Hot Stuff: The 2012 PopMatters Summer Movie Preview

It promises to be one of the most explosive summers on record and not just because of the pyrotechnics used in the various blockbuster tentpoles that Hollywood plans on handing out this season. Indeed, with one major action packed (or star studded) spectacle coming out each week between now and August, Cineplexes will be full of dynamite commercial content. Just the known names alone are enough to send fanboys — and their less familiar cousins, the casual viewers — into fits of franchise mirth. Sure, sure, in the past, we’ve had Hulk, Spider-man, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man to contend with. In 2012, however, they come together to anchor one of the biggest bags of motion picture popcorn ever.

Just look at the overall schedule. Ridley Scott is returning to his “roots”, so to speak with his not-prequel prequel to Alien, Prometheus. Similarly, Christopher Nolan has promised to wrap his take on Batman in a manner as amazing as his previous two Dark Knight films. Johnny Depp has Tim Burton taking on Dark Shadows, while Russian director buddy Timur Bekmambetov is unleashing the anarchic looking Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. From Battleship to Men in Black III, Tom Cruise as an ’80s rocker to Bruce Willis as both a small town sheriff and the original real American Hero, it promises to be one wild time at your favorite multiplex… and we haven’t even mentioned the aging action man majesty of August’s Expendables 2, complete with Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and the return of Ah-nold!

Of course, this could mean that many little movies will be overlooked, counterprogrammed prepared for those who aren’t moved by comic book crusaders and the various reinterpretations/reboots of same… and that would be a shame. Something like Safety Not Guaranteed (a small indie about time travel) or Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh riffing on male stripping?) shouldn’t suffer just because AMC wants to make room for another Ice Age offering. Similarly, something like Ted, the feature film debut of Family Guy‘s Seth McFarlane, should not be scuttled because it happens to fall in between the return of Peter Parker and the final installment in Bruce Wayne’s fall from grace. Yet that’s basically what the summer is like and, when you consider the megaton competition out there, something is bound to get lost in the fall out.

Still, things are shaping up to be very interesting indeed. Will Neighborhood Watch suffer from the association with one of the most controversial media stories in decades? Can Woody Allen wow the Italians as he did the French (early reviews suggest absolutely not). Can Jeremy Renner really replace Matt Damon as Bourne, and how much hype will we hear regarding the late Whitney Houston’s final onscreen turn in Sparkle? As we enter into the annual fray, it’s important to remember that mainstream appreciation will always trump artistry, and some of the most anticipated titles are bound to be humongous duds. Still, with a summer as hot as this, something’s going to sizzle and something is always gonna get burned. Hopefully, this time around, it’s not the audience.

— Bill Gibron