Lessons learned from sci-fi films in 2011, and what it means for 2012 . . .
Every year provides its own lessons. Now whether audiences and Hollywood heeds these lessons is a completely different matter. I know there are a few things I learned from last year, and it should serve as a good benchmark when considering the upcoming 2012 new movie releases.
Reboots and Remakes Fail More Often Than They Work
I will say off the bat that Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the top sci-fi films of 2011. I say that mainly because Andy Serkis proves once again he is the master of motion capture with his depiction of Caesar.
If you consider X-Men: First Class a reboot, that can also be considered a success thanks to some inspired casting and a story that runs a bit deeper than most super hero films. Yet then you get to the bad: The Thing, Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night – and those are just the sci-fi related films – Straw Dogs, Footloose, Arthur … you get the picture.
What this means for 2012: Dredd and Total Recall are both getting updated this year, along with revisiting The Amazing Spider-Man. Out of the three, Total Recall is the biggest gamble as the original is considered, if not a classic, at least a decent film on its own.
The Amazing Spider-Man also seems like it’s jumping the gun a bit and has some big shoes to fill.
Dredd has the best chance of being better than the somewhat corny original, but the character isn’t as popular so the audience may be limited. I truly believe 2012 will be a mirror image of last year – there with be a handful of reboots that will impress, but a lot more that are going to fall short.
Can Re-Releases Save 3-D?
One of biggest surprised for me last year was how well Disney did with the re-release of The Lion King in 3-D. It topped the box office for two weeks and proved that audiences aren’t afraid to pay a premium for a movie they know is good – and it helps that there’s a whole new generation they can introduce to a wonderful film.
What this means for 2012: As soon as the numbers came in, Beauty and the Beast was the next Disney film announced to be given the 3-D treatment.
Yet for sci-fi fans, nothing can beat Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Whether you consider the prequels blasphemy or not, you have to admit, watching the pod race and Darth Maul battle in 3-D sounds intriguing. I have no idea what the outcome will be, but George Lucas is no doubt prepping the other five in anticipation.
Ending on a High Note
The highest-grossing film last year was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2. When you get to a final film in a much-beloved series, there’s a good chance audiences will come out in droves (see also Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith).
True fanatics have no qualms about viewing the film multiple times. I would add Transformers: Dark of the Moon here, but it appears that maybe they’re not done with that series quite yet.
What this means for 2012: Twilight and The Dark Knight Rises should both go out with a bang.
It’s hard seeing The Dark Knight Rises having as much impact as The Dark Knight, but Christopher Nolan has proven he knows how to present the tortured hero, and Christian Bale has proven up to the task.
I have never been a Twilight fan, but it’s hard to imagine this last film in the series won’t end up being the highest-grossing film out of the four.
Old Friends Are Usually a Good Bet…
I truly believe one of the reasons there are always so many sequels and the aforementioned reboots, is that Hollywood knows audiences are much easier to bring in with established names and franchises than they are with unknown entities.
Out of all the films in the top 10 last year, eight were either outright sequels or based on existing comic book characters.
People complain about originality being dead in Hollywood, but it seems that audiences also have no problem supporting this supposed lack of creativity. Beside the films already mentioned, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Captain America and Thor all brought in plenty of people
What this means for 2012: I predict most of the biggest films of next year are going to come from franchises people are familiar with: The Avengers, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Men in Black III, Prometheus, The Hunger Games, World War Z and John Carter – these are all based on either familiar books, or familiar directors and their creations.
Three films are looking to start off their own series on a good note: Hunger Games has the potential for a three-four film series, World War Z was recently announced as a potential trilogy and John Carter has enough stories to easily establish a trilogy if not more. It all matters if they connect with audiences.
…But Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Chance on Someone New
You can say 2011 was a mixed bag for original sci-fi films. Sucker Punch and Cowboys & Aliens were two of my biggest letdowns.
But I also have to say that Super 8, Source Code and The Adjustment Bureau were three of my favorites. Yes, there were plenty of sequels out there, but originality wasn’t totally ignored.
What this means for 2012: Looper, Gravity and Cloud Atlas look to be the three biggest gambles of the year. People tend to be tight-lipped when it comes to original stories, so until the release dates get closer, all three films could wind up winners, cult favorites or simply stinkers.
Out of the three, I’m most intrigued by Looper, as time-travel films (from 12 Monkeys to TimeCrimes) have always made things interesting.
There’s a lot to look forward to this year. Heck, if the 2012 movie trailers I’ve seen so far are any indication, the year should wind up much better than 2011, and even give the Avatar years a run for its money (though I don’t know if any will quite reach the billion dollar mark). Like any year, it’s easy to look ahead and make your predictions, but until the returns come in, it’s all up in the air.
With what’s in store, however, I’m predicting a big year for the sci-fi/fantasy genre . . . much bigger than 2011 for sure!
Chris Kavan is the community manager for FilmCrave.com, a haven for all fans of sci-fi movies.