Crunch crunch. Rustle rustle. Giggle crunch giggle. Seasoned cinephiles have usually had good reason to dread the annual circus that is the summer blockbuster, and not just for the acoustics that often accompany any film featuring some large explosions.
This time feels different. Sure, all the films featured on our list arrive with the obligatory avalanche of six-minute trailers, building-sized posters, context-free platitudes (“Brilliant!”; “Great!”) and all the usual dubious marketing practices that require the GDP of a small sovereign nation to fund.
But this time feels different. Honest guv. Prometheus, the much-hyped sort-of-prequel to Sir Ridley Scott’s seminal Alien, is out today and threatens to be, at the very least, not terrible, or not as terrible as anything that came after Aliens.
Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises has long since shaken off a minor controversy surrounding Tom Hardy’s portrayal of villain Bain, and looks likely to blow The Dark Knight out of the water (or the football stadium, as the case may be) in both critical and financial terms.
A clutch of other big screen delights await your eyes, ears and money this summer: a reboot of the Spiderman franchise, a new Pixar film, Brave, backed to the hilt by Alex Salmond himself, a new Jason Bourne film and a remake of Total Recall fill out the rest of the schedule.
And yes, a degree of pessimism is understandable: many of these are reboots, adaptations, rehashes: symptoms of a film industry running out of ideas, retreating to safe territory, hedging their bets. But, this time does feel different, if only because the stewardship of directors such as Nolan and Scott come with a certain guarantee of quality, if not originality. Can that be said for the other films in our list? Only one way to find out: watch the ten-minute long featurette trailer, and you’ve essentially watched the whole thing already.
PROMETHEUS WHEN’S IT OUT? Today
DIRECTOR: Sir Ridley Scott
CAST: Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba
SYNOPSIS: A crew of explorers discover clues that lead them on a journey to discover the origins of humanity on a distant world. What starts as a high-minded quest to “find themselves” (an interplanetary gap-year?) quickly becomes a fight for survival as the crew uncover a lot of things that they wish they hadn’t, mostly involving aliens.
TRAILER HIGHLIGHT: One of the featurette trailers featuring Michael Fassbender is a wonderfully conceived and rather unsettling ad-within-an-ad, detailing the function of the corporate android that accompanies the Prometheus crew.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
WHEN’S IT OUT? July 20
DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan CAST: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Jason Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard
SYNOPSIS: Batman resurfaces eight years after being forced underground after assuming responsibility for the death of revered Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent (who later became Harvey Two Face) in order to protect his reputation in death. He’s got Bain and Catwoman to deal with; high-camp does not ensue.
TRAILER HIGHLIGHT: Two: a long tracking shot of an American football player scoring a touchdown as an entire stadium implodes behind him, and Bain’s chillingly casual threat to Batman: “When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.”
WHEN’S IT OUT? August 22 DIRECTOR: Len Wiseman
CAST: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Crantson
SYNOPSIS: In a generic dystopian future where Euromerica (Europe and America) and New Shanghai (China and South East Asia) are at loggerheads, Doug Quaid (Farrell) is a factory worker who seeks escape from his dreary life by implanting some more exciting memories of life as a secret agent. But none of this matters, because Arnold’s not in it.
TRAILER HIGHLIGHT: A succession of shots of Colin Farrell looking confused, as if to ask: “Where’s Arnie?”
WHEN’S IT OUT? August 17
DIRECTORS: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell CAST: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly
SYNOPSIS: Tempestuous red-head (‘aren’t they all?’) and skilled archer Merida (Macdonald) inadvertantly invites a curse upon her kingdom, when, in seeking freedom from her pre-determined future, she turns to a witch for advice. Not a great idea, obviously.
TRAILER HIGHLIGHT: The peripheral characters look good value for comic relief, and Pixar seldom fail to deliver an excellent family film.
THE BOURNE LEGACY
WHEN’S IT OUT? August 13
DIRECTOR: Tony Gilroy
CAST: Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Albert Finney
SYNOPSIS: More of a complementary story than a direct sequel, but set in the aftermath of the previous films, Aaron Cross (Renner) is a rogue superagent in the same mould as Jason Bourne who spends most of the film evading capture/assassination from CIA agent Byer (Norton).
TRAILER HIGHLIGHT: Leaping like an alpine Tarzan from snow-covered tree-top to snow-covered tree-top, you say? Pointing a sniper rifle at a plane mid-flight? More intelligently-scripted spy thriller intrigue? Sold.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
WHEN’S IT OUT? July 3
DIRECTOR: Marc Webb
CAST: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, Martin Sheen
SYNOPSIS: Set at a time where Peter Parker (Garfield) is becoming acquainted with his new-found powers while still at high school, this iteration of Spider-Man sees Parker attempt to find his missing parents, who had disappeared while he was young, and sets him on a path to confront a new villain, Dr Connors/The Lizard (Ifans). Little sign of the emo Saturday Night Fever scenes that bedevilled the wretched Spider-Man 3, which can only be a good thing.