I’m Sad Now


Last week, I looked ahead to 2011. Given the enforced joviality of The Holidays, it shook out mostly on the positive side.

Well, it ain’t the holidays anymore. Now it’s just a long, cold, sluggish march toward spring, and I’m back to my usual apathetic bitterness. But nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around, so here’s the coming-down-the-pike events – mostly movie-related – that already have me reaching for the Tylenol.

Batman 3 Will Almost Certainly Be Disappointing

Quick reality check, folks: Batman Begins wasn’t especially successful at the box office. It was a great film, excellently made, well received and made money, but it wasn’t a major hit. Remember: 2005 was the year of the box office slump, where everything was consistently down profit-wise from the previous year. It had been hoped that Christopher Nolan’s much-hyped revival of the Caped Crusader would be the film to break the slump, but it didn’t, instead rating only modest success in its initial release. The movie that actually broke the slump was, sadly, the execrable Fantastic Four. Still, a sequel got greenlit regardless.

And then a series of remarkable, unpredictable (and, in one case, incredibly tragic) events began to take shape. Begins found its audience on DVD, turning the prospect of a sequel from a fanboy tease to a mainstream waiting game. The (briefly) waning superhero genre got an adrenaline shot from an amazing trailer for a little movie called Iron Man. Heath Ledger, now a household name thanks to the national-conversation-piece Brokeback Mountain, was cast as The Joker. The film’s advertising and pre-announced themes, wadding deeper into the dark side of post-9/11 anxieties in a manner that no mainstream genre film had yet dared, captivated audiences all on their own. And then, the unthinkable: Ledger died suddenly of a drug overdose, instantly transforming the film into an even more potent cultural event; not just the return of Batman, but a living monument to a promising actor cut down just as his star had begun to burn brightest. The end result was a critical darling, an instant classic and a box office smash. It was epic. It was unprecedented …

… and it won’t happen twice.

Commercial/artistic mega-successes like The Dark Knight happen only once in a blue moon. The stars will not align that way again, and it’s all but a given that The Dark Knight Rises won’t out-perform its lightning-in-a-bottle predecessor. Even if it’s just as good (which is in and of itself statistically unlikely) there’s little chance it’ll be as monstrous of a success, and thus it will be seen as a disappointment – which won’t be good news for anyone hoping to make more films in the genre, particularly Warner Bros., who tends to lose all interest in their comic book division when there isn’t a Batman movie on deck.

The Monsters Guy Is Making Godzilla

Godzilla is one of the most important movie icons in cinematic history. One of the most-filmed characters of all time, one of the longest-running series, the progenitor of an entire genre and quite possibly the greatest ambassador of a national cinema (Japan’s, in this case) to the rest of the world ever. He deserves nothing but the best, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to who’s allowed to dabble in putting him on screen. The new American Godzilla film being assembled by Legendary Pictures had a lot to accomplish, in terms of erasing memories of the disastrous 1998 version, and a big part of that would be putting it in the experienced hands of top-tier talent.

Instead, it’s been given to neophyte Gareth Edwards, whose sole feature credit, Monsters, was one of my most-anticipated films last year, and ended up being one of the WORST things I saw.

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What’s so frustrating about this is that, in an alternate universe where Monsters was good and Edwards seemed more like a legitimate rising talent instead of a semi-competent FX student with delusions of director-hood, this would be great news. A big studio taking a principled risk on a fresh talent that clearly loves the genre and takes it seriously. Sadly, this is this universe, where Edwards’ love for the genre has failed to manifest as skill, and his seriousness added up to a pretentious bore. I would love, love, love, LOVE to be proven totally wrong about this, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Spider-Man Is Still Getting Rebooted

The Spider-Man musical is turning into a (literal) disaster for Broadway, injuring cast members left and right and possibly damaging the careers of both U2 and Julie Taymor (the Julie Taymor part would be too bad). But meanwhile, Sony Pictures’ ill-advised, shadily-mounted, quick-n-cheap movie reboot is proceeding right on schedule.

For those keeping track, this is the one being put together at the hurried (lest they lose the rights back to Marvel Studios and have to watch, helplessly, as Spider-Man Meets The Avengers earns the GDP of a mid-sized OPEC nation) bequest of the producing team that insisted on the story changes that ultimately mangled the 3rd film, after they basically shoved original-helmer Sam Raimi’s in-production 4th film off into oblivion and started up this reboot behind his back. So if nothing else, you know this just has to be good, given how it’s clearly been made for only the purest and most noble of artistic reasons.

Transformers Will Continue to Suck

I stand by my retraction of having called Transformers director Michael Bay a mean name. However, I will also maintain that the Transformers movies are unmitigated pieces of garbage and that the impending third installment, Transformers: Dark of The Moon, will do nothing to alter than sentiment.

Elsewhere, Bay’s remake-centric production company Platinum Dunes – already responsible for the dismal updates of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, – are busily ramping up a brand-spanking-new take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is why we can’t have nice things.

We Will Not Get a Justice League Movie Any Time Soon

This summer’s Green Lantern (and, to a less-questionable extent, Zack Snyder’s impending Superman film) is Warner Bros.’ and DC Comics’ big chance to prove that they actually can pull off good superhero movies other than Batman. After going on two decades of watching longtime rival Marvel spin moneymaking franchises out of such obscure/bizarre franchises as Blade while they can’t even cobble together a decent Wonder Woman script. But even if it’s a hit, don’t expect them to try and outgun The Avengers with a crossover – or even inter-film continuity – of their own. It’s not happening.

Christopher Nolan has producer control over the Batman and Superman movies, and he’s already vetoed the idea of the two ever crossing paths on his watch. Meanwhile, while Lantern supposedly has a lot of in-jokey nods to a larger universe, any questions about tie-ins or cameos have been consistently shot down or brushed aside. This, despite Warner/DC putting continuity-obsessed writer Geoff Johns in consulting position on the various projects.

All this, plus in the bigger picture Warners’ famously shut down production of George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal, essentially a live-action tie-in to the Justice League animated series, a few years back despite a script being completed, storyboards and sets partially-built and a whole slew of actors already cast as Batman, Superman, etc. Sources differ as to exactly why the project fell apart, though some have suggested that the (by then) very powerful Christopher Nolan was vocally angry upon learning that it was (supposedly) positioned as pseudo-connected to his Batman films – the main villain would’ve been the daughter of Ras Al Guhl, take from that what you will – despite a different actor playing Batman (The Social Network‘s Armie Hammer, who’s now being mentioned as a Superman candidate).

Egh. On the plus side… I guess The Hobbit is still coming out, right?

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.