Summer movie preview 2012: Revenge of the Sequels

A few years ago, it seemed as though every movie that anyone was interested in seeing was a sequel, a remake, a reboot, or an adaptation of a book that half of the country had read.

And by “a few years ago” I mean: “basically every year since 2001.” Well this summer is no different. Please don’t let my quasi-hipster condemnation of the derivative nature of Hollywood fool you because I’m incredibly excited about a lot of the films being released this summer.

Listing them in order of how much they excite me would require minutes of effort so I’m just going to list them in the order they’re going to be released. (spoiler alert: the one I’m most excited about is The Dark Knight Rises. I’m very non-mainstream that way)

We start off with the incredibly nerd-tastic The Avengers (May 4th). Although at what point does something cease to be nerdy and just become cool? Probably at the point where a movie’s pre-sales are more than the combined pre-sales of all of the Marvel superhero movies that have been building up to it.

Considering that two of those movies were the mega-hit Iron Man movies, that’s saying something. I don’t want to explain too much about this movie because A) if you don’t know anything about it then you’ve been stuck in the iceberg with Captain America and B) Joss Whedon keeps almost all relevant information about his films and shows under wraps.

And I like my film information as wrapped-under as possible so this is good. I can give you SOME info though. For one, don’t let the trailers and TV spots fool you into thinking that it’ll be two hours of explosions, special effects, and Scarlett Johansson saying things like “where do you want me?” and “is that martini dirty enough for you?”

Don’t worry though, relevant audience (straight men between the ages of 10 and 87, open-minded and adventurous women). There will be plenty of that stuff. But knowing Whedon it’ll be filled with scenes like Tony Stark trying vainly to please his dead father by building a better multibillion-dollar mousetrap.

Or Captain America dealing with the fact that he fell asleep in a Norman Rockwell painting and woke up in Jackson Pollack’s worst nightmare. I must not be 14 anymore because the more it contains scenes like that, the happier I’ll be. I’m sure there will be enough SFX to please even the most ADD fanboy too, so it’s sure to be a monstrous hit.

Just for fun I’ll also be mentioning movies I don’t care about at all, such as Dark Shadows (May 11th). I saw the trailer for this before the (unusually great) 21 Jump Street re-make/boot and I thought to myself: “they might as well have just skipped the footage and just said, ‘here’s another Tim Burton movie if you’re into that sort of thing.”

This is a remake of an old supernatural soap opera that no one in the target audience has heard of and no one who remembers the original will be interested. So I’m sure it’ll do great when it comes out the week after what will possibly be the biggest film of the summer (sarcasm font).

Hey look! It’s Johnny Depp playing a weird and quirky character!

Oh look over there! Helena Bonham-Carter playing an ugly hag with an appetite for scenery!

Oh man! Tim Burton is directing it just like he did when you saw it the first 7 times with different titles!

So if you devour everything by this team of people, and there are many good reasons to be of that mindset, then I hope you enjoy. But I think that the schtick is wearing a bit thin and that you can’t masquerade every TV character from the 60s as one worth resurrecting.

Also coming out on May 11th is the new Sacha Baron Cohen movie The Dictator. If you’re into political jokes that The Daily Show did in 2006 then I’m sure you’ll love it.

A completely ridiculous release that I’ll probably end up seeing and liking and subsequently hating myself is Battleship (May 18th). Yes, the “you sunk my battleship!” Battleship. A game that was meant to teach kids about

deductive reasoning and elementary naval strategy has now “inspired” a film about aliens or robots or something.


The commercial is pretty much saying “does this look enough like Transformers to make you go see it?” On my blog I make quite a habit of bashing Michael Bay and his ability to make oodles of money while simultaneously sucking at directing.

James Cameron is like Bay’s slightly more talented older brother (if you were wondering). The first Transformers was tolerable trash, the second was actual physical garbage that should be burned, and the third was for some ungodly reason really enjoyable and actually good at parts.

Hopefully this movie will be like that.

It could also end up being self-aware trash that’s fun because it’s so bad (like the G.I. Joe movie from a few years ago). Liam Neeson and blondie-douche vampire from True Blood are in it and so is attractive blonde model-turned-“actress” number 9: Brooklyn Decker. So they’re clearly looking for an enjoyable date night movie for men and a tolerable one for women.

It could work.

One I’m unashamedly excited for is Men in Black III (May 25th). I just recently re-watched the first one and am happy to report that it’s as charming as ever. I’ll probably skip a re-watch of the second to keep that nostalgia going. It’s an excellent example of an actor completely transforming a movie from something stupid and predictable into something special.

Did a lot of other factors like ahead-of-its-time special effects and clever writing make the first one memorable? Sure. But it’s Will Smith and his dynamic with the (clinging to life) Tommy Lee Jones that gives the franchise its soul. Smith’s Agent J says a lot of stuff which isn’t really that funny on paper, but still makes me laugh to this day because of how he delivers it.

I expect no different from this movie. And since Jones’ Agent K can’t do too much action-y stuff anymore and make it convincing they’re sending Smith back into the 60s to hang with the younger version. The casting of Governor Rick Perry is perfect. Or Josh Brolin or whatever. If they keep the mundane nature of the first movie then it’ll be great.

If they go with the “hey isn’t this cool?” nature of the second it’ll fail. Mundanity sells something over-the-top as being real. At the very least, I’m sure the action will be exciting and Will Smith will make me laugh so it’s a safe bet for a fun time at the theater.

Continuing with the recent fairytale madness is Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1st). This movie actually looks pretty cool. The first minute or so of the initial trailer was dark and mysterious and fascinating. Then it had Charlize Theron wondering “who in the land is fairer than me?” right before the camera cuts to Kristen Stewart. At this point I began to laugh out loud.

The only time Stewart would be fairer than Theron would be if Stewart had a bit part in Monster and even then it’d be close. I’m being facetious of course because she is pretty but she’s not prettier than Charlize or believably pretty enough to be wooing away Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor, aka an Adonis).

I like the whole “Snow White is dark” schtick that they’re going for because it’s closer to the source material. But it’s pretty clear that they’re only casting Stewart to build on the Twihard fanbase and make them Twhitehards. I think the most successful fairytale outing recently has been the show Once Upon a Time because it both embraces the classic stories and flies in the face of them. Whichever is better for the story.

What’s cool is saying “our Snow White is a badass because that’s the way the character was supposed to be.” What’s not cool is saying “our Snow White is a badass because that’s the opposite of ‘your father’s Snow White’ and we want to be fresh and original.” So we’ll see whether they’re giving us a vision or a product, but I’m unusually optimistic about it.

Also coming out June 1st is Piranha 3D, a film I only mention for its title that is clever in a way that can only be described as “meta fratboy humor.” This is due to the first film’s penchant for showing close-ups of fake (CGI) piranhas attacking fake (Si) breasts.

A movie that exists somewhere between prequels, reboots, and rip-offs is Prometheus (June 8th). This was originally supposed to be an Alien prequel but has since been called a “prequel that exists in the same universe but has nothing to do with the story” and “a spiritual prequel that feels enough like the other movies to make fans pay to see it.”

What’s it about? No idea. Usual sci-fi stuff.

Much like all great sci-fi it’ll be more dependant on the atmosphere, effects, and ensemble cast to be good rather than the actual plot. My boy Michael Fassbender is in it (who was one of the stars of last summer’s most overlooked film: X-Men First Class) and Ridley Scott is directing so fans of the genre are already quaking in their boots. Charlize is in this one too. The girl gets around.

But for me, this could turn out to be another Super 8. The entire marketing scheme for that film was to tell everybody one thing: that they weren’t telling anyone anything. Then they even talked about in press releases how it’s cool because you don’t say what it is. Which told me: “there’s nothing interesting enough that this movie could be about that would overcome the hype.” I still liked the movie but for reasons other than the mystery and the conflict. I don’t want another one like that. I want a recognizable but well-done plot and not the intentional lack of one. So hopefully that’s what I’ll get, and the intentional mystery surrounding the promos for this film won’t all be sci-fi red herrings (red babel fish?).

There’s a Tom Cruise musical called Rock of Ages coming out June 15th that co-stars Ryan Seacrest’s (possibly alleged) “female companion” beard. Jay Leno will cover any and all obvious jokes as pertaining to this film so I’m skipping it.

Easily the most original movie coming out this summer is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22nd). Well, the book that inspired it is the most original thing in a while anyway. Many have already mentioned how it’s brilliant because it mixes actual historical events with crazy vampire action and yadda yadda but I’d take it one step further.

I love fiction that completely flies in the face of history in blatant ways. If you’re trying to be as accurate as possible and you miss little details, you look bad. But if you completely overthrow history then you have the license to do whatever you want and that engages you with the story more.

For instance, in Inglourious Basterds Hitler gets violently killed. It didn’t happen (obviously). But you know what? Brad Pitt’s character didn’t exist. Neither did Chrisoph Waltz’s. So who cares? Saying that a historical fiction isn’t worthwhile because “that’s not how things really happened” makes about as much sense as chastising 24 because David Palmer wasn’t actually the president in 2003. This movie is all about turning period pieces on their head…and then SLICING THAT HEAD OFF! See what I did there?

Almost literally the complete opposite of that movie is Brave (June 22nd). It’s about a Scottish or Irish girl who has to defend her homeland by either posing as a man or just acting like a stereotypical one. I mean, it’s Pixar so it doesn’t matter what it’s about. It’ll be amazing.

What’s interesting about it is that it’s the only Pixar movie to solely focus on humans. Contrary to my statement one sentence ago, this could backfire. Toys acting like humans are a lot more relatable than fake-looking humans. Ask Freud or one of his less Freudian counterparts, don’t ask me why.

If you try to make them perfectly accurate then you’ll fail. So they make them cartoonish, which makes them less relatable. The fish is Finding Nemo look real and so we accept their personalities and relate to them. The people in Finding Nemo are intentionally fake-looking, which is fine because it’s about fish. I’d even go so far as to say that a perfectly rendered human face is usually aligned with evil.

Young Jeff Bridges in Tron: Uprising is a Lucifer-esque figure and a big part of that is his too-perfect-and-yet-still-fake face. The only other time I’ve seen this was with young Voldemort from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. There’s something disturbing about a blemish-less face. What are they hiding? This has always been one of the challenges of rendering humans, so I don’t know whether this Pixar movie will be the most emotional and real or the goofiest. But I know it has people talking.

A film that’s almost certainly junk, but hopefully fun junk, is G.I. Joe: Retaliation (June 29th). As I said before, the first film is a (hopefully) self-aware mindless schlockfest. I parenthetically say “hopefully” because I used to think The Boondock Saints was a spoof and thus brilliant.

Then I found out the creator was serious and it became horrible. Still fun, but for all the wrong reasons. The first G.I. Joe was so blatantly trying to build on the Transformers success story by pandering to guys my age.

“Remember the times before SATs, girl trouble, and Jersey Shore? Relive them with this movie!” In the first 5 minutes I thought it was serious but then when the villain said “the Joes won’t know what hit them!” in a manner akin to Dr. Evil peppering a soufflé…it became clear that it wasn’t serious.

But that’s what made it fun.

It had all of the senseless action and bad dialogue of all of my childhood action figure storylines. If they keep that tone and the audience keeps that expectation, this will actually be a fun one to catch with your guy friends. Ladies: there’s some Matthew McConaughey/Channing Tatum movie coming out that day too.

One of the toughest sells this summer is probably The Amazing Spider-Man. Not because it looks bad. It looks awesome. Only because it’s so blatantly a “this is our biggest franchise and the other series with the same character got stale so here’s a new one!” deal.

I’m actually a fan of Spider-Man 3 (chastise me elsewhere) but that  was about all you needed of Spidey for a while. But I’m torn…because he’s in the Avengers in the comics. Could a deal be struck between the two film companies to give Andrew Garfield’s Spidey a place in Avengers 2?


Is it all a big plot to take my money? Yes, and I gladly give it away. Hopefully American audiences can look past the inherent money-grub to see that this is quite likely going to be a great movie. Where the other movies were heavily stylized and somewhat tongue-in-cheek, this is a little more real.

The appropriate Spider-Man movie in a post-Dark Knight world. CW-style angst, shady conspiracies involved in the death of Peter Parker’s parents, and classic surrogate daddy issues for the villain? It sure does feel like it’s been written specifically for today’s film climate but you can’t argue with the results. Garfield really impressed me in The Social Network and Emma Stone is becoming the go-to “actress who’s good-looking and young but can actually act too” so she was the obvious choice of love interest. I only hope he either A) already has his powers or B) gets them pretty quickly. Because everyone knows about that mess by now.

I’m not sure if I should be peddling stuff that’s incredibly not kid-friendly but…Ted (July 13th). It’s basically a feature-length Family Guy episode complete with Mark Wahlberg playing a caricature of himself, Seth MacFarlane’s style and voice acting, and Mila Kunis as not-Meg. I’m sure it’ll fizzle out halfway through only to redeem itself slightly in the end. But you can’t ignore a movie about a guy whose vulgar childhood teddy bear that can talk for some reason is trying to screw up his relationship with a new girlfriend. Come on now.

Do I even need to say anything about The Dark Knight Rises (July 20th)? Instead of offering information, which is all over the Internet/magazines/TV/billboards, I’d like to offer some suggestions. Well, one anyway: don’t expect it to be better than The Dark Knight. It won’t be. You might even think it is after you’ve seen it but that’s just post-film euphoria.

Don’t start hating it later for all the wrong reasons because then you’ll voice your concerns on the Internet and I’ll masochistically read them and get mad. If you eat a steak and it’s the best steak you’ve ever had, that doesn’t mean other steaks suck now.

All I’m expecting is for it to be as good as (and hopefully better than) Batman Begins. That’s all. The Joker is Batman’s best villain and one of the greatest villains of all time. The only reason I didn’t include him on my Top 5 Villains list is because the nature of his villainy is entirely based in his being everything Batman isn’t. He doesn’t stand on his own as a character the way that someone like Darth Vader does.

But as far as the whole “two sides of the same coin” go, there’s no better rivalry. This film is all about Batman declining physically as he ages and facing a more physically powerful villain than he ever has in Bane. Catwoman is an interesting character for him to contend with too but I don’t know how involved they’ll be or what the nature of their relationship will be. Lots of potential there and I have no doubt it’ll become one of my favorite movies and be the best of the summer. But better than The Dark Knight? Do yourself a favor and don’t expect it.

I don’t care at all about Step Up Revolution (July 27th) and I’m not sure why we live in a society where it exists. BUT look up the trailer on YouTube because it’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. Guaranteed it’s more worthwhile than the movie. Now, if they went with the original Step Up 4Ever title I could take it more seriously.

Well August is usually where they put the outsider step-children of summer movies and so it’s where we find The Bourne Legacy (August 3rd). A truly strange idea. It takes place at the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum with a similar character on a similar journey. It’s “leaving the door open” for Matt Damon to return if he wants but in the meantime reminding us that the series exists.

Because in the age of IMDB and Netflix it’s really easy for people to completely forget about movies that they liked from 5 years ago (sarcasm font). That series already had a perfect ending anyway. I was in favor of this movie up until they said Damon might come back. Keep him out of it for this new series and I’m happy.

The new hero is played by Jeremy Renner, who is slowly taking over the world. He’s the new Tom Cruise for Mission: Impossible, he’s an Avenger (Hawkeye), and now he’s replacing Jason Bourne too? I’m in favor because as my fellow moviegoer Andrew pointed out “he’s believable in fights, he’s funny when he needs to be, and he can actually act.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself, which is why I’ve repeated that description to other people without crediting him before. If it fails, people will forget about it pretty quickly. If it succeeds, we have another series of realistic action thrillers to look forward to. So it’s a safe bet for an August movie.

Also coming out that day is one of the stranger recent remakes: Total Recall (August 3rd). At first I was like: why? But then it started to make sense. Schwarzenegger was in a few films back then which had fascinating or thrilling sci-fi plots (the original Total Recall, The Running Man, Predator) but that were somewhat overshadowed by Ahnold’s frequent “get back to the choppah!”-isms. Not to say that makes them un-enjoyable because I’m a fan of it all. And Terminator 2 strikes the perfect balance. But it would also be nice to see those plots fleshed out and not just be launching points for one-liners and gratuitous violence.

The original Total Recall raises a fascinating possible plot twist in the last scene, and the characters are kind of like “yeah whatever.” On one hand that’s refreshing because plot twists are really only good once. But on the other, there are a lot of interesting directions the plot could’ve gone in with the world it established. Hopefully that’s what this version will achieve. But I can’t see Colin Farrell bringing in too much of an audience with this one. Or anyone else really, but especially not someone who’s been off the scene for a while. So I hope it’s a good one because there won’t likely be another.

A film that could be the repeat guilty pleasure of the summer is The Expendables 2 (August 17th). The thing that made the first one so great is that it was so unrepentantly over-the-top and crazy.

Plot? The usual. Crazy action scenes?

All you could want and then some. But it had some subtle heart to it too. It was about how the guys that everybody forgot about, which is most of the cast, can still be awesome and are still worth something.

It’s a little heavy-handed on this theme at times but it’s still quite a nice statement that gives some substance to a movie that’s so ridiculous. The second installment will include expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Ahnold and adds Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris.

I read a statement that it might be PG-13 though, due to the fact that Chuck Norris had an issue with the language in the first film. Leading me to wonder if A) he’d seen the R-rated violence in the movie B) if he’d seen any of his own movies. I hope it’s not too toned down because that would take away a lot of the fun. The heavy violence in the first was pretty stylized so it’s not that serious. The language I don’t care about. If it’s what’s holding Chuck Norris back: get rid of it!

Well as far as big movies for this summer that’s about it. I’m sure there are a ton more that will prove to be unexpected sleeper hits, oddly timed Oscar nominees, and the like. But the ones that actual human beings will see are listed above. It promises to be either a very disappointing or very exciting summer, with at least a few guaranteed classics. It’s bad news for people who like original or stand-alone stories for this summer, but the way I think of it is that sequels have vastly improved over time and I’m always more excited about visiting old friend than meeting new people.