Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is 2012 The Year of Sci-Fi/Fantasy?

Cross-posted on and commissioned by

With at least 60 genre films coming out in 2012 when all is said and done, I think it's safe to say with certainty that the geeks have inherited the Earth. But over the past few years, genre films have been released with such an intense ferocity already, is 2012 really any different? I would argue that it is. I mean, sure, every year has its tentpole films (2011: Thor, Captain America, X-Men, Harry Potter) and every year has its smaller sci-fi pics that garner small, but dedicated audiences (2011: Hanna, Source Code, Another Earth, Attack the Block), but 2012 not only has both of these in spades, but boasts some of the most anticipated science fiction and fantasy flicks in years.

When you look at the genre trajectory of the past 25 years, 2012 really emerges as the year to stand back and take stock. Let's take a glance at just the big budget releases.

In one year alone we have Ridley Scott's return to sci-fi and better yet, a return to the Alien franchise, with Prometheus, the conclusion of what has become one of the most acclaimed Superhero film series' of all time with Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, and the relaunch of another with The Amazing Spiderman, perhaps hoping to follow in Nolan's universe-rebooting footsteps by trading over the top characterizations for grounded realism and emotional authenticity. With The Avengers, we see five years worth of film and 50 years worth of comics culminating in the best Marvel release yet, which on top of everything is written and directed by Joss Whedon, one of the most beloved Scifi/fantasy creators of this generation. We have The Wachowski's returning to science fiction in a big (and hopefully not terrible coughninjaassassinspeedracercough) way with Cloud Atlas, after changing the landscape in 1999 with The Matrix, and although the Evil Dead remake doesn't hit theaters til 2013, we can expect heavy promotion for the film bringing Sam Raimi, re-inventor of the horror genre, full circle, at genre events throughout the year, especially at Comic-Con. 2012 is also where we see both the end of the Twilight series and beginning of the Hunger Games, a baton being passed from gateway drug to the good stuff for millions of tween girls for whom this timeline will bring them from middle school to college, when Men In Black tries to recreate the sci-fi comedy magic of the first film, now 15 years old, by adding a time travel element to the mix, and when Total Recall, originally released in 1990, gets a modern makeover. On top of all of this, some of the oldest science fiction we know of, 1912's Princess of Mars, was turned into a giant scale science fiction flick with John Carter, which may have flopped at the box office, but thrilled a lot of John Burroughs fans who had been waiting for this film for a long time.

More after the jump

 In terms of large scale Fantasy, although Dark Shadows may not be quite in the same spirit as fans of the original remember, one cannot deny that it is in fact opening in 2012, as is a new take on a classic fairy tale that kind of looks way more awesome than it has any right to, Snow White and The Huntsman, the second Snow White adaptation opening this year behind Mirror Mirror. Wrath of the Titans brought Greek myths back to the forefront, if only for a half-second during its opening weekend, and at the end of the year, Rise of the Guardians, based on the children's book series, unites myths of a different sort (i.e. Santa Claus, The Sandman, The Tooth Fairy) to protect the Earth against the Bogeyman. Adaptated from a very different kind of book, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter will be the first book-to-film adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's ouevre and looks like it'll be silly fun with tons of great action. But the biggest entry into Fantasy of them all is of course The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Even though the 48 frames per second look is freaking out movie goers after disappointing at CinemaCon, word on the street is that the content is still fantastic and it is that nostalgic trip back to Middle Earth capturing all of the magic that it did ten years ago that matters most.

 2012 *also* has the return of four horror franchises, Underworld, Resident Evil, Paranormal Activity and Silent Hill, marks the beginning of our board games-as-movies era with Battleship and Ouija, and has the next in some of the biggest action franchises of all time with The Bourne Legacy, The Expendables 2, GI Joe: Retaliation and Skyfall. How is this even all possible? WHAT IS 2012?!?!

 But aside from major science fiction/fantasy/horror/action coming full circle with remakes, relaunches, sequels and returns, plus a whole bunch of adaptations, 2012 is also a great year for original genre work. Already this year, small flicks like Chronicle, Cabin in the Woods, and Sound of My Voice have impressed audiences who didn't quite know what to expect from these lower budget, original pieces, as each handily plays with the conventions of the superhero film, horror film and time travel film, respectively.  Still to come this year is the time travel comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, the sci-fi thriller Branded about our future dystopian society that keeps citizens docile through a corporate brand based global conspiracy, the wonderful romantic comedy set against an alien invasion backdrop, Extraterrestrial, from Time Crimes mastermind Nacho Vigalondo, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a comedy set against a looming asteroid apocalypse starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightly, and the raunchy comedy that was just described at CinemaCon as a modern day Ghostbusters, starring Ben Stiller Vince Vaughan, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade as the Neighborhood Watch who stumble upon an alien life form. Perhaps the most exciting of the original science fiction coming our way this year is the time-travel assassin story Looper, from Rian Johnson, a fanboy finally getting to jump into sci-fi, making it the last of at least four films featuring time travel this year.

 All of these movies coming out and I still haven't even mentioned Amy Heckerlings jump into genre with the horror comedy Vamps, the gothic horror from Hammer Pictures The Woman in Black, the Escape from NY in space Lock Out, the return of Judge Dredd, Tim Burton's adaptation of his own short into a feature length film, Frankenweenie, and ParaNorman, a stop motion animated adventure comedy about a boy who can speak to the dead, from the makers of Coraline.

 Oh. And the Comic-Con documentary came out at the beginning of this month. What other proof do you need?

 It is honestly astounding to take a look at 2012 and realize the volume of genre work being released. If the world does happen to end in December, yeah I'll be pissed I never got to see Henry Cavil as Superman or World War Z brought to life (oh wait, lulululz, it will be brought to life if the world ends via zombie apolozalypse, so I shouldn't make such blanket statements), but hey, we got to see The Avengers on screen, Christian Bale end his reign as Batman, and Peter Jackson return to The Shire, so que cera cera! But all of this also makes you start to wonder - hey, how come *ALL* of the big budget genre releases this year are remakes, sequels, reboots, or adaptations, and it's apparently only in the low budget realm that original science fiction can come to life? Everyone knows that 2010's Inception was a huge hit, and was 100% original, right? Does the buck just stop there? Does the ever growing acceptance of genre work, combined with the success and strong followings of original science fiction mean that after this banner year for geek properties, we could be headed into a realm where strong original genre work emerges as a force to be reckoned with? Wherever we are headed next, one thing is definitely clear. 2012 is the year for Sci-Fi/Fantasy if there ever was one.