Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Watcher - Five comic book films for 2012

As 2011 rapidly recedes in the rear view mirror, the year ahead in cinema still holds an almost mythical sheen. With all the excitement over the veritable avalanche of quality comic book and sci-fi films over the last several years, it’s all starting to feel like it was simply a warm up for next year’s main event. If the Mayans were correct and next year is indeed to be our last, make sure you don’t miss the Watcher’s pick of 2012. This week, we’ll be looking at the most exciting year yet for comic book films...

In February, director Josh Trank unleashes big screen debut ‘Chronicle’ to a largely unsuspecting public. Though not actually based on a specific comic, ‘Chronicle’ looks set to follow in the dark and gritty tradition of M. Knight Shyamalan’s ‘Unbreakable’ (2000), exploring the real world implications as a group of teen friends discover superpowers. Screenwriter and comic fan Max Landis appears to have hit on a fairly fresh twist as the friends slowly progress from unleashing Jackass style pranks on one another to ever more terrifying extremes. The trailer has a definite ‘found footage’ vibe, but there are intriguing hints of something more epic beneath the surface. In the words of Dave Lisewski from ‘Kick Ass’ (2010) – ‘What would YOU do?’

Next up is a team who need no introduction. Heralded by no less than five solo blockbusters, April sees the release of Joss Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’. A dream project for comic book fans, this promises to be a true ‘pinch me’ moment as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury assembles the World’s Mightiest Heroes in a series of impressively realised battles filled with plenty of Whedon’s trademark witty banter. The presence of Tom Hiddleston’s Thor-bothering trickster Loki adds a touch of soul to villain duties, and impressively, despite a summer filled with leaked photos and persistent rumours, the true ‘Big Bads’ of the piece have yet to be properly revealed. Say it quietly, Whedon + Marvel Studios = Genius?

There is of course the small matter of Christopher Nolan’s hotly anticipated Batman trilogy capper, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ coming in July. Bringing the cinematic story of Christian Bale’s Batman full circle, ‘Rises’ promises to up the stakes as the beleaguered and battered caped crusader faces off against the impressive presence of Tom Hardy’s Bane. Nolan faces the unenviable task of following up 2008’s ‘The Dark Knight’, but with the recent revelation that the film picks up eight years later, a despair filled trailer, and advance footage that has been wowing critics, the film makers are clearly striving to bring fans something new. The best advice would be to ignore the dodgy leaked photos and instead check out ‘Bronsan’ (2008) and ‘Love and Other Drugs’ (2010) to see co-stars Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway at the top of their game.

The recently released teaser poster for Marc Webb’s ‘Amazing Spiderman’ also due in July promises ‘The Untold Story’ or if cynics are to be believed, the director of ‘500 Days of Summer’ (2009) is set to bring us ‘Spiderman for the Twilight Generation’. Despite grumbles that this reboot follows too hard on the heels of Sam Raimi’s beloved Spiderman films, the trailer promises romance and mystery in spades, with a dash of visual inventiveness. Comic books fans should be pleased with the nods to Marvel’s brilliant ‘Ultimate Spiderman’ line of comics, and the cast, led by British actor Andrew Garfield, certainly looks impressive, with Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Enduring Love) set to bring true oddball menace to the villainous Lizard.

Finally, this Watcher may well be alone in viewing 1995’s Sylvester Stallone vehicle ‘Judge Dredd’ as an unappreciated classic (you really are! BF), but that doesn’t mean that upcoming reboot ‘Dredd’, isn’t exciting news indeed. Although Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) is calling the shots, two things are enough to convince me that this is one to watch. Firstly, novelist turned screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine) has a knack for brutal realism and moody atmosphere, and secondly, leading man Karl Urban has bought true heart and soul to such diverse genre fare as ‘Lord of the Rings’ (2001-2003) and ‘Star Trek’ (2009). True, he’ll only get to emote using his chin, but as 2000AD purists will tell you, that’s exactly how it should be.

Looking at the above list, it’s hard to believe that for a time, 2011 seemed like the year of the Superhero, but with what’s in store for 2012, it might just be shaping up the be their decade.

Next week, wizards, warlords, xenomorphs and Colin Farrell, not to mention a long delayed summer vacation with Joss Whedon, as Robert Barton-Ancliffe looks ahead to the best of sci-fi and Fantasy for 2012.

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