[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
This week we asked our participants about 2013 genre movies:
Here’s what they had to say:
Although I was so bored I nearly fell asleep in the previous Star Trek movie, I’ll probably see Star Trek 2, which I’d normally skip, simply because Benedict Cumberbatch is in it. He’s among the actors for whom I’ll try watching a film I’d otherwise skip. (The list also includes Shah Rukh Khan, Alan Rickman, Kajol, Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, Aamir Khan, Sean Bean, Colin Firth, Tilda Swinton, etc.) He could make the film watchable, so I’m willing to try.
Otherwise, I don’t plan to see any sf/f feature films in 2013, simply because, in general, I avoid Hollywood sf/f movies like the plague. The majority of them focus on two things that don’t interest me at all: special effects and action porn. (“Action porn” is director Nicholas Meyer’s phrase for a movie that exists to convey a lot of action scenes, rather than a movie in which action scenes help tell a story.) Since I’m not a fan of either of those things, Hollywood sf/f movies tend to be boring for me. (See above: nearly fell asleep watching Star Trek.)
However, I do look forward to watching Season 2 of Game Of Thrones on Netflix (I don’t have HBO). I really enjoyed the characters and story in S1 (compelling characters and interesting story being high on the list of things that I -am- a fan of), and the S2 DVDs are in my queue. A GoT marathon will be my treat to myself after I deliver my next book!
I am a failure as a modern-era Trekkie. And I don’t mean I’m clinging to The Original Series or TNG or DS9 or even Voyager, refusing to take the reboot movies serious. You see, I’ve only seen part of the Star Trek movie reboot…and I wasn’t much impressed by what I saw. Then again, I did come into it halfway through the show, so I know my perceptions are faulty. So until I can watch the first one in full, I honestly cannot say whether or not it’s worth my time to watch the second one. (Hey, put down those phasers; I admitted I’m in the wrong, and that I’m willing to watch the whole thing some day.) But I know several who love the new version, so knowing that they’ve got the weight of fandom poised to either crash down upon them in negativity if they fail, or embrace them in a massive group-hug if they do well, I’m sure the production crew have striven hard to make Star Trek 2 a good show.
Iron Man 3. Hrmm… Well, I liked the first movie, and I liked the second movie, and I really liked Marvel’s The Avengers. Tony Stark as played by Robert Downey Jr. is the hero we love to hate and yet cheer on at the same time. He’s a beautiful mix of arrogance, smacked-over-the-head-by-circumstance, and tries-to-do-good-but-his-own-personality-gets-in-the-way-half-the-time. It’s like watching a passengerless train wreck in slow-mo, only at full throttle speeds at the same time. So yeah, I’m looking forward to Iron Man 3.
Oblivion…looks like it has a good premise, and I know Tom Cruise will give his character every thing he’s got, but I’m actually a little burnt out on the “post-apocalypse Earth” trope, so I haven’t personally made plans to see it. I figure that those who like the post-apocalypse scenarios will probably enjoy it, though, so don’t let my reluctance stop you. I have nothing against the premise of the film.
As for Ender’s Game, I loved the book. The premise of teaching, even forcing, kids to learn how to kill is horrible–and predates The Hunger Games–yet the story was compelling, and *teeny tiny spoiler alert* ended on a note of hope. So I am looking forward to the movie, even more so than Iron Man 3. I know IM3 will have fresh material, and the production team will do their best to keep it good, but it will still be the same cast, characters, etc, so we already know how Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, etc, will be portrayed even if we don’t know what circumstances they’ll suffer. By comparison, Ender’s Game will be very fresh, with no expectations other than it’ll follow the general outline of the novel.
Now, like all movies based on books, I am not expecting Ender’s Game to be exactly like the book, word for word, scene for scene. There are things you can do in a novel via narrative prose that cannot be easily done in a movie via dialogue and scene blocking, and vice versa. I think my late, great-uncle Nunnally Johnson would probably be the first to agree, since he did convert a few books into movies in his day, for instance, writing the screenplay adaptations for The Grapes of Wrath and The World of Henry Orient, the latter based on a book of the same name penned by his own daughter. (I am quite sure they had several interesting discussions about what could or could not be done in the screenplay regarding her story.)
So I am not going to be among the masses standing with pitchforks and unlit torches in their hands in line at the theater, waiting to light up the latter and brandish the former if the movie “–doesn’t follow the novel exactly!!” I’m certainly not going to haul my novel, a small flashlight, and a red pen into the movie to mark up every scene that was different so I’ll have references for blasting every last little change online in a blog somewhere. But I will be there, eager to be entertained by what is essentially a fanfic version of the story, translated from textual two dimensions to visual three (with or without actual 3D cinematography). I will be hoping the production company has put everything into it that they can, that they have consulted with the author about how the story should play out, and I shall consider myself satisfied if the film is first and foremost an entertaining experience.
Because that is why we go to the movies in the first place, isn’t it?
Man of Steel, Iron Man 3, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit trilogy, Pacific Rim, Elysium, and World War Z are films I plan on seeing. However, as a parent of a young child and also an owner of a nice home system, seeing them in the theater is another question altogether.
I’m particularly keen to watch Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, though. As a fan of transforming mecha anime fare back in the day (why hello there, Super Dimension Fortress Macross!), I still find it surreal that studios now have the technology to present a big budget, live-action film in the vein of Mazinger Z. The trailer for Pacific Rim revealed pretty spectacular effects and action scenes. If there’s one movie I’ll see in theaters this year, it’s that one.
As a big fan of science fiction romance, I’m cautiously optimistic about Oblivion because signs point to a possible romantic subplot. I wish someone other than Tom Cruise was in the lead role (it’s hard to forget Cruise and get lost in the character), but there are certainly more important things to worry about. Like how Upside Down and The Host, both true science fiction romance films, were dead on arrival in terms of box office profits.
Upside Down seems like a matter of style over substance, while The Host may not have enough cross-over appeal beyond the young adult audience. Its female protagonist might be a factor keeping some moviegoers away as well, which would be unfortunate if that were true.
I watch a variety of genre films and a romance isn’t a requirement by any means, but it’s disheartening when a science fiction romance film can’t get it together for one reason or another. This is a subgenre in search of a good screenplay and a director who’s a staunch advocate. And I’d love to see something much grittier than what Upside Down and The Host have to offer.
One film I’m dying to see this year is The Conjuring. It’s based on the adventures of real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. I’ve been a fan of this couple’s work for over twenty years. The nonfiction accounts of their cases are, to me, more terrifying than any horror fiction. I’m a jaded horror fan, but when I watched the trailer for The Conjuring, I couldn’t even finish it. Excuse my French, but the Warrens have dealt with some scary shit!
The concept of viewing these pioneering demon hunters on film is mind-blowing to me. You see, at the height of my obsession with their work, I drove from my then-home in Massachusetts to the Warren’s place in Connecticut, hoping for a chance to stalk meet them. In fact, as I pulled up to their house, Lorraine was out walking her dog. Squee!
I rolled down the window and she graciously reached over to shake my hand. She didn’t have time for a visit, but patiently listened as I babbled about how much of a fangirl I was. I swear, that meeting is one of the greatest moments of my life. I’ll never forget it. So yeah, I’m a wee bit excited about The Conjuring!
Every year a new batch of genre movies lines up, with a mix of sequels, remakes, adaptations and new works both for the mass audience as well as the future cult classics.
I’ve already got my tickets to see Star Trek Into Darkness. My expectations for this movie are very high, as I’ve long been a fan of J.J. Abrams, and Benedict Cumberbatch has the potential to be the best screen villain in a very long time. I suspect that some Star Trek traditionalists will continue to be bothered by the film, but that it will also be successful.
Iron Man 3 also has the potential for a great villain performance with Ben Kingsley, and the Marvel Movie Magic has been pretty consistently good over the last several years, and it will be fascinating to watch it continue after the success of The Avengers. The original character of the Mandarin is of questionable vintage, so it will be intriguing to see how they reinvent the character for film.
I am – despite being a comics and superhero film fan – not terribly excited about Man of Steel. I expect that I will see it, and I hope to be positively surprised, but the trailers so far don’t give me a lot of hope for something that wasn’t done better with Christopher Reeve thirty five years ago.
Pacific Rim looks like it could be a huge amount of fun taking concepts well loved to genre fans and giving them a big budget film look. I have a great deal of hope that it will be a fun summer movie of the highest order, with lots of elements deliberately designed to please the core geek audience. I fully expect and hope this to be the cult favorite of the summer.
Another hopeful cult favorite will be the US distribution of Cockneys vs Zombies, a British Horror Comedy that would be for those of you with fond memories of Shaun of the Dead. And while I mention Shaun of the Dead, the cast and crew of that film are reuniting for The World’s End, which will combine an epic bar crawl with the apocalypse. So the UK will have us covered for laughs.
On a more serious genre side, both Elysium and Oblivion both looks like they have some wonderful visuals, and the question for me is entire on the execution of the films. I’m merging them together here because they both have that dystopian element that isn’t uncommon in genre film making, and they’ll probably be either excellent or very dull. They’ll bookend the summer and I’m sure they’ll both get confused in my brain when I talk about genre films in the future.
I haven’t yet seen any sign of the film too horrible to even contemplate – every year has one, so I am sure I am missing something. Perhaps that is for the best.
I admit it. I’m an unabashed appreciator of action movies, especially if there are superheroes involved. But don’t let me confuse you. I never read much in the way of comic books, save for TMNT in the late 80s and early 90s. I’m not a purist. So, if you are, you might want to consider skipping to the next entry. The truth is I just adore comic book movies, and I can’t wait to see more this summer.
It’s good for me on a number of levels. More often than not, I’m too much of a critic when it comes to movies. I’ve been known to nearly walk out on a few of them (thankfully each time people stopped me). If I really hate a movie, I’ll start adding my own dialogue of snark and mutter furiously under my breath. But for some reason, if there’s a superhero involved, that inner critic just goes out for coffee or something, and I can watch the whole thing with very little in the way of eye-rolling and frustrated sighs. I just let go and enjoy the shiny.
So this summer, more than anything, I’m looking forward to Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel (and later, Thor: The Dark World). I’ve got kids, so actually getting to the theater and sitting through an entire film requires quite a bit of orchestration. So I have to be picky. Maybe that’s why I get most excited about movies with superheroes. Chances are, the special effects are going to be great; the sound will rock; I will find escapism without critique. In the same way you can enjoy a roller coaster ride, I’ll enjoy the movies. Sure, it may not change the way I see the world or challenge my core beliefs and rock me to the core. But y’know what? Sometimes it’s just okay to enjoy something. The way I unabashedly enjoy a Katy Perry song every now and again. But don’t tell anyone.
I’ve got high expectations for Iron Man 3, hoping that it improves upon the second (which was, in my humble opinion, not nearly as fun as the first). But then again, I could probably watch a movie in which Robert Downey Jr. reads entries from a library catalog and does nothing else. My husband was surprised to learn recently that Iron Man is my favorite superhero (favorite super villain is, no surprise here, Loki–and yes, I do tend to skew Marvel, in case you’re wondering). There’s something innately appealing in a self-made man, even if he’s a bit of an ass. So not my type, but there you go. Anyway, I’ll be there.
Then there’s Man of Steel. I will say, Superman was my first superhero movie. You know, the one with Christopher Reeve. As a kid, I fell in love with him. I mean, hard not to. He had this gentleness, this goodness, that I adored. And while the last remake was mostly shrug worthy, I’m looking forward to another take. Call me a glutton for punishment, but I love seeing remakes. Even of films I like. I won’t complain about remakes (sequels… are another issues) because I think they reflect the culture and time they’re made in. Many times it’s terrible, but when it’s brilliant it’s worth all that torture. Henry Cavill is very promising as the new man of steel, and I absolutely loved him in The Tudors. From what I’ve seen so far it’s got a darker cast to it, which I think will help the franchise break out of the goody-goody vibe it’s had for too long.
And speaking of remakes and sequels, I’ve got to say that–even though it’s not strictly a superhero movie–I am also going to line up for Star Trek: Into Darkness. Not only does the title make sense (’cause it’s a trek…into darkness!) but I adored the first remake. Karl Urban as Bones was magic, and I really don’t get what the hullabaloo was all about. Granted, I’m not a hardcore Trekker/Trekkie. I grew up with TNG and the original series, and I thought it was fun. But I can’t wait to see this next installment. Time travel paradoxes be damned.
So, yes. Maybe I’m a little shallow when it comes to these over-the-top movies full of do-gooders and cackling bad guys. But I’ll say that in my life, I tend to scrutinize everything to within an inch of its life and, at least in this context, I welcome the brain-numbing escapism with open arms and some rose-tinted lenses.
What will I avoid? Anything with Tom Cruise. And Ender’s Game. But that’s a whole other long-winded post that’s nowhere near as fun.
- Man of Steel
- Star Trek: Into Darkness
- Iron Man 3
- Pacific Rim
- Ender’s Game
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
I’m interested in seeing Oblivion, Elysium, and Riddick, but I won’t cry if I miss any of them in theaters.
I’m certainly curious about Firelight and Mad Max: Fury Road, but I haven’t heard much about them yet, and they don’t have release dates listed yet so I’m not going to get worked up about them yet.
The only genre film I really don’t care to see is World War Z, just because I’m not a big zombie fan. I’ll pass on Gravity, as well—as a mild acrophobe I don’t think I could handle a movie about two people falling from space. And yes, I’m skipping all the 3-D re-releases—3-D movies actually don’t work for me, so there isn’t much point in going to them.
However, there are a few movies in 2013 I am going to see, even if I lose my legs in some sort of bizarre marching accident. I can buy new legs.
My movie watching tends to center around a sort of derivative nostalgia. I love movies that remind me of my childhood without directly infringing on the IPs of my childhood, thereby preserving those memories in liquid nitrogen forevermore.
My most anticipated movie – the movie I’m DYING to see above all others – is Pacific Rim. I grew up creating my own kaiju versus giant robot stories using a combination of Transformer, WWE, and Hello Kitty dolls. Every spare scrap of cardboard in the house went toward the construction of paper cities for these hulking bots and meowing monsters to do battle in. Guillermo Del Toro is one of those directors who I will take a chance on, and you can’t go wrong by putting Idris Eldba in a movie.
Elysium looks like it could be the movie of the year. Blomkamp appears to be mixing his knack for social commentary with a bit of that old, Ringworld-esque sensawunda. After watching his short Halo film, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll pull this off.
The Purge is one of those movies that I want to see, but probably won’t, for the fear of crippling psychological issues afterward.
I hope Europa Reportis good. It sounds like legitimate science fiction, where the science is well thought out but not overbearing. Docu-drama is also one of my favorite formats.
I willing to take a chance on Ender’s Game. That book shaped my adolescence and I need to see the Battle Room in action.
Other movies that I want to see, but am uncertain of how well they’ll be pulled off: Incarceron, After Earth, Martian Chronicles, and Roswell FM. They all have the potential to be very good, but are filled with misstep potential.
There are also movies I will not be seeing. Oblivion is a no-no because the lameness of Tom Cruise outweighs the coolness of Morgan Freeman.
I remember watching Independence Day when I was just a little tyke and having my mind blown out of my ears. However, Independence Day is not Independence Day without Will Smith.
There are a lot of blockbusters I won’t be seeing as well: Iron Man 3 (haven’t seen the first two), Star Trek 2 (don’t care for the IP), Star Wars VII (haven’t seen IV through VI), et cetera.
And I will not be seeing The Host because blah blah Stephanie Meyer blah blah Twihate blah blah you know the rhetoric.
Actually 2013 is going to be interesting in terms of the movies for me. I typically go to movies simply to be entertained – not to look for faults or analyze the film for social commentary or to see symbolism. I go to escape and have fun – kind of like how I write. There are several I’m looking forward to seeing – as are so many people. There are also a couple I wouldn’t normally go to that I am – for personal reasons.
I will say right off the top I will be at Star Trek: Into Darkness, but that’s not because I have any love for J.J. Abrams. I still get steamed over his interviews on the first interviews where he said he hoped people liked the movie “Despite it being science fiction”. Dude, know your audience. But … I give him credit for putting Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, and Zachary Quinto on the same crew. My fangirl heart swoons to have Urban as McCoy – McCoy was my first fan girl crush. I’ve loved Urban since Hercules & Xena, and meeting him in 2000. And now…Benedict Cumberbatch.
There are movies I’m seeing because I’m committed to the franchise. I enjoy the Ironman movies. Need to see how The Hobbit plays out. And really, everything’s better with Benedict Cumberbatch. And I love me some Minions… so I dare you to get between me and Despicable Me 2. Oh, and I did like the first Percy Jackson movie, and the second one this summer has NATHAN FILLION. Enough said.
Now…I’m seeing Pacific Rim not because I know anything about the story, or even because I’m a del Toro fan. I’m seeing it because del Toro hired my friend, Allen Williams, to be a concept artist on it. It’s Allen’s first IMDB movie credit, and he’s a fabulous artist.
What am I avoiding? Anything with Tom Cruise and Star Wars (haven’t seen anything since the first trilogy). I don’t do horror based movies. And I’m boycotting Short Circuit altogether. It was a fond memory from my youth. Johnny 5 remains alive in my heart and mind – I don’t want that memory tarnished.
Yeah, I’m not all that deep when it comes to movies. If I see you there, maybe we can share some popcorn.
Here’s the thing: I’m a husband and a father, and I have a full-time career and a bit of a slog for a commute. Plus, I have this whole novelist thing going on nowadays. So if I’m going to the movies, I’m going to be pretty picky about how I spend my theater money. Here’s how I’m ranking this summer’s fare:
AVOIDING ON PRINCIPLE: I’m honestly sick of watching the world end, or seeing the detritus of our civilization used as someone’s playground. Thus, I’m boycotting dystopias and apocalypses for a while. That means Oblivion and After Earth are both out, and while World War Z was a really nifty take on the zombie genre, it seems the movie drifted quite a bit from the book, so I’ll likely give it a pass as well.
WAITING FOR LATE-NIGHT ON F/X OR SYFY: I don’t know about you, but I get kinda jazzed when I stumble upon The Mummy, Constantine or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on cable…which is practically every other weekend. So there’s a few I figure I’ll forget about, only to delight in seeing them some Saturday night when the family’s in bed. I’m looking at you, Cockneys vs. Zombies. I’m lumping Elysium in here as well, because even though it’s a post-apocalyptic dystopia, Neil Blomkamp did too good a job on District 9 to ignore this one entirely.
WORTH PAY-PER-VIEW OR VIDEO-ON-DEMAND: Given Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright’s The World’s End is my other “no apocalypse” exception, because funny overcomes many sins. I really like the conceit behind R.I.P.D., and Jeff Bridges is good in most things lately, but I still want to see reviews on it before I commit to anything more than PPV. (Ryan Reynolds really burned me in Green Lantern.) Guillermo Del Toro does smart stuff, so I think Pacific Rim could be another PPV candidate.
THE CHOSEN FEW: Here’s what I’m definitely spending my money on. First off is Star Trek Into Darkness. Call me a heretic, but I liked what J.J. Abrams did with his 2009 reboot, lens flares and all. Plus, the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is in it means that my wife will go see it with me. Then there’s Iron Man 3, because I know exactly what I’m getting out of Robert Downey Jr., and I like it. Marvel hasn’t screwed up a film since Ang Lee’s Hulk, so I’m reasonably certain I’ll be well entertained. From what I’ve heard, I’m digging the character arc in this one.
THE BIG BLUE QUESTION MARK: I am truly undecided about Man of Steel. Superman has always been a tough nut to crack. How do you do a compelling, relatable story about a guy who’s practically a god, but without throwing Kryptonite at him every five minutes? Everything I hear about Man of Steel has me more and more intrigued, and yet I feel burned by nearly every film after Superman II. I’m going to need to see some reviews on this one before I decide.
LATER THIS YEAR: Thor is a guilty pleasure of mine, so Thor: The Dark World is definitely on my radar. I find it curious why it’s taken so long to make Ender’s Game a film, and I’m hopeful that this will do it justice. I was underwhelmed by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, so The Desolation of Smaug is firmly pay-per-view territory.
I expect to be trooping off to catch Star Trek: Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, and the rest of the big releases this summer. And, though I’m fully conscious of the how silly I might look down the line for speculating on such thin evidence as trailers, that’s part of the game, isn’t it? So here we go. Some of the offerings, like Into Darkness, I anticipate will be expertly crafted entertainment, while others, such as Man of Steel, have question marks over them. I am curious to see what the synergy of Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan will produce, given their quite different sensibilities, and the most recent trailer is more enticing than the first. At the same time, I am made uncomfortable by the exceptionalism of Jor-El’s little speech. If that discomfort is the intent, then I’m even more interested. But if we are to take the White Kryptonian’s Burden sentiment at face value, then I fear there will be plenty more squirming ahead. Of course, even if the film winds up putting the Manifest Destiny back into Superman, that will at least be dubious in an interesting way.
My unease about the speech is similar to the one anxiety I have regarding the film I am otherwise most eagerly anticipating: Pacific Rim. Now, this is a movie that had me at “giant robots vs monsters.” I don’t really need to know anything else. But having said that, Idris Elba’s “cancelling the apocalypse” exhortation put me in mind of Bill Pullman’s excruciating pre-climax speech from Independence Day. I may be fretting needlessly, of course. What would a final, desperate battle be without a St. Crispin’s Day address? Furthermore, Guillermo del Toro has impressed me with almost everything he has directed, and I am more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is a filmmaker whose approach to the fantastic is loving and intelligent, and I have high hopes. And though del Toro has worked with big budgets before, this is his first such project that is not based on a pre-existing property (such as Blade or Hellboy), so I’m doubly interested to see what he has cooked up. And yes, truth be told, I have to admit that if anyone can cancel the apocalypse, it’s Idris Elba.
Elysium also has me curious. I very much liked District 9, and am eager to see how Neill Blomkamp follows that up. This will also be Jodie Foster’s first venture into SF since Contact. I do hope, though, that her role is more than a variation of the Evil Ice Queen Executive à la Joan Allen in the Death Race remake.
My other great love is horror, and here I’m finding less about which to be excited. I’ve already been left indifferent by the Evil Dead remake. Having enjoyed Insidious (and not really feeling the need for its sequel), I want James Wan’s The Conjuring to be good, but the trailer gives me the impression of an over-reliance on increasingly familiar spectral jump-scares. Then there’s The Lords of Salem. Now, Rob Zombie is a problematic case. He wears his deep, abiding love for classic horror on his sleeve, but as the dreadful Halloween remakes demonstrate, love is not enough. I’ve heard conflicting reports on Salem. I’m going to see it, with tempered expectations, but my hope is that even if it is not entirely successful, it will travel to interesting places.
Because let’s face it: interesting movies and good movies aren’t necessarily synonymous. There are many films that have plenty of things wrong with them, but that also have enough strong elements that they are rewarding to watch, even if they are frustrating. Logan’s Run, The Omega Man, The Black Hole and the original Rollerball are all examples. And yet, though Logan’s Run is certainly ripe cheese, I can watch it endlessly. The Mount Everest of the fascinating-and-deeply-flawed is probably The Shining, a film that is one of my favourites, warts and all. This year, Oblivion is an early contender in this department. It even feels like a big-budget 70s effort, and like the examples I listed above, it’s great to look at, without actually being good (for one thing, its portrayal of its female characters appears to have been imported from the 70s as well). If The Lords of Salem winds up joining this category, I’ll consider myself satisfied, and it can join such shambling brethren as The Legacy and The Sentinel on my repeat playlist.
But we were also asked if there were any films we would be avoiding. What about the truly awful? In Danse Macabre, Stephen King points out that “once you’ve seen enough horror films, you begin to get a taste for really shitty movies.” He is profoundly right, and this is true for all realms of the fantastic. The epically bad is something to treasure. King further argues that “once you’ve spent twenty years or so […] searching for diamonds (or diamond-chips) in the dreck of B-pics, you realize that if you don’t keep your sense of humour, you’re done for.” Exactly. Of course, we want to see more good SF/F/H films, but if we grow angry with each bad one, then (with profound apologies to William Carlos Williams), bitterness drowns the imagination. What’s the point of raging at Battlefield Earth? None. It is a film to be embraced. Failure so complete has the density of poetry. And I bow before no one in the love I feel for The Swarm.
So this, at the last, brings me to After Earth. Perhaps I am being terribly unfair. M. Night Shyamalan has made good films in the past, though not for some time, and from The Village, which was merely tedious and dumb, he moved on to Lady in the Water and The Happening, which ramped up both messianic self-seriousness and lunatic plotting to achieve something really rather special. The trailer for After Earth has had me cackling mightily. I have dark hopes for this movie. Oh yes, I do.
The theater was a great big palace of a place. Huge marquee. Stadium seating before anyone–including the theater–really knew what that meant. Amazing murals on the walls. And it was a standalone theater. No cineplex, this. The Villa Theater it was called. It’s now Habib’s Rug Store. I can’t bear to even go in.
But ah, back in the day. It had the engagements! All of the biggest films. Going there was an event!
And like I said, in the summer, free showings for neighborhood kids: Sinbad, Hercules, you name it. On sunny Saturdays, still one of my favorite things to do is go to a matinee. Makes me feel like a kid again.
So, looking at what’s coming in the way of movies, I get a general chill of excitement. Of course, when I start looking at many of the coming attractions one by one, I wind up being more or less excited. So, here’s what:
- Man of Steel: When I saw the trailer–at least the first one I saw–I got excited. Not because it’s Superman, but because I got this real vibe that they were going to treat this as a kid learning to deal with unbelievable attributes. It felt like there’d be some authenticity to the challenge of it. I hope that carries through to the full film experience. I don’t even care if they get to a “grown up” Superman. I’d be happy to see an entire film centered on him at a younger age. And not like Smallville. Might be possible with Christopher Nolan on to help write. I’m no Crowe fan, but Costner and Lane I can deal with.
- World War Z: So, yeah, they got me with that epic trailer. “Devil’s in the details,” as they say. But I felt some real “holy hells” when I sat watching it. I’m not a Pitt fan, per se, but I might buy him in this one. I’ll add that the soundtrack to the trailer was impactful. I’ve since heard the same menacing orchestral stabs in other big 2013 SFF trailers. Either the same guy is scoring all these, or they’re emulating the epic, urgent menace of that sound–heard in the most recent Aliens movie.
- Star Trek Into Darkness: Meh. I’m one of those who didn’t get as much out of the “reboot” as others. I wound up feeling like they spent an inordinate amount of time hammering that Chris Pine was a loose cannon. Okay, I get it already. And the whole thing feels like a relentless action flick. I’m no Trekkie, but even I feel like this is way the hell on the other side of the universe from what Roddenberry meant. Glad to be proven wrong, as I imagine I’ll see it, regardless–though maybe through Xbox Video later on. And yes, I do know J.J. is on to direct.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: After the first installment, I found it fascinating how various writers I know disagreed about what Jackson’s done with The Hobbit. For my part, I didn’t get a lot out of it. Not enough, anyway. Will I go? Probably. And I’ll hope part 2 does more for me than the first one. I mostly just kept thinking that it can’t decide if it’s more LOTR or if it’s whimsically Hobbit-ish. Ah, well. Perhaps we lay it all on Guillermo del Toro. For good or ill.
- Iron Man 3: More meh. Here’s the deal. I never bought Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. I still see him as the druggy from Less Than Zero. You young’unz prolly don’t a’member that one. Anyway, I just see him as either hopelessly wrecked or like he’s doing an SNL skit. I dig Paltrow. But she hasn’t rescued these films for me. I mean, in the second one, I actually had more sympathy for Rourke’s character. I won’t sweat getting out to see this in the theater. Good weekend on-demand thingy after everyone’s in bed, though, and I can eat gobs of Goldfish crackers and drink a pack of Coke.
- Elysium: I’ve not heard a ton about this one, but I’ll admit to being very intrigued. I dig Damon. And when Foster’s on her game, I’m compelled. This flick feels vaguely PKD, to me, which is a good thing.
- Mad Max: Fury Road: Please leave this franchise alone, thank you. It’s tantamount to trying to remake spaghetti westerns. Don’tcha do it, son. I will say, though: Charlize is awesomesauce.
- Upside Down: Okay, Dunst is the real deal. She’ll have her hands full with this flick, which feels like it started with just the high-concept idea: two world so damn close–each with their own gravity–that if you go up to the mountain, you fall up to the second world. But here’s the thing: When I watched the trailer, Jim Sturgess got to me. The trailer editor might be a boss, but damn if Sturgess didn’t make me believe that inside this crazy idea of a film there was a human story I would care about. And here’s the other thing: I have like superhuman muscles for suspending disbelief. So much so that it can actually be painful (mentally, emotionally) to come to the end of a movie. I’ve been planning to write a blog post about this for a while, since enough of my compatriots seem mostly to rag on movies like Upside Down. Maybe Paul will swing a guest post so I can do some soapboxing on this topic, and reveal my crazy empathies.
- Pacific Rim: Um, isn’t this really just Monsters vs. Aliens? A film I adore. I have friends who are huge into mechs. And some who are, like, Godzilla superfans. I imagine they’re rather orgasmic over the possibilities of this film. I may go. But I’m going to be evaluating it based on MVA, so be warned! It does have Ron Perlman, kind of the Ron Jeremy of SFF, someone told me. And this one’s by del Toro, which I can’t decide if that’s awesome or not.
- Gravity: I daresay SFF fans are grimacing the world over at the notion of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney deigning to tell an epic SF story. I read that to arrive at Bullock and Clooney, they went through Jolie, Downey Jr., and others. Not sure what to make of that. But this one’s by Alfonso Cuaron, who I have some respect for. And y’know, the whole idea of a couple of folks literally floating in space…well, could be cool.
- Oblivion: This one just came out. And I’ll just admit it now, I’ll see ANYTHING with Morgan Freeman. To me, he’s this generations Jimmy Stewart, which if you know me at all, you know that’s about as high a praise as I can give. So, I will go see this. And I’ll hope Cruise isn’t all Top Guy smiley. I’d prefer he be more the Born on the Fourth of July Cruise. Anyway, here’s hoping . . .
- The Forever War: So, no idea if this comes this year–some sites suggest it will. But c’mon, Joe Haldeman’s classic novel?! I’m so there! It’s a Ridley Scott picture, too. So that could be good.
- Leonardo Da Vinci and the Soldiers of Forever: I include this one because, like, did someone see Thomas Jefferson, Vampire Hunter and say, “Yeah, let’s do all the famous old personalities battling against crazy crap. And people will pay us money to show them these damnations. Plus, this one has shades of Robert Langdon. Thus, we have all the blockbustery allusions in one film!”
- After Earth: I like Will Smith, but usually when he’s all glib and talkin’ around a big ole stogie. Wait, that’s not fair. I really did like him in Seven Pounds, and in The Pursuit of Happyness, too. But this premise…oh, right, M. Night Shyamalan. I have to tell you, I haven’t really cared for anything he’s done since Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense. He evokes a great mood, but for me it typically descends into silliness. I mean, Lady in the Water, in which M., himself, plays the part of a writer who is foretold to write a book which will change the world. Doooood, I know a lot of writers, and none of them have an ego that size. That’s like head-on-Mount-Rushmore arrogant. Anyway, I won’t see this. Or maybe if a friend rents it later. Friend’s money. Rental. Later.
- The Martian Chronicles: Another one rumored to maybe come this year. All I can say is they better not F**K it up!
- Roswell FM: I include this because it looks campy. And we needs us some campy sometimes.
- The Outer Limits: I feel a bit about this one like I do about The Martian Chronicles. I’m a fan of those old shows, including The Twilight Zone. So, Hollywood, if you’re reading, you’ve been duly warned.
- The Purge: Okay, does anyone else think this sounds a bit like The Hunger Games? I see that Ethan Hawke is attached, which made me pause, because I liked Gattaca. Anyway, it feels like a cross between Hunger Games and The Running Man, which, now that I think about it, pretty much makes me think The Hunger Games folks must have been watching Arnold do this thing in that movie once upon a time. But, c’mon, think about the title: The Purge.
- Ender’s Game: I sure hope all the backlash on Card doesn’t hurt this film. I have such a soft spot for this book. Mostly because it’s the definition of awesome. I dig Ford and Kingsley. And Asa Butterfield is pretty much this generation’s Elijah Wood–you know, young actor who’s got that certain something you believe in. I have confidence he can pull off a solid Ender. If this one goes south, I will cry a week. I will cry.
- Hyperion: I saved this one for last because it’s the one I’m the most excited for. Not sure if it will hit this year. I hope to hell it does. And I hope even more that they get it right. I’m a huge Simmons fan. I think he’s a brilliant writer. I did a double, no triple, take when I saw that Bradley Cooper wants to do these. Now, prior to Silver Linings Playbook and The Words, I’d have begun laughing, and still been laughing as I type this, given that mostly I know him from all those Hangover films. But I’ve seen some recent depth, and he’s a Simmons fan. Hopefully that means he’ll take some real care with this story, about which I feel strangely protective. It’s set to be two feature films, and as I understand it, Cooper is putting his hand in on some of the adaptation. But he’s said he’d like to direct, too. If it all turns out the way he wants, I hope it doesn’t wind up all Lucas-Star-Wars-like. By which I mean: Sometimes, you should just do the one thing you’re best at. Cooper’s adaptation was authored with a friend. I’ve seen Cooper interviewed. He’s smart. He’s self-assured. But listen to what Simmons himself says about the latest I’ve-got-Hyperion-figured-out film script. I love these books. Done right, they could be my most favoritest, bestest science fiction films ever. I will see this on day one, regardless. I hope not to be disappointed. That would suck.
I don’t know if I should blame old age or George Lucas, but I find myself anticipating fewer and fewer films.
But Star Trek 2 might be as close to one as we get for that. It isn’t just the director, but the cast. Forget about just superhero movies, but Chris Evans is extremely likeable. He has the “it” factor where he can hold the screen with Denzel Washington in Unstoppable. And Zachary Quinto, all you need to do is see Margin Call to see a guy without pointy ears you can enjoy. Pressing 50 — the old age thing — I don’t do that first weekend rush the way I used to, but this might be one I do.
I am also extremely curious about Enders Game? As a literary agent, I am always happy when the top selling novels in sf/f find their way to the screen, and in this case Orson Scott Card was one of my gateway drugs into reading sf/fantasy 35 years ago. But that means a lot of apprehension for me as well. One of the things that hooked me on Card was the humanity of his best work, the emotion of Ender’s life as much as the video gaming of it, the emotion of his story Unaccompanied Sonata. What I fear is that the movie will devolve into a video game.
Which brings us to the George Lucas part.
The second Star Wars trilogy was the first series of movies I can recall where I watched fancy CGI with complete and utter detachment, because it was all so clearly CGI. And since, I feel that way constantly. I practically expect that most sf/f films and most comic book movies will be far too enamored of the CGI, ending in a long CGI battle scene with thundering music and no sense of genuine risk to the characters.
Another thing age brings is experience. Growing up comic book movies were relatively rare, and Marvel movies nonexistent. I am growing tired of them. In recent memory, Iron Man and Thor are the only ones to my liking. Even a lot of the ones that have gotten good reviews, I haven’t enjoyed. Not X-Men First Class. Not Avengers. Not Captain America. Not Iron Man 2. Not last summer’s Batman movie.
And since a lot of these have been generally well reviewed or have gotten good word of mouth from clients and friends, I am at a point where it’s hard for me to find a path toward anticipation. Iron Man 3 has gotten some good reviews in the London papers where it premiered while I was over for London Book Fair, but can I trust them? The coming attraction wasn’t doing anything for me. But I would like to see an Iron Man movie as good as the first. I would like to see the Shane Black of the pleasantly amusing Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and not of Last Action Hero. To see or not to see…
I saw Oblivion in London. I walked out.
A Superman movie with Clark Kent wearing a beard from the director of 300 and The Watchmen? Maybe I will watch Richard Donner’s on BluRay.
I’ve joked with my friends that beginning with Iron Man 3 on May 3, I’ll be living at the movie theater for the rest of 2013. It’s not far off from the truth, since my list of movies that I absolutely want to see in the cinema is quite long. You’ve been warned.
WILL ABSOLUTELY SEE:
- IRON MAN 3 – Besides the fact that RDJ is a joy in every way, the Iron Man franchise succeeds in addition because of the balance of humor, action, and drama. There’s so much charisma between Downey Jr, Paltrow, and Cheadle, that adding Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce to the mix can only equal some brand of perfection. When you know that Marvel initially didn’t want RDJ, and he had to fight to even get a screen test, it’s all the more incredible because you can’t imagine anyone else catapulting this series into the realm of super-blockbuster. Nobody is going to make money in 2013 like Iron Man/Tony Stark will (and by association, RDJ, who is the top selling movie star as of last year…believe it). Genius, billionaire, playboy(ish), philanthropist. Now box office golden boy.
- PACIFIC RIM – Guillermo del Toro. Anybody who follows me on Twitter knows I’ve been squeeing about this film for at least a year now. As someone who grew up on mecha anime and kaiju movies, Pacific Rim is basically the movie I’ve been waiting my whole life to see. Del Toro is a master storyteller (Pan’s Labyrinth is pretty much a flawless film) who promises to anchor this SFX-fest with Strong Human Elements. With a cast that includes Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), Idris Elba (Luther), and Rinko Kikuchi (The Brothers Bloom) – not to mention they shot this film entirely in my home city of Toronto – I’ll be there opening night even if I have to smash a few highways to get there.
- MAN OF STEEL – You either love or hate Zack Snyder’s tell-tale look (Watchmen, 300, Sucker Punch), and personally I love it. His movies are enjoyable, no matter their flaws, and with Christopher Nolan backing this Superman reboot, the combination might very well propel Snyder from cinematic stylist to multimillion dollar franchise director. With Henry Cavill (The Tudors) playing the man of steel himself (after he was passed over in Superman Returns), you can’t ask for a better Clark Kent/Kal-El. Have you seen him? He’s so beautiful he might as well be an alien. Add a cast that includes Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, and Michael Shannon as General Zod – with a bonus of Kevin Costner as Pa Kent (who else, right?) – this film certainly has the potential. Early word is it’s amazing too.
- ELYSIUM – Who here didn’t like District 9? Go hang your head in shame. I’m hoping director Neill Blomkamp will do with this movie what he did for his previous one, despite a much bigger budget (which, as you know, tends to mean more studio interference). With a lead cast that includes Matt Damon (looking appropriately badass and post-apoc) and Jodie Foster segueing her blonde ice queen precision into a juicy villain role, this movie seems to already have depth mixed with stunning visuals and a nuanced plot. The trailer certainly does its job.
- THE WOLVERINE – I almost missed this one for some reason, but yes, Hugh Jackman playing one of my favorite super/antiheroes, and it’s set in Japan. Technically there is nothing wrong with these elements and therefore this movie should be perfect.
- STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS – I’m not a giant Star Trek fan – like to collect things or watch the movies/TV shows multiple times – but I do have nostalgia for it. That being said, J.J. Abrams and his lens flare did a bangin’ job with this franchise reboot and I hope this sequel is even better. Chris Pine, Zach Quinto, and Karl Urban are a wonderful modern version triumvirate, and Zoe Saldana brings some oomph to Uhura. Basically the cast is great, the action solid, and the special FX is befitting a science fiction titan like Star Trek. Toss in Benedict Cumberbatch as the creepy baddie and this should please the fans both casual and hardcore.
- THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG – I just recently saw the first one in this trilogy and enjoyed it. Again, I’m not a giant fan of the films (I prefer Game of Thrones, if we’re being honest), but I did love the Lord of the Rings trilogy and these service the same kind of place in my heart for unapologetic quest fantasies put to screen. And, you know, how can you not love Bilbo? And Gandalf? And all of those annoyingly ethereal elves? The dwarves are great too. And I really want to see Smaug. Gollum greatness goes without saying, even if I have trouble understanding his audio.
- WORLD WAR Z – I haven’t read the book and zombies give me nightmares but that doesn’t matter because Brad Pitt. Basically the only reason for this movie is “because Brad Pitt.” Despite the production drama behind the scenes which doesn’t usually bode well for any film, I have faith in The Brad and the fact magic can be performed in the editing room. Plus he’s running around with long hair and a gun – allow me to be superficial.
- MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – I’m one of those people who can quote from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, which is obviously the best movie of this franchise. The fact this new one has Charlize Theron (with a Natalie Portman-esque shaved head) and Tom Hardy in it should be all you need to know if you’re a fan of this particular brand of post-apocalyptic hellraising. Which I am. With lots of leather and desert (because that’s a combination you would want in real life, sure), I just hope they don’t scrimp on the quotable dialogue.
- RIDDICK – Similarly to World War Z, the only reason for this movie, for me, is Katee Sackhoff and Karl Urban. The last film in this franchise was so awful I don’t remember a thing about it except poor Judi Dench and a lot of running – and then laughing about it with my friends after, like WTF did we just watch? Hopefully this one will be better. It better be. Starbuck is my girl and I would love for her to have a film career.
- GRAVITY – I like Sandra Bullock and George Clooney is pretty good, but I’m interested to see this mainly for Alfonso Cuaron, who is a friend of Guillermo del Toro and also directed Children of Men. Cuaron knows how to tell a moody, heavy story and can obviously handle genre, and Gravity promises to be all of that and more.
- ENDER’S GAME – I recently reread the book and I have to say…I enjoyed it better as a kid. That being said, if any story will benefit even more from a film version, it’s this one. Here’s hoping it delivers.
- THE FOREVER WAR – Is this actually happening, with Ridley Scott directing? I don’t see a cast list so maybe it’s in turnaround, but if this happens (highly doubtful if there isn’t even a cast and we’re heading into the summer of 2013 … no way will it come out by the end of the year) I would love to see it. Joe Haldeman’s novel put to screen, directed by the same man who did Gladiator, Blade Runner, and Alien. Somebody make it happen.
- OBLIVION – Most of us are over Tom Cruise, but this movie which is based on Radical Comics’ title of the same name sure does have stunning visuals (courtesy of the same director who did the new Tron, starring Garrett Hedlund; he also created the comic). I ended up seeing this last week and enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. It’s like a blend of old school SF (in the vein of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Logan’s Run), and had a surprisingly strong emotional core. Far less an action movie (though the action is quite good and Cruise continues to be believable when he runs and hollers) and more of a romantic drama with an SF backdrop, it’s definitely worth a watch – preferably on a very large screen so you get the full effect of the visuals.
Bonus mentions not on The List provided by SF Signal:
- NOW YOU SEE ME (whoever came up with this title needs some help) – OK, so it might not be strictly genre — though the director Louis Leterrier has plenty of genre cred: The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans — but it deals with apparent “magic” in modern day Las Vegas, which is about as alien as you can get on this planet. I wanted to give it a shout out because it stars Mark Ruffalo (ie: Bruce Banner/The Hulk in The Avengers for you people who don’t know who he is, and if you don’t know who he is, shame on you, because he’s a fantastic actor). I say it stars Mark Ruffalo because he’s the only reason I will pay money for this. Anyway, the trailer is…interesting.
Not going to touch with a 10 foot pole:
- BIG ASS SPIDER (points for a great ridiculous title though?) – I think it’s safe to say I have less than zero interest in seeing this, ever, short of a random appearance from RDJ accompanying me to the theater, which we know will never happen. Therefore, neither will this movie and me.
- ALL THE 3D CONVERSIONS EVER – I guess I’m just not going to pay extra money for this, though if any movie will be awesome in this format, it’s Jurassic Park. I might make an exception for dinosaurs and Sam Neill – this movie was a landmark for its T-Rexes.