Wednesday, January 7th, 2009...11:55 am
2009′s Biggest Movies: Will They Be Any Good?
By Rassam Fakour-Zaker
Know Your Money Editor
If you’re anything like me then every year you read the highly-excitable previews of the forthcoming major movies and feel idealistic seeds of childlike anticipation forming. Around this time last year I, like many, was considering the cinematic wonders that lay before me like an eager child on Christmas Eve. Magazines, TV shows and websites banged on about Wanted, Indiana Jones 4, Jumper, Quantum of Solace et al until, as is customary, I had to change my underwear and breathe into a paper bag.
Inevitably, my excitement, so cruelly and unavoidably overblown by the interminably sadistic Hollywood hype machine, was extinguished upon viewing 2008’s “blockbusters”, which were, with the exception of The Dark Knight and Hellboy 2, a steaming pile of celluloid crap. Oh, and Kung Fu Panda, that was pretty good too.
Well, this year I refuse to let myself get carried away by the carefully orchestrated tide of marketing hype, dammit. Instead, I shall examine a handful of the year’s biggest movies and deduce – in an entirely unscientific and subjective manner – whether they have any chance of being as good as everyone says they will be…
Release date: 3rd March (hopefully…)
The movie: Hollywood’s comic book pillaging continues apace in 2009 as one of the medium’s most highly-revered creations, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, gets the big screen treatment. Set in a plausible alternative universe in which superheroes are a reality the plot follows the investigation of a string of superhero murders and a mysterious global threat.
Apparently, director Zack Snyder (he of 2006’s hit 300) has stuck very close to the source material (re-creating it frame-for-frame in some parts) for his $120m adaptation, with the various spandex costumes filled by a young and relatively unfamiliar ensemble cast.
The hype: With every other movie drenched in batshit at last year’s box office, the hype is implying that Watchmen will be this year’s Dark Knight i.e. a mature and massively successful superhero blockbuster.
Screw the hype, will it be any good? While Snyder has demonstrated a knack for realising comic book visuals, both 300 and his Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake, evinced a notable dumbing-down of their respective sources; and to dumb-down the cerebral Watchmen would be a great injustice. For Watchmen is no ordinary superhero tale: it’s an examination of morality, a deconstruction of the comic book medium, an intriguing detective story, a critique of superhero mythology and much more. To bring such a complex tale to the big screen, whilst also making an entertaining movie, is a formidable task. Perhaps too formidable.
Additional problems arise when you factor in the comic book’s structural complexity which embraces a range of written forms, stories-within-stories and intertextual relevancies, making much of it unfilmable (especially within a standard 2-3 hour running time).
Therefore, I’m going to err on the side of pessimism here and predict that, in true blockbuster style, visceral thrills and instant gratification will win out over complexity and depth. Probably not a complete debacle, but I’m betting that it won’t come close to Moore’s masterpiece.
Chances of being crap: 66.6%
Release date: 8th May
The movie: A new direction for the Star Trek franchise as director J. J. Abrams (co-creator of TV’s exercise in procrastination, Lost) brings us Starship Enterprise: The College Years following Captain Kirk’s training at Starfleet Academy, the meeting of his future XO, Mr. Spock, and their first encounter with the time-meddling Romulans.
The cast has Zachary Quinto (of TV’s Heroes) wearing the pointy ears, Chris Pine (of, erm, something) in the Captain’s seat and some fine support from the likes of Simon Pegg (as Scotty), Karl Urban (as Dr. McCoy) and Winona Ryder (as Spock’s mum).
The hype: Zealous Trekkies have kept the internet abuzz with rumours since the movie was announced but fear not geeks: it has been confirmed that this incarnation will fit in with the existing Star Trek canon. Elsewhere, the general buzz indicates a major modern reboot that will garner a new generation of fans.
Screw the hype, will it be any good? Hopefully, lessons have been learned from that other sci-fi behemoth, Star Wars. Particularly, that the balancing act of serving a franchise’s loyal fans while simultaneously attracting a wider, younger audience is a tricky one. But while George Lucas shat over many childhood memories with a prequel trilogy of intergalactic excrement, I think Abrams’s Star Trek may fare better.
Clearly aware of this treacherous predicament, Abrams and his writers have, judging from the trailer, created a slick-looking slice of sci-fi popcorn. So though, come release, it may not tick all the boxes for every audience member, at least you can rest assured that there’ll be no bloody Jar Jar Binks or midi-sodding-chlorians.
Chances of being crap: 33.3%
Release date: 22nd May (US) / 5th June (UK)
The movie: Set in a near future altered by the time-travelling hijinks of the previous movies, the fourth Terminator movie sees the man with the world’s most expensive life insurance premium, John Connor (Christian Bale), facing unforeseen challenges as his destiny collides with that of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), a mysterious man who may or may not be from the future and who may hold the key to saving mankind from eradication at the hands of the robot bastards, Skynet.
The hype: There’s predictable babblings about “groundbreaking” special effects and some previews have, rather disconcertingly, likened the movie’s post-apocalyptic vision to that of the Matrix sequels. But the general consensus is that this will be a gritty, action-oriented movie offering a bleak and unsettling vision of the future. Sounds good, eh?
Screw the hype, will it be any good? Hmmm, on the one hand you have Bale – a fine actor who can generally be relied upon to star in excellent movies – and who’s already involved in one of the most successful cinematic reboots in recent history.
But on the other hand you have the director, Joseph McGinty Nichol – or McG as he likes to be called – whose directorial CV (i.e. the Charlie’s Angels films) could make a T-1000 cry.
Furthermore, careful analysis of the trailer (reliable scientific methodology I assure you) uncovered the obligatory flashy new terminator technology (terminator motorbikes coming to all good toy stores soon), admittedly excellent digital effects and a ridiculously young and good-looking cast. All of which put me in mind of 2007’s utterly mediocre Transformers, which is just what I would expect from the mono-monikered McG. Perhaps Bale’s purple patch is about to be terminated…
Chances of being crap: 70%
Release date: 18th December
The movie: Details are vague but it appears that the movie will follow a group of humans on their mission to exploit the resources of an alien planet. It seems that the main character defects and leads the aliens in a battle against the human exploiters.
Enough about the plot, the main selling point here is that the big-budget Avatar is a state of the art 3D movie shot using cutting-edge 3D technology and fully computer-generated 3D characters. Oh, and features a human cast, if anyone cares, including Sam Worthington (big year for him), Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Giovanni Ribisi.
The hype: Apparently, Cameron’s been developing the technology to bring this ambitious sci-fi to the screen since he made a splash with Titanic over 10 years ago. Consequently, the bulk of Avatar’s predictable, endless fanboy buzz concerns the movie’s technical wizardry, while vast swathes of column inches boldly declare Avatar to be “The Future of Cinema”.
Cameron, hype-loving egomaniacal auteur that he is, has fuelled the rumour-mill with some lofty proclamations and an intriguingly high level of secrecy. The resulting buzz has been, according to the LA Times, “nothing less than awe-inspired”. Wow, that’s some impressive buzz.
Screw the hype, will it be any good? With no trailer and only one behind-the-scenes image (above, revealed by the LA Times) to offer any insight, I’m going to analyse Cameron’s cinematic career and delve deep into his psyche in order to circumvent the hype.
Cameron’s previous association with the advancement of special effects and his purported decade-long dedication to Avatar’s technological breakthroughs gives credence to his bold assertions. I’m not convinced about this “cinematic revolution” talk, but a technical evolution is guaranteed.
The real issue is whether Avatar will stand up on its own as a movie, or whether it turns out to a mere technological showcase. Reassuringly, however, Cameron has never let special effects and technical prowess overpower his movies – The Abyss, The Terminator 1&2 and Titanic can attest to that. If he pulls it off here, my money is on Avatar being Hollywood’s first true 3D blockbuster.
Chances of being crap: 25%
Have you swallowed the hype? Let us know what you think about this year’s forthcoming blockbusters.