The summer movie season opened last Friday with the new comic book action film Thor, which opened to huge numbers this past weekend ($65 million in the U.S. and worldwide $180 million); there is bound to be a Thor 2 opening in the summer of 2012 or 2013. (See Jay Gabler’s Daily Planet review of Thor.)
I can’t help and notice that many of the summer movies opening this summer are sequels, prequels, or retreads. By the end of May there are three alone: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kung Fu Panda 2, and The Hangover 2. By the end of the summer movie juggernaut, there will be another nine such sequels, prequels, or retreads to be released in major chain theaters. Growing up, I didn’t know about John Sayles or Woody Allen or foreign films by Wong-Kar Wai or Pedro Almodovar, but there did come a point in my early teenage years when I wanted more from my film going experience.
Of the estimated 101 new summer films being released from May 6 through August 31, (according to Entertainment Weekly), there are about a dozen that I’m looking forward to. I’ve seen 15 of the 101 listed movies but going through all the release dates, there is not too much that excites me among the films that are being released. Of the 15 films I have seen, many of them I saw at Sundance—or recently, at MSPIFF—have found U.S. distributors since their premieres in January. Many of them are worth seeing once they hit the screen in Minneapolis, including Terri, Project Nim, Bellflower, The Future, and The Guard.
All of these titles are smaller and independently produced, feature no major A-list stars (maybe John C. Reilly in Terri), and they will all need “word of mouth” behind them to get people into the seats. They are worth seeing for different reasons, but the main reason for each is that there is a story/subject worth your time, solid performances that may get recognized at the end of the year, and most importantly, you won’t see a barrage of commercials for these films brainwashing us into thinking that we’re seeing something new and different.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a movie lover and I’m always looking forward to seeing a great summer spectacle at the theaters, and being the Optimistic Pessimist, I have a feeling there are a few of these in store. The last and final chapter of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2, looks to be thrilling and memorable based on its fantastic teaser trailer alone. The new Pixar film, Cars 2, may not match the superiority of Wall*E, Up, and Toy Story 3, but Pixar has rarely let me down. While I’m a bit lukewarm on the X-Men prequel, X-Men: First Class, it seems to have a decent cast that’s got me mildly interested. It should be entertaining.
The one I’m putting all my chips in for, though, is Terrace Malick’s latest feature The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, which opens at the Lagoon Cinema on June 3. But to get the excitement brewing earlier, the Walker Art Center is doing a complete retrospective of Malick’s works leading off with his 1973 masterpiece, Badlands, screening this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Over the next few weekends you can catch Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and The New World to follow for the next few weekends leading up to the Minneapolis premiere of The Tree of Life on Wednesday, June 1.
Image: Sean Penn in The Tree of Life, courtesy Walker Art Center