Future Tense: The Summer Movies of 2012

We love to wax nostalgic at PoP!, but sometimes it’s what’s yet to come that most quickens our nerd pulses. For better or for worse, let’s start the speculation over what’s making us Future Tense.

This past summer had some amazing genre movies come out, and while they all weren’t great (I’m looking at you, Green Lantern…but don’t get so cocky, X-Men: First Class; you were slightly better than the third movie and that’s not saying much) we had some real winners. Next summer sees the culmination of two epic franchises, a couple of sequels and the reboot of a billion dollar franchise. While this past summer had some winners, 2012 could have one of the best summers for movies ever (although it would’ve been a lock Star Trek 2 hadn’t been pushed back). It’s almost too good to be true…which means that’s probably the case. Let’s take a look at a six-pack of genre movies coming out this summer and what could go wrong (or right) with them.

Men in Black 3 (May 25th)

Ten years after the sequel to one of the biggest summer movies of all time (and one of the films that cemented Will Smith as “Mister Fourth of July”) Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return for more alien shenanigans, this time joined by Josh Brolin as a young Tommy Lee Jones and NSFW-Gif champion Alice Eve as a young Emma Thompson.

Pros: Even at his worst, Will Smith is damn entertaining and can carry a terrible movie. Josh Brolin gives a dead-on Tommy Lee Jones impression, Emma Thompson will most likely add a touch of class to the joint and Jermaine Clement of “Flight of the Concords” fame will be playing the films Big Bad. Add Eve and Jones to the mix and that’s a hell of a line-up of star power, not to mention a decades worth of new special effects tricks you can throw in.

Cons: Did you see the second one? Yeah, so did I and I couldn’t find one of those memory wipe sticks to make me forget it either. As good as that cast is, can they save a movie that’s written by the guy who wrote the screenplay for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (although to be fair David Koepp did also write Jurassic Park and the first Spider-Man)? Jermain Clement is hilariously deadpan in Flight of the Concords, but how does that translate into being an alien bad-guy?  There’s also the looming question of “Do we need another Men in Black movie anyway?” What more can this franchise provide for us, aside from a time-travel story that will most likely be rife with “Wow stuff in the past is so much different than how it is now!” Plus, Mister Fourth of July is now opening on…Memorial Day. That doesn’t speak to confidently about the movie’s chances of being anything other than a family movie cash-grab.

Chance it won’t suck: 10%

GI Joe: Retaliation (June 29th)

The Real American (or is it United Nations?) Heroes are back, despite the critical drubbing the first movie took from reviewers and fans alike. This time The Rock, Adrianne Palicki and Bruce Willis are called in as reinforcements for an action movie franchise that has the chance to draw in hard-core fans and “regular joes” alike.

Pros: Did you see that trailer? Yeah you did! While the first G.I.Joe movie may have had one of the dumbest action movie plots of all time, it seems that the powers that be have realized that and decided to do away with almost the entire original cast from the first movie. While Channing Tatum makes an appearance, it seems likely that his character Duke will “Step Up 2 tha Pearly Gates” in the opening scenes of the movie, along with the rest of the original movie’s cast (except for Snake Eyes, since he can’t be killed), making this the Rock’s movie. I can smell what you’re cooking, Dwayne, and it’s you perched atop a tank with a machine gun mowing down wave after wave of vipers. Palicki looks right at home at his side, moving easily from heavy machine gunner to evening dress stunner. And Bruce Willis, are you kidding me? With the original Joes gone and no Destro and Baroness it’s possible we’ll leave the ridiculous anime-esque relationships of the first movie behind and focus on guns, action and scads of Red Ninjas.

Cons: The Phantom Menace, Spider-Man 3 and Clash of the Titans. What do they have in common? They had great trailers and turned out to be god-awful movies. I love me a good trailer as much as the next internet-enabled movie lover but I know it’s pretty damn easy to make a movie look great with a well put together trailer, especially an action movie. As much as we’d like to forget the first G.I.Joe movie even existed the way it ended guarantees we can’t. Zartan is still the President, and some how that means that he can order an entire UN peacekeeping force murdered with “extreme prejudice.” As great as it’ll be to have what may be as close as we’ll ever come to a public execution of Channing Tatum, are we 100% that they’re going to kill of Duke in the first quarter of the movie? What are the odds he pops back up in the third reel with some kind of bogus “it was only a flesh wound” story? As great as it is that we’re leaving the horrid mess that is the first movie’s story behind what sense does that make? They’re going to spring Cobra Commander but leave Destro and the Baroness on the floating X-Men prison from the first one (seriously, didn’t that place look like Magneto’s cell)? Be wary, PoPulation. This is Hollywood, and they have a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory like nobody’s business, especially when it comes to licensed action movies (*cough*Punisher*cough*).

Chance it won’t suck: 25%

Prometheus (June 8th)

Ridley Scott returns to science fiction and the Alien franchise to address one of the untold mysteries of the series: what was up with that big elephant guy in the telescope chair in Alien (remember, from the big ship that had all the xenomorph eggs)? With a cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron, we’re going to find out in a big way.

Pros: Ridley Scott doing Alien stuff again? Addressing one of the longest running mysteries in science fiction history? The odds of this being as dark and terrifying as the original Alien are high, especially with a cast this talented and a director that’s helmed numerous cereberal big-budget science fiction epics.

Cons: Yeah, it’s a prequel to Alien and it addresses one of the big mysteries in the franchise…but did you guys hear about how it won’t actually have Xenomorphs in it? Yeah, what? There’s a reason some derivation of “Alien” isn’t in the title. But if they aren’t fighting xenomorphs then what the hell are they all screaming about in the trailer? Scott and screenwriter Damon Lindeloff has said that the main thrust of the movie is exploring humanity’s origins in space. That could be great, but this *is* from the guy who was one of the driving forces on lost, and there’s a fine line between “cerebral” and “I don’t know what’s going on.” This may end up being a decent stand-alone movie, but it has the potential to annoy a lot of people with it’s lack of Geiger-inspired Aliens (although Scott did get in touch with Geiger to see what an early form of the xenomorphs might look like) or just not get that much exposure as people don’t even realize it’s related to the Aliens films.

Chance it won’t suck: 45%

Amazing Spider-Man (July 3rd)

Spider-Man returns to the big screen after a sequel that was so bad it sank an entire franchise. With new talent, new effects and and a young, passionate cast and director it’s time for the superhero franchise box-office champion to return to greatness.

Pros: Another entry in the “It can’t be as bad as the last movie!” sweepstakes. The story apparently takes its high notes from Bendis’ epic Ultimate Spider-Man series, which means they’re going to give it a science-based background and a darker, more conspiratorial feel. People were wary of emo-haired Andrew Garfield, but after his impassioned address to fans at this past years San Diego Comic-Con no one can doubt the actor’s dedication to the character and source material.

Cons: Darker? For Spider-Man? Really? Sure the dance number nonsense and camp factor of the third movie destroyed the franchise, but does that mean we have to turn Spider-Man into a brooding emo-kid? Spider-Man is fun and quippy and while Peter Parker may be perpetually down on his luck, it’s in a “Man, I can’t get to my date/job on time and have to come up with a lame excuse” way, not a “I’m going to sit in my dark room and sew myself a costume while listening to the Cure” kind of way. Director Marc Webb hasn’t done much besides music films and 500 Days of Summer, which also had a huge musical number in it…awww, crap! Did he not get the memo that no one liked that? In seriousness, Webb may be thrown into the deep end of the pool for this big-budget blockbuster and he unfairly has huge shoes to fill and missteps to make up for.

Chance it won’t suck: 50%

Avengers (May 4th)

The culmination of four years of movies and an entire studio’s raison d’être comes to a head in this movie that ties together four movie franchises into the movie that every super-hero loving kid has dreamed of since it became feasible for super-hero movies to be taken seriously by Hollywood.

Pros: It’s the combination of three well-done, established franchises and big name actors that are already familiar with their roles. Even the though the Hulk movie hasn’t spawned as much success as Marvel’s Big Three it was still relatively well received by critics and fans. The fact that all of these characters have already been established allows for writer/director Joss Whedon to focus on the relationships and main story of the film without worrying too much about the actors finding where they fit into their roles. Not only do the actors know where they stand, but few directors in Hollywood could bring as much understanding and respect of the source material than Whedon does.

Cons: That’s all well and good but despite being a comic fan and having legions of undying fans at his disposal, what has Whedon done for us lately? His best days may not be behind him, but for all his street cred he’s yet to deliver a major box office hit…or keep a TV show on the air in the past ten years. While Downey, Hemsworth and Evans have their performances pitch-perfect, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner (plus mo-capped Hulk) is the wild card. After Norton’s excellent turn as Banner, Ruffalo seems like the consolation prize. Renner’s star has been on the fast-rise for the past couple of years, but his five minutes of being Hawkeye in the Thor movie is hardly a good indicator of how he’ll play the avenging archer (or how the character will be portrayed). Then there’s Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, the most non-Russian Russian secret agent to ever grace the silver screen. As good as these actors are individually, what kind of chemistry are they going to have on screen? Given that this is a big action blockbuster, we’re not going to have a whole lot of “getting to know you” time in the film and that may be a big hurdle to jump, especially when we still have to get Captain America acclimated to the 21st century and Thor back to Earth (which may be difficult with his Rainbow Bridge in the shop). Yes, this is the origin story for a team but are we really going to feel like this is an actual team once the movie is done?  As for the main story, there are a lot still up in the air. While we know Loki will play a part, we can sort of assume that there’s another threat for the team to face as well (and one that involes a lot of extras covered in ping-pong balls). Good money says it’s going to be the Skrulls, but that opens up a whole other kettle of fish. Like how are we going to get a team of superheroes together, introduce and explain the Skrulls (or some other menace), explain how Loki came back from floating space limbo and balance out enough character moments to keep the movie feel like more than jumped-up superhero action movie Frankenstein. As good as all the people involved are, that’s a damn high degree of difficulty.

Chance it won’t suck: 75%

Dark Knight Rises (July 20th)

Christopher Nolan, David Goyer, Jonathan Nolan, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman return for a sequel to what is arguably one of the greatest superhero movies of all time and to finish off a trilogy featuring one of the biggest icons in comic book history. So, no pressure guys…

Pros: Do I have to? I mean, we know what movie series we’re talking about, right? Not only has Nolan delivered the greatest, most well-rounded live-action portrayal of Batman ever, I defy you to find a bad move that he’s made. I’ll wait. While Bane may be an odd choice for a “big bad,” if this is in fact a movie about Batman’s final days then what better villain for him to face? Sure, he’s got a weird thing on his face and he may be hard to understand, but whenever I have doubts about Hardy’s Bane I remember how I had those same feelings about Ledger’s Joker…and we all know how well that turned out. Nolan is attempting to do something no superhero franchise has ever done before in chronicling the entire length and scope of a heroes journey, including the end. It’s a daunting task, but if anyone can do it Nolan and company can.

Cons: All that aside, the expectations for this movie are nothing short of monumental. Hell, I left the theater at the end of Dark Knight worried about the next film in the series. Dark Knight is practically a perfect film, so how do you follow that up? What can you possibly do to top it, or even come close to it, when one of the driving forces behind the film’s success has passed away? As Jason Knize pointed out a couple weeks ago, there’s been more than enough spoiled and talked about it, but there’s still plenty of mystery still on the table. Is Marion Cotillard Talia al Ghul? Who the hell is Joseph Gordon-Leavitt playing? It it really just a cop named John Blake or is he perhaps a secret Dick Grayson? What about Ellen Page possibly being Barbara Gordon (or perhaps even Oracle)? Throw in Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and that’s a whole bushel of people we’ve got to deal with in this film. If anything, what this film has to live up to and accomplish (especially if they’re killing/crippling Batman in it) could be its biggest undoing. They could literally do anything in this movie, and while that makes for a potentially brilliant movie-going experience it also means that they could just swerve out into left field for something that just brings the whole thing crumbling down around them. It’s very possible that this will be the almost-as-good Return of the Jedi to Dark Knight’s Empire Strikes Back, and while that’s nothing to sneeze at, who wants to leave the theater going “Yeah it was good, but the last one was better?”

Chance it won’t suck: 90%
Chance we’ll be arguing which movie in the trilogy is better for the rest of our nerdy lives: 100%

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Who ARE these people!?

Thacher E. Cleveland is a contributing writer & columnist for PanelsOnPages.com, co-host of the Super-Fly Comics & Games PodCast, novelist & comic creator. Originally from New Jersey and previously from Yellow Springs, Ohio, he currently lives in Chicago. You can find him on Twitter (@demonweasel), tumblr, his personal website and even on Google+

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