminal named Boris (Jemaine Clement) travels back in time to eradicate Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) removing him from the present, Agent J (Will Smith) must also go back to 1969 to prevent the assassination of his partner. Josh Brolin plays a young Agent K with Emma Thompson and Alice Eve playing Agent O decades apart. Nicole Scherzinger is Lily Poison and Bill Hader is Andy Warhol.
Men in Black 3 is the return of a property no one is really crying out for. But it re-teams Sonnenfeld, Smith and Jones and their combined chemistry goes a long, long way… but not far enough, truly. That’s where Josh Brolin comes in. His instantly recognizable impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones as a young Agent K in the late sixties is brilliant, making his presence in the film a strong curiosity draw. It all depends on their recapturing the magic of the first film and leaving behind the excess of the second. Will Smith is still a strong draw even if his last few films haven’t been as critically well received: I Am Legend ($77m opening weekend) and Hancock (a strong take with a $100m opening weekend). It’s a hit, despite itself.
Snow White and the Huntsman
(June 1 – Universal Pictures)
Official Site: http://www.snowwhiteandthehuntsman.com/
Dir: Rupert Sanders
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Tobey Jones, Ian McShane
Snow White gets another modern retelling in 2012 with Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman, set against a stronger action motif and leaving most of the comedic elements behind. Kristen Stewart is Snow White, stepdaughter to the evil tyrant, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). When she learns of the Queen’s plans to consume her heart in order to remain young, Snow White escapes into the Dark Forest where she must face the Queen’s huntsman, Eric (Chris Hemsworth). Instead of killing the fair maiden, Eric decides to aid Snow White by training her in the art of war. Together with Prince William (Sam Claflin), eight dwarves and Eric, Snow White returns to her kingdom to battle Queen Ravenna.
Hollywood is all about tinkering with the popular fairy tale this year. Television has its hit with Once Upon a Time and Relativity Media has its take with Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror which opened in March. Rupert Sanders is a first time director but has a strong cast to support him including Charlize Theron and Thor’s Chris Hemsworth. The film also includes Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as Snow White which is a huge draw for the teen crowd but a potential drawback for those who hold disdain for the glittering vampires. The success of the film depends on the public’s over saturation to the fable itself and the draw of the cast, the film’s strongest asset. It’s a hit, but just barely.
(June 8 – 20th Century Fox)
Official Site: http://www.prometheus-movie.com/
Dir: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce
According to advance press and quotes from the director and writer Damon (LOST) Lindelof, Prometheus is a return to the universe that enveloped Ridley Scott’s Alien without actually being a direct sequel to the science fiction horror classic masterpiece. Early trailers marvelously illustrate that conceit, providing a strong Alien vibe, visually and tonally, without a single xenomorph in sight. The story centers around a group of scientists that uncover a star map that leads them to the planet that may hold the key to extraterrestrial life. Noomie Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron board the spaceship Prometheus bound to the far off destination. What they discover may very well threaten the future of mankind.
Ridley Scott returns to the franchise that solidified his fame early in his career: Alien (1979). While we’ve yet to see any hints of the xenomorphs themselves, the space jockey has made an astonishing appearance in this year’s most impressive trailer. But does this translate outside the cinematic nerd crowd; will general audiences respond to the director returning to familiar territory especially if the marketing is quietly hiding the fact this is an Alien prequel? The film ties itself visually and tonally to the previous films but has yet to outright state it is a prequel to the Alien film – or how it is related at all. Hype is strong and the marketing is full of mystery and intrigue making audiences around the world curious beyond belief. It’s a hit.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
(June 22 – 20th Century Fox)
Official Site: http://www.facebook.com/vampirehunter
Dir: Timur Bekmambetov
Cast: Dominic Cooper, Benjamin Walker, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, Jimmi Simpson
Seth Grahame-Smith adapts his inventive novel that combines historical drama with supernatural vampire action and horror for the big screen. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov guides the action and Tim Burton produces. The film centers around Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker), the 16th President of the United States, living a secret life as a vampire hunter with Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper) as his mentor. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Mary Todd Lincoln and Rufus Sewell is Adam, the vampire who murdered Lincoln’s mother. Alan Tudyk appears as Stephen A. Douglas, a Senator from Illinois.
Timur Bekmambetov brings his signature cinematic style (Nightwatch, Daywatch and Wanted) to the action-adventure, supernatural retelling of President Abraham Lincoln’s past. It’s an odd mix: the director, presidential history and vampires. History buffs may not respond well. The director’s style is not familiar for period set pieces. It all hinges on how well the opposites gel. It could easily be a unique masterpiece or a complete piece of garbage. The trailers so far have been reserved providing a somber tone juxtaposed against some stunning slow motion action visuals. Curiosity is peaked, no doubt. The sight of America’s favorite President slaying vampires should be a rousing and sensational visual treat. It’s a surprise hit.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
(June 29 – Paramount)
Official Site: http://www.gijoemovie.com/
Dir: Jon M. Chu
Cast: Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, Ray Stevenson, Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Walton Goggins, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan Pryce
The sequel to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) finds Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) as the President of the United States (in the guise of Jonathan Pryce) teaming up with Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) and Firefly (Ray Stevenson) to eliminate the Joes and take over the world with the “Second American Revolution.” Survivors Duke (Channing Tatum), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) ally with Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and General Joseph Colton (Bruce Willis) to oppose and defeat the Cobra’s evil plans of world domination. Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, the writing team behind Zombieland (2009), provide the script and Jon M. Chu directs.
The director of Step 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never takes a stab at the G.I. Joe franchise – hopefully without musical numbers and dancing. Channing Tatum returns coming off a strong showing in the surprising funny 21 Jump Street film adding Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson to the cast. Adding The Rock later in a franchise has proven successful in the past with both Fast Five and Journey 2 benefiting greatly, but it may not help in this case. G.I. Joe: Retaliation is likely to suffer from a crowded action summer and may get trounced by its “superhero” competition. It’s a near miss, but still a miss.
The Amazing Spider-Man
(July 3 – Columbia Pictures)
Official Site: http://www.theamazingspiderman.com/
Dir: Marc Webb
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen, Rhys Ifans, C. Thomas Howell, Chris Zylka, Sally Field and Denis Leary
Peter Parker returns to the big screen as Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield stepping into the lead role(s). With a new cast, a new director and a new origin, The Amazing Spider-man plays with a new direction, returning the character back to his high school roots and angst. Emma Stone stars opposite Garfield as Gwen Stacy with Denis Leary playing her father, Captain George Stacy. Rhys Ifans tackles the role of Dr. Curt Conners also known as The Lizard, the film’s central villain. Martin Sheen and Sally Field play Ben and May Parker.
Columbia Pictures takes a strategic gamble by rebooting its successful Spider-man franchise formerly fronted by Sam Raimi. Amazing Spider-Man has to deal with Spider-Man 3 leaving a bad impression in the public’s taste buds and the Marc Webb driven new film lacking a strong marketable villain. There’s no Green Goblin or Doctor Octopus; instead, the film has The Lizard, a lesser known villain. They’ve yet to embrace how to promote the conflict or the character. Still, Spider-Man and Peter Parker are beloved and renowned heroes; it is extremely likely this will be a positive re-visioning of the hero. It’s a hit.
The Dark Knight Rises
(July 13 – Warner Brothers)
Official Site: http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/
Dir: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine
The third in a trilogy of Batman films from director Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the closing scenes in The Dark Knight (2008) which left Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes and being hunted by the Gotham City Police. Batman must rise again to protect Gotham when two new criminals, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Bane (Tom Hardy), threaten to take over the city. Christopher Nolan co-writes the screenplay with his brother Jonathan Nolan based on a story by David S. Goyer.
The entire production team (it seems) returns to bring Batman back to the big screen. After the overwhelming success, financially and critically, of the previous Batman film, The Dark Knight, the third outing has an unprecedented expectation to overcome. The Dark Knight Rises features a lesser known villain (Bane) and an unproven casting of Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Living up to the legacy of Heath Ledger’s Joker may prove to be too much. However, if the vision remains intact and the production values are on par with the previous films, this should be a superior film. It’s a monster hit.
Superheroes and 3D dominate the summer of 2012 – over half of the films listed above are in 3D and the most anticipated films are, arguably, The Avengers and Dark Knight Rises. Even if Battleships sink and the Joes fail to reign supreme, the summer promises some of the best action films to grace theaters in the past few years. Burton and Bekmambetov should bring unique visual style to the big screen and Ridley Scott reaffirms his place in modern cinema. Spider-Man, Snow White and the Men In Black hold their ground struggling not to be swallowed up by their competition. What’s your most anticipated film this summer? Which will be a hit; which will be a miss? However it plays out, the summer of 2012 will be spectacular.