Scale and spectacle
APRIL 28 — It’s now the end of April and we’re entering May in just a few days, which means that the 2012 summer blockbuster season is well and truly on the way. I’ve been moaning to anyone who would listen about how disappointing Hollywood was last year, with only a small handful of their mainstream fodder like Super 8, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, X-Men: First Class, The Adventures Of Tintin, and Warrior impressing. The blockbusters last year were tired, boring and simply lacking in terms of quality.
I’ve never been one of those haters of anything Hollywood. Movies, especially big studio movies, are first and foremost a business, and I totally understand that. And I’ve never thought the idea of going to the movies to enjoy oneself as something to be frowned upon.
There’s a place for every type of movies, even blockbusters, and as much as I love intellectually challenging films, there’s no denying that when it comes to making spectacles, nobody does it better than the Hollywood big boys. Why? Because that’s where the money lies and scale and spectacle comes at a cost that not many can afford and risk.
I haven’t paid much attention to the upcoming blockbusters this year simply because I was so disappointed with the ones offered by Hollywood last year. This all changed last week after I saw another sleeper hit that impressed me greatly, an imaginative horror comedy called The Cabin In The Woods which is still playing in cinemas here. Imagine those teenage slasher films like Wrong Turn put in a blender with the Evil Dead films and with a little bit of the mind-bending spectacle of Inception and you won’t be far off the mark.
Earlier on in the year I was knocked out cold by a film that seemingly came out of nowhere called Chronicle, which chronicled the superhuman adventures of a few teenagers who accidentally found themselves gifted with powers of telekinesis, in the form of a found footage film, only this time the footage is of spectacular things like the boys playing American football high up in the clouds and Superman II-like battle royale between the super boys as its climax.
John Carter, despite its box-office disappointment in the USA, was in my honest opinion a well-crafted and rousing old-fashioned adventure yarn that will remind you of Douglas Fairbanks action adventures from the Hollywood of old, only with the spectacle ramped up because of the CGI technology we have available now. If they did have similar CGI technology back then, I’m pretty sure the Fairbanks flicks will look like this as well, and I can only imagine what producer Alexander Korda’s films will look like.
And don’t even get me started on the spectacle that is The Avengers, which is opening this week and which I saw just a few days ago. I’ve long been an admirer of director Joss Whedon’s work, mostly in witty and well-imagined TV shows like Firefly, Dollhouse and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but this surefire box-office behemoth is a wonderful example of how to make a big budget Hollywood blockbuster that doesn’t insult your intelligence.
Looking at the release schedule this year and some of the trailers that are already released, it doesn’t look like that the fun is about to end with The Avengers. We’ve got The Amazing Spider-Man coming, and the fact that it’s directed by Marc Webb (who last made the wonderful 500 Days Of Summer) should be enough to raise hopes that this won’t be your typical Hollywood hack job.
The ever-reliable Pixar has got Brave lined up for this summer, but rumour has it that they’re also aiming to get Monsters Inc 2 into cinemas at the end of the year, so that’s probably two high quality animated movies already in the bag for this year. We’ve got Ridley Scott back in sci-fi mode with Prometheus, which is starting to look more and more like a major title from its studio this summer.
The men in black are also back with Men In Black 3, and despite the fact that I don’t think anyone’s been crying out for a third movie in the franchise, the trailer does look funny, and having Josh Brolin play a young Tommy Lee Jones is quite a rib-tickling idea.
And then of course there’s the big one, The Dark Knight Rises, which I’m sure is getting Christopher Nolan fanboys the world over excited in anticipation. Another surefire box-office smash that’s all but guaranteed to be a quality film as well, I can only imagine how hard it’s going to be getting tickets to this one.
Outside these biggies there are summer fillers that I’m psyched to see like Timur Bekmambetov’s new film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (with a title like that, who needs trailers?), comedies like the latest Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle The Dictator and the debut film from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane Ted, and of course the brilliantly titled Piranha 3DD. And I’m not even looking towards the end of the year yet, when movies like The Hobbit, Django Unchained, Looper and even Taken 2 are scheduled to open. And don’t forget there’s a Bond film coming this year, and a new Superman film too! Making up for last year eh, Hollywood?