With Iron Man 3 debuting last week to take money from your pocket on the way to earning the second biggest opening weekend gross ever, it’s safe to say that summer blockbuster season is officially upon us.
That’s right, popcorn manufacturers of the world can rejoice because for the next few months they’ll be selling trashbags full of grease soaked kernels to audiences looking to soak up air conditioning and turn off their brains while enjoying Hollywood’s most expensive products. It’s a busy time of year at the multiplex and screens will overflow with explosions and fancy costumes of all sorts (sometimes even together, joy!). With that in mind, I thought I’d provide you fine readers with a handy dandy guide of movies actually worth getting excited about this summer. They fall into two distinct categories: sure thing blockbusters guaranteed to entertain and possibly not even insult your intelligence; and five brainless wonders that should represent the peak of stupid summer entertainment in 2013. There are many titles missing, but that’s mostly just because they’re ones that I’m deeply apprehensive about and I decided not to be negative about say the dreary possibilities of watching Brad Pitt fight zombies or M. Night Shyamalan struggle to feign relevance (whoops!). Instead, let’s focus on the movies that will hopefully make the 2013 summer movie season magical…or at least a pleasant distraction during a heat wave.
Five (Hopefully) Sure Things
Star Trek Into Darkness (May 15)
In 2009 JJ Abrams reinvented Star Trek as action-packed space fantasy filled with humor. He essentially turned Star Trek into Star Wars and got to take over the latter franchise as a reward. But before Abrams starts marshaling around Yodas and Stromtroopers, he’s made one more adventure for Kirk and co. This time they face off against a mysterious baddie who is maybe, possibly, definitely Khan and is essentially a terrorist launching a one-man attack on Starfleet. Boy, it’s a good thing this version of the Enterprise crew is so good at kicking bums and blowing things up, because Shatner and co. probably would have had a heartattack and/or taken a nap in response. Normally the release of a new Star Trek movie could only be recommended to fanboys sight unseen, but Abrams is on such an impressive streak of blockbusters, and his take on the Trek world is so gloriously appealing that this feels like a sure thing. If nothing else, it’s guaranteed to be better than the tie-in videogame. So that’s something.
Man Of Steel (June 14)
Ah yes, Superman. With comic book movies at an all time high in popularity, it was only a matter of time before someone tried to revitalize the superhero who started the whole genre. Superman is a difficult sell in the era of the Marvel neurotic superhero since the character is in no way relatable as a human. Quite the opposite, he’s an alien goody-goody more god than man. However, the early trailers seem to have taken this idea and ran with it, framing the story as a magical morality tale filled with epic superhuman action scenes. Quite simply, it looks incredible. A film that is true to character while finding a way to abandon the outdated style of Richard Donner’s movies which are classics, but old fogey-ish at this point. Yep, Man Of Steel looks like it could be quite a special superhero flick. The only problem is that it’s directed by Zack Snyder who always releases stellar trailers that his movies never quite live up to. Still, I want to believe that this time the guy will get it right. Superman deserves an iconic movie worthy of the character in the 21st century. Let’s hope this one is it.
Pacific Rim (July 12)
As I get older and stumble into adulthood, I occasionally try to convince myself that I’ve outgrown childish things. Specifically, I try to pretend that a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters doesn’t quite have the same appeal to me that it once did. Well, my mistake. Every time I see footage from Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim I can’t help but get giddy about the gloriously geeky sights. Del Toro might be renowned for his art horror fare like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, but given the chance to simply entertain the crap out of an audience with fast-paced thrills and incredible effects in flicks like Blade 2 or his Hellboy series, the director is just as adept. This is the first time Del Toro has ever been given the resources to helm a proper summer event movie and based on the few fleeting minutes of footage released thus far, it’s clear that he’s taken full advantage of the situation. Unless you count the horrendous 1998 feign at Americanizing Godzilla (and I don’t), an entire generation has missed out on the glorious pleasures of the giant monster movie genre. It’s about time the genre was revitalized and no one is better suited to bring it back than the monster maestro Guillermo. Let’s just hope that IMAX screens are big enough to contain this one.
Elysium (August 9)
Writer/director Neil Blomkamp had the element of surprise on this side when he delivered his debut District 9 to stunned audiences a few summers ago. Now the man his finally returned with a follow up to that dark comedy/sci-fi/action/horror/social commentary and people will actually be expecting something out of Elysium. Fortunately the intriguing premise of interplanetary class-divide sounds just right for a smartypants sci-fi blockbuster and Blompkamp even got a little star power to back him up this time thanks to a freshly sheered Matt Damon. Based on one film alone, Blomkamp has established himself as one of the most exciting young filmmakers cranking out blockbusters and Elysium should be considered the most exciting movie of the summer for sci-fi fans who like some intellectual nourishment along with their pretty laser gun fights. Very little is known about the movie at the moment and that’s exactly how it should be. It’s all too rare to actually be surprised by a summer blockbuster. The last time that happened was probably District 9, so let’s hope that Neil is able to repeat the trick this summer.
The World’s End (Aug 23)
Finally, it may have been produced for the same amount of money it cost to make a single Pacific Rim robot, but any genre movie fan who doesn’t consider Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright’s follow up to Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz one of the most exciting prospects of the summer movie season is a damn fool. After turning zombie movies and buddy cop flicks into whip-smart genre comedies, the boys have turned their attention to a Body Snatchers-style sci-fi apocalyptic horror movie. Pegg and Nick Frost co-star again along with a few wonderful British character actors as a collection of late 30-somethings who try to recapture their lost youth with a pub crawl, only to stumble into an apocalyptic alien-possession invasion. Pegg and director Edgar Wright have long teased this movie as a conclusion to their trilogy of sorts and given that Shaun and Fuzz were instant cult classics, this long awaited final chapter should follow suit. This flick should end the summer movie season in style before the prestigious fall awards season sucks all the goofy genre fun out of the multiplex.
Five (Potentially) Brainless Wonders
Fast & Furious 6 (May 24)
The Fast And The Furious franchise began as a gearhead underground racing fantasy, but by the fourth and fifth chapter transformed into a gloriously stupid Ocean’s Eleven heist franchise on nitrous n’ steroids. Now that The Rock co-headlines with Vin Diesel, these movies have become unintentional (or maybe even intentional) comedy gems with logic, physics, good taste, and even comprehensible titles tossed aside in favor of the finest bonehead entertainment a hundred million dollars can buy. With rumors that Jason Statham might even join the flick in a last minute surprise twist, it’s all but guaranteed that Fast & Furious 6 will represent the most wonderfully stupid (and stupidly wonderful) blockbuster trash of the summer. Warning: if you attempt to think during this movie, you will experience intense pain. It’s recommended that you have a medicinal can of energy drink on hand to help combat this issue and get, like, super amped up.
Now You See Me (May 31)
Wait, wait, wait…you’re telling me that there’s a movie coming out this summer starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Cain, and Morgan Freeman about a collection of Vegas magicians who rob banks as part of their act and treat the police like marks on the street? Whoo-boy, sounds like we’re in stupid movie heaven. Now You See Me is just silly enough to qualify as a potential summer sleeper. With director Louis Leterrier (the man behind underrated camp action of The Transporter and the entirely decent The Incredible Hulk) and screenwriter Ed Solomon ( Men In Black and Bill And Ted) in charge, we can assume this will be a bubble gum fantasy rather than another brooding Christopher Nolan romp through magic land like The Prestige. It’s safe to say that this flick with have will at least five or six twists too many and some wonderfully stupid special effects, but with the right sense of humor that’s exactly what will make it a brain dead summertime treat.
The Lone Ranger (July 3)
Ok, so given that the last two movies Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski made were the borderline unwatchable Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels, it’s safe to say this ludicrously expensive adaptation of a long forgotten matinee idol should be approached with apprehension. However, don’t forget those guys also made the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, which turned a concept that shouldn’t have worked into one of the more entertaining summer flicks ever made. The Lone Ranger is just silly enough of a concept to make a good popcorn flick and clearly the budget was pretty well limitless. There’s no way The Lone Ranger will be an unexpected masterpiece, but it could very well be a tacky blockbuster delight and there’s no better time of year for that sort of thing.
R.I.P.D. (July 19)
Undead police officers come back to life to seek revenge. Yep, that’s a real movie that was actually made and will be released this summer. Did I mention that Jeff Bridges stars as a former cowboy leading the recently dead cops against a collection of supernatural bad guys? So yeah, this one will be ridiculous. Watch the trailer and try not to crack a smile. It’s impossible.
Kick Ass 2 (August 16)
The original Kick-Ass was actually a very clever superhero deconstruction that was one of the smartest summer flicks in recent years. However, if the sequel stays as true to its comic book origin as the first chapter (and the trailer certainly suggests that will be the case), Kick-Ass 2 will be a whole other beast. Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass follow up is an ultra-violent superhero piss-take that’s just as funny as the original, but with the vulgarity ramped up and the genre-commentary dialed down. For example, at one point McLovin’s teenage villain murders a handful toddlers before raping Kick Ass’ girlfriend. Now, I can’t imagine a Hollywood studio getting behind that specific sequence, but this should still be the raunchiest and nastiest blockbuster of the summer. Or at least I certainly hope so. A little subversive filmmaking is exactly what summer movies need and a superhero movie is a perfect way to sneak some subversion to the masses these days.