Usually one totes up the number of franchises spewing out nerd films in a given summer and, if that number is high, hopes a couple will actually be OK. Summer 2011 is different.
Four iconic superhero films will come out, along with at least four other nerd-pleasing films, which may not sound like an extraordinary number – but this time there are actually very good directors attached to each, and we can reasonably hope that many of these will be good films, not just by-the-numbers nerd-pleasers:
•Thor from Kenneth Branagh (May 6) – perfect choice for the pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue!
•X-Men: First Class from Matthew Vaughn (June 3), who did the excellent and school-oriented Kick-Ass a year ago. The retro move of having this one take place in the 60s is interesting – between this, the main X-Men trilogy (set in the 00s), Wolverine (who was presumably in the 90s in his solo film), and talk of more present-day (i.e., 10s) X-movies to come, it’s hard to say what year the big screen X-franchise is primarily based in these days – which is sort of expansive and cool (and Magneto’s roots lie in WWII, of course). It’s nice they set this one in the decade the Civil Rights Movement and the original comics took place, since they could have set it almost any arbitrary number of years earlier and still had themselves a prequel.
•Green Lantern from the director of Casino Royale (June 17). Fingers crossed, wearing power rings. I’m looking forward to it even though I have actually sparred online with the scriptwriter, Mark Guggenheim, who used anti-vaccine conspiracy theories as the basis of a TV lawyer drama he wrote – and then was rather disingenuous about saying he wasn’t trying to boost sympathy for such theories (which could well lead to deaths among unvaccinated children). Believing conspiracy theories merely strengthens the fear-powered demon Parallax.
•We also get Transformers 3 (July 1) and the final Harry Potter film (7B) on July 15, both in IMAX and at least partly in 3D, I think, for those keeping track. Why resist after making it this far?
•Captain America: The First Avenger from Joe Johnston, the director of Rocketeer, Jurassic Park 3, and more (July 22). Johnston also did Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – and if Marvel continues having trouble getting their one other planned Avengers character, Ant Man, off the ground (using the Shaun of the Dead team, last I heard), maybe they should consider Johnston. I just hope one of these Avengers movies has a fight on the immense flying SHIELD Helicarrier (with Samuel L. Jackson – and maybe Ultron, the evil robot).
•Speaking of the Avengers, Iron Man director Jon Favreau brings us Cowboys and Aliens (July 29), and that makes me think it’s time someone paid me to write a remake of the 60s movie The Valley of Gwangi, which has the can’t-fail premise cowboys vs. dinosaurs. I should be able to write that in like, an afternoon, if the studio really thinks it even needs a script.
•And speaking of remakes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes gets one, to round out the summer, in the form of Rise of the Apes (August 5), without all the time travel back story (and no mention of Charlton Heston or Tim Burton), just the present-day ape rebellion (and some sort of biotech explanation), so get ready to watch that with the special animal welfare activist in your life – unless, of course, the activist learns to say “No.”