By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist April 30, 2012 at 10:58AM
It feels like the summer movie season has been underway for some time already, given that last month saw the arrival of huge blockbuster "The Hunger Games," as well as "21 Jump Street," an R-rated comedy that's taken an enormously impressive $130 million. And that's even without mentioning those that hoped to be big box office stuff, but fell at the first: "John Carter," already taking its place among the annals of the great flops, and "Wrath Of The Titans," which has taken less than half what its predecessor made domestically.
So yes, 2012 has already brought its share of blockbusters, but we're just getting started. Next week brings "The Avengers," the first salvo in a four-month-long cascade of tentpoles that cost more than the GDP of a third-world country, star-laden comedies and animated extravaganzas. Between now and the middle of August, every single week brings at least one major studio movie, and this year seems to be bigger than ever, with juggernaut brands/characters like Batman, Spider-Man, Alien and Jason Bourne bringing new movies to theaters.
To help you sort the shit from the shynola, we've picked the ten most promising blockbusters below. We hope they're all great, and while some will disappoint, these are the ten that we our calendars highlighted for. But that's not all, stay tuned this week for our look at the indie movies on the horizon this summer too.
Synopsis: Orphaned as a child, high-school student Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) meets an old colleague of his father's, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). But their experiments don't just give Parker amazing powers after he's bitten by a spider, but also turn Connors into a beast known as The Lizard, which puts Parker's family and girlfriend, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) at risk.
What You Need To Know: "Spider-Man" is one of the most successful superhero frachises to date, and as such, Sony's decision to reboot the series five years after "Spider-Man 3" while controversial, makes sense from the perspective of wanting to keep the character going. The footage we've seen has been increasingly promising, with Marc Webb seemingly having a better handle on the humor than Sam Raimi did, and the leads look well cast, but the idea of another origin story is a wearying one, and it's yet to prove its reason to exist other than as a potential cash cow, and with tough superhero competition this summer, it's got more of a case to make. We remain optimistic, but Sony need to show the goods soon to put this on the same level of anticipation as the competition.
When? July 3rd
Synopsis: As the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) seeks to conquer Earth with an army from another world, S.H.I.E.L.D. must bring together superheroes Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to bring him down.
What You Need To Know: Most of these films, we're taking educated guesses as to whether they're good or not. "The Avengers" we know if it's good or not, because we've seen it. And it's very good indeed (you can read our review here). It's simply one of the best executed and most purely enjoyable summer blockbusters in a long, long time. Writer-director Joss Whedon pulled off the impossible, and delivered a raucously entertaining, entirely coherent, and pretty smart picture all around. We're hopeful that films like "Prometheus" and "The Dark Knight Rises" will stir the heart and soul a little more than Whedon does here. But for pure fun, if anything tops this, it'll be a truly great summer.
When? May 4th.
Synopsis: As events of "The Bourne Identity" trilogy unfold, the CIA also have to deal with another rogue agent: Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), from another program, Operation Outcome, with even greater skills than Bourne.
What You Need To Know: Can a franchise recover without the star and director that launched it to success? After Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon departed Universal's 'Bourne' spy franchise, the studio turned to Tony Gilroy, the Oscar-nominated director of "Michael Clayton," and a writer on the first three films, to helm a new installment. We spoke to Gilroy late last week, and he confirmed that the new film, which follows a new agent, played by Jeremy Renner, follows directly on from the original, with a little overlap: " 'Ultimatum' is playing out in background in the first 10-15 minutes," Gilroy told The Playlist. "The events of 'Ultimatum' trigger what happens in this film." And moreover, there seems to be an even greater scope than previous film, with Gilroy telling us that the film shot in "Korea, Abu Dhabi, a long time in Manila, way up in Canada... New York." And despite the shake-up, and new cast members including Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz and Oscar Isaac, Gilroy says the essential selling point of the series remains intact: "We have very deep, complex characters, with real behavior and real problems, and you take those real people and put them into extreme, visceral situations, and then you have stuff that's motivated, with real locations, and real gravity and physics. We always say that we're 'Mission: Plausible' not 'Mission: Impossible'."
When? August 3rd
Synopsis: In medieval Scotland, feisty Merida (Kelly Macdonald), the daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), kicks against the status quo, but accidentally unleashes a beastly curse.
What You Need To Know: Ordinarily, we'd be able to say one word to convince you: Pixar. No other company has quite built up the level of goodwill as the computer animation giants. But then, last year, they faced up to critical anger for the first time with the poorly-received "Cars 2." Was this the beginning of the end for the studio? Well, we're not 100% sold on "Brave" yet, but it certainly looks like a step up, especially as it's the first time that the company have gone with a female lead. The plot specifics are still being kept under wraps, but there's a neat Miyazaki-does-"Braveheart" tone to the footage we've seen so far, and reaction to 30 minutes of advance footage screened for press has been enthusiastic. If nothing else, with "Monsters University" filling the slot next summer, after "Toy Story 3" and "Cars 2" in the last two, it'll be the only original Pixar movie for some time, and that's surely something to celebrate.
When? June 22nd
Synopsis: A North Carolina congressman (Will Ferrell) becomes embroiled in a sex scandal, causing an unlikely outsider (Zach Galafianakis) to run against him.
What You Need To Know: Like clockwork, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay have contributed a big summer comedy every other year for close to a decade or so, from 2004's "Anchorman" to 2010's "The Other Guys." This time around, McKay's only producing, with comedy vet Jay Roach ("Austin Powers," "Meet The Parents") at the helm, and "The Hangover" star Zach Galifianakis joins Ferrell as a pretty tantalizing comic match-up (with Jason Sudeikis, John Lithgow, Brian Cox and Dan Aykroyd in support). It's timely stuff, in an election year, and Roach's experience on "Recount" and "Game Change" means we could get a based-in-fact satirical edge to the laughs. That being said, this is the biggest summer movie that's yet to release a trailer, so this could still go either way: either the "Anchorman" of politics, or a feature-length version of one of those mediocre "Saturday Night Live" opening sketches.
When? August 10th