2012 is going to be a MASSIVE year in film. You only have to take a look at one of the most hectic summer release schedules in recent memory to realise this, but there are also plenty of notable delights scattered throughout the rest of the year to keep the movie-attending momentum going right up until the end of December. As far as I’m concerned, much of 2011 was a bit of a disappointment. Whilst there were many excellent films to be found, there really wasn’t much of a flow to the release schedule at all and a few of the big guns just didn’t live up to expectations. There should, however, be enough potential quality in these 10 films to excite even the most sceptic of movie-goers. Let’s take a look at what’s coming our way…
10. The Woman in Black
As much as it was fun to laugh at the crap acting of the kids in the earlier Harry Potter films, and as much as their limited acting skills were one of the weaker points of some of the later instalments, by Deathly Hallows Part 2 I think it is fair to say that Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe all stood up to the plate and delivered excellent performances. Radcliffe always seems to be the first to tell anyone he can that he doesn’t find acting easy and he’s really had to try hard to work at it, but the consensus seems to be that the hard work is paying off. Now the time has come to leave the shadow of Harry behind we’re going to find out if Radcliffe can successfully move on into other roles, and boy has he chosen a fascinating first film project to move on to; a Hammer film. Recently revived after 30 years of cinema hibernation, the new Hammer’s small output so far has been slightly hit and miss. Last year’s The Wake Wood, which I have yet to see, garnered a good amount of critical acclaim, as did, surprisingly, their remake of cult Swedish horror Let the Right One In. Their one other film, The Resident, is best forgotten. The Woman in Black, though, is promisingly written by the co-writer of the likes of Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, Jane Goldman. If all the players in this intriguing ensemble of talent are on form, this could end up being something quite special.
The Bond team are hoping to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of Dr. No with a bang. Marred by numerous delays due to MGM’s financial troubles (and Skyfall certainly isn’t the only film on this list we can say that about!), filming is finally underway for an instalment in the series that has rapidly taken shape as a very exciting prospect. Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes, two of the greatest villains of the last decade in No Country for Old Men and the Harry Potter series respectively, are both on board. American Beauty’s Sam Mendes is directing. And, of course, Daniel Craig and Judi Dench both return to their famous roles. Whilst I’ve never been a massive Bond fan I have to admit to being quietly impressed by the Daniel Craig era. Though I don’t necessarily condone Hollywood’s obsession at the moment for making everything ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’, it does work well here. The ridiculous gadgets and over-the-top camp that used to be associated with Bond seem to be a distant memory, but the franchise is undoubtedly still at the front of every film fans mind. Skyfall will, I am sure, continue to breathe new life into Bond, even after half a century.
8. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
An odd choice, yes, but the track record of Aardman Animations is a largely decent one, and as they once again return to the stop motion animation with which they made their name I feel this could be their next Chicken Run. Based on Gideon Defoe’s The Pirates! series of books, The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his crew compete to be awarded with the Pirate of the Year Award. The film features an impressive array of British actors; David Tennant, Martin Freeman, Lenny Henry, Brian Blessed and Brendan Gleeson, in addition to Salma Hayek. Aardman have always kept a uniquely British, eccentric sense of humour to their films, and this certainly looks to be no exception. One to watch.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man
The first of a few comic-book inspired films on my list, once again the summer is going to be dominated by superheroes. When it was announced at the start of 2010 that the planned Spider-Man 4 had been scrapped, along with director Sam Raimi and an admittedly now too old for the role Toby Maguire, I wasn’t very happy. Even more perturbed was I to learn that the next Spider-Man film would in fact be a reboot, re-telling an origin story that everybody already knows and, even worse, only 10 years after it was shown in Raimi’s first Spidey picture anyway. What a waste of time! Then Marc Webb, director of the massively underlooked (500) Days of Summer, stepped into the frame. Then Andrew Garfield, who I have followed since his supporting character role in Channel 4 teen lesbian drama Sugar Rush in 2005 to his amazing success in The Social Network last year, was cast as Peter Parker. Sony seems to want to do this reboot right, hiring fresh and exciting new talent to take control of the series. In stark contrast to my initial reaction, I am now singing the praises of whoever decided this reboot was a good idea.
6. The Avengers
Whilst Spider-Man gets left out because Sony Pictures own the rights to use the character in films, the rest of the Marvel Universe’s biggest heroes finally come together on the big screen this year. However neither the X-Men nor the Fantastic Four get to join in either because they’re owned by 20th Century Fox. Actually, maybe Fox should do their own reply to The Avengers next year…X-Men vs. The Fantastic Four, anyone?? Nevertheless, Marvel Studios have carefully crafted contemporary film versions of some of their lesser known characters since 2008’s Iron Man, and now the general public are getting very excited about seeing Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and others standing side by side to fight Loki, Thor’s mischievous little brother. It was a pleasant surprise when Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame was added in to the mix to direct this awesome assembly of characters and in my eyes there are only two ways this can go – one of the most fun action films ever made or a stupendous failure that doesn’t work on any level. I’m still undecided until I see more of it so The Avengers is going mid-list for now, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.
5. The Muppets
I would say “The Muppets are coming!”, but the truth is they’ve already been. By the time The Muppets is released in the UK it’ll be almost 3 months since its initial release in North America, yet promotion for the film on our humble shores seemed to illogically coincide with that American release date. Kermit and co. have appeared on everything from Children in Need to The X-Factor in the last couple of months and I just hope that everyone hasn’t forgotten about them again or gotten fed up of them by the time the film is eventually released here on February 17th. Taking inspiration from the fact that The Muppets franchise has been very under-the-radar recently, this new film follows the gang as they attempt to recapture their glory days and hit the big time once again. I’ve heard many a good thing about their first theatrical film for an unbelievable 12 years, and after my annual watching of The Muppet Christmas Carol during the festivities of the past week I am hugely excited to see a lot of fresh Muppet antics. It’ll be a phenomenon!
After releasing 2 sequels of vast difference in both success and quality, Pixar return to telling an original tale this year. Not much is known about the story of Brave, only that it is set in the ancient Scottish Highlands where young Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) goes against the grain of her people’s traditional customs and inadvertently causes havoc in doing so. As with The Pirates!, an interesting line-up of English and Scottish actors make up the voice cast, including Julie Walters, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Billy Connelly. Brave is intriguing as it looks set to be Pixar’s first traditional fairytale type story, something that has long been thought of as the forte of their parent company, Disney. Could Pixar do it better? Despite the slight blip of Cars 2, Pixar still holds an incredible record of being one of the most critically acclaimed film studios ever, and in my eyes you cannot find many better examples of film magic and clever, emotionally engrossing storytelling than Pixar at their best. I have very high hopes here.
3. The Dark Knight Rises
It’s hard to really imagine how Christopher Nolan could top The Dark Knight. He said all along that he would only return for a third and final film if he could find a good enough story, and whilst it always seemed inevitable that he would indeed return, it’s promising to think that he believes this film will be good enough to stand alongside its predecessor. Introducing Bane as the main villain opens up a big question – will he ‘break’ Bruce as he did in the comics? And will Nolan change the sound mix on Bane’s voice after the complaints from viewers of the prologue that they couldn’t understand the rasp of his voice -box? Meanwhile Commissioner Gordon looks to be on his deathbed and Catwoman is, as per usual, keeping her cards close to her leather-clad chest. The recently released trailer actually features very little Bruce, and even less Batman. The bulk of it seems to focus instead on Gotham as the protagonist of its own story, taking a cue from many Batman comic books which allude to Gotham City being a ‘character’ in its own right. Certainly, Batman has the power to save Gotham, but first Gotham needs to accept the Batman once and for all. Come July we’ll see how this story ends.
2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
It’s hard to really believe this one is finally happening. Rumoured for years after the success of the LOTR trilogy, Peter Jackson seemed somewhat hesitant to fully immerse himself back into the world of Tolkein. As such Guillmero del Toro was signed to direct with Jackson producing. However, MGM’s meltdown delayed the film for so long that del Toro eventually had to step down and it looked as if the film would be in trouble again. The search for a new director started but it was at this point Jackson realised the inescapable solution; he was destined to re-enter Middle Earth and bring The Hobbit to the big screen too. Initial plans were for two films, one based on The Hobbit itself, and a second film to serve as an ‘interquel’ with an original story, bridging the gap between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring. Now, instead, An Unexpected Journey is simply Part One of The Hobbit, with the conclusion to follow in 2013. Plenty of familiar faces are showing up (Elijah Wood as Frodo, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel), whether they had a place in the original book or not, but having that cast reunited all adds to the fun of seeing The Hobbit materialise. There is very little that got me more excited for 2012 than seeing Ian McKellen back in the Gandalf costume. Only one thing, in fact…
The Alien prequel that isn’t, I have to say, this one has surprised me. Prometheus has had my interest ever since it was announced. Ridley Scott returning to sci -fi with an Alien prequel? Brilliant. He’s the auteur behind Blade Runner and the original Alien film, two of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made. But then we were told this wasn’t actually a prequel; it was just set in the same universe. This was odd news, but something original and standalone could prove to be even better, right? Now, however, with the recent release of the first trailer, we can see that it CLEARLY AND UNDOUBTEDLY IS an Alien prequel. The characters are wandering around the same locations, with the infamous ‘Space Jockey’ now seeming to take centre stage. The lighting and shot direction visibly pays tribute to Alien. And if that weren’t enough, the slowly revealing letters which spell out the name of the film is exactly the same trick used in the opening titles of Alien. The top three films in this list all had their first trailers released just before Christmas. The Prometheus trailer is a work of art, the best of the lot. It was only watching that trailer for the first time, when I saw the stunning visuals of Ridley’s photog raphy, that I realised – THIS is the film to see in 2012.