I may not “love the smell of napalm in the morning”, but I sure do love that feeling of excitable anticipation for a movie.
It was no surprise to me that July 20 was filled with mixed emotions. For anybody suffering the memory loss condition of Memento’s protagonist Leonard, July 20 was the day that Dark Knight Rises was released.
Just like Christmas, the expectation is the real thrill; but that wouldn’t make me turn the clock back. Following the build-up of expectation that began with the release of the teaser trailer one year ago, I now sit here more than content counting three exhilarating and emotional viewings of The Dark Knight Rises. All I want is that feeling back. It’s not too much to ask is it?
It was the evening before that third trip to the local multiplex, in a moment of melancholy that the future looked gloomy, or should I say August, as I asked the inevitable question: what can I look forward to next? What film will give me that excitable anticipation I crave so much?
Looking ahead to August I was greeted by the upcoming release of Pixar’s Brave, The Bourne Legacy and The Expendables 2. So what is the problem you may very well ask? The problem is that these films just fail to excite me.
My lack of excitement for Brave may just be down to mine and Pixar’s topsy-turvy relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed Pixar’s Finding Nemo, Toy Story 1-3, and I consider their shorts to be amongst their best work. I’m what you would call a minor Pixar fan. Despite not sharing the passion for Pixar shown by ESLF’s Garry McConnachie in his recent article ‘Pixar: Picture Perfection Still Going Strong’, followed by his glowing review of Brave, I understand why these animated features are held with equal affection and regard. They have the uncanny ability to appeal to a broad audience, giving the kids bright colours and funny voices, whilst offering something that will keep the adults entertained.
To a minor Pixar fan like myself, Brave’s predecessors WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3 were surrounded by more hype, each the film of the moment, a sense of anticipation and excitement surrounding them. For Brave Pixar seem to be relying on their reputation for its success, and so it leaves me struggling to muster up any feelings of anticipation.
I would concede that knowing the reputation of Pixar, they rarely deliver two clunkers, and so I’d expect Brave to be the toast of the town as it treads new ground, offering us a Scottish and feminist tale, putting Pixar back on top following the disappointing Car’s 2. Unfortunately for me, Pixar just doesn’t get on well with me.
So, having failed to share in the magic of the Pixar journey thus far, I have successfully raided my sister’s film collection, and maybe, just maybe I’ll discover that Pixar magic, and I can join Garry and the rest of you in excitable anticipation of their next feature.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m kind of jealous of being left out.
As for The Bourne Legacy, it is difficult to get excited by a trailer that sets up the same old, same old; events we are all too familiar with. Despite it being advertised as an expansion of the Bourne world, a series of events triggered by the reappearance of Jason Bourne in the previous films, there look to be very few new ideas here; other than to offer more exposition on ‘Treadstone.’ Of course we’ll be thrilled by the usual action set-pieces, but I apprehensively ask is that enough for me?
Now I have not read the Robert Ludlum novels, so the source material may offer a solid fourth film instalment, but I can’t help thinking that the Bourne Ultimatum was a fitting conclusion to the series. In fact the Bourne trilogy was consistently solid and in the right place at the right time they updated the idea of the modern hero and his world from the romanticism of Bond.
I am rather taken aback that the Bourne Legacy’s excellent cast: action man of the moment Jeremy Renner, star of The Assassination of Jesses James by the Coward Robert Ford, Hurt Locker, and action drama The Town, the always reliable Edward Norton, and the talented and delectable Mrs 007, Rachel Weisz, fail to thrill me over the prospect of another outing in Bourne’s thrilling world. Tony Gilroy writer of the Bourne trilogy, along with the impressive thrillers Michael Clayton and State of Play takes the helm on the Bourne Legacy, just another reason I should be excited.
Instead I find myself having to remind myself just how imminent its release is, and whilst I will make the effort to attend the local multiplex, tempted by all the aforementioned positives, I am heading into this one not excited, but with a sense of intrigue. Neither the action nor the premise warrants hype, and the added exposition of ‘Treadstone’ may just be too much, and the more we learn about it, the more our interest may wane. I’m putting my faith in you Mr Gilroy.
As someone who grew up in the 1980s on a diet of action films, watching the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone kick the behinds of anyone who got in their way, shoot bad guys and blow things up, seven days a week whenever sleep was not a priority; I should be licking my lips in eager anticipation of a second helping of the epic ensemble action team.
Now I know the action in The Expendables was pretty awesome, but did it really give us everything we had expected? For one Jet Li being relegated to a minor member of the team was a joke. In any fight he’d be the favourite: apologies to my heroes of the 80s.
The film also missed a rather important beat. Stone Cold Steve Austin punches out Stallone’s lady, and Sly’s response is to let Randy Couture kill him? Now wait a minute. Did Commando’s John Matrix leave it to someone else to rescue his daughter and kill the bad guy Bennett? Of course not, he did it himself. Now I don’t know about you, but Stallone disappointed me here just a little by playing the political game of WWE versus UFC. You should have killed the son of a bitch Stallone. That’s what we all wanted to see damn it.
The first film may have had the action, but it lacked the charm, and whilst most of us didn’t realise it back in the 80s because we were just too young, and lost in the violence to realise it, it was the charm coupled with the violence that made those films so memorable. Sure, number two has Van Damme, and more of Schwarzenegger and Willis, but I just can’t say with confidence that it’ll be what is supposed to be: a 80s style action film with the humorous 80s action charm. It’ll be a great action film, but it’ll still be a duck out of water, a group of guys trying to get back to the past with some modern household action names.
I know The Expendables is not just about the 80s, though it was pitched to me as a 80s style action film, with the addition of modern action stars. I just hope Schwarzenegger and Willis bring the charm that the first film lacked, and which seems to be promised from the trailers.
The film I’d pay to see is the one where Christopher Lloyd turns up at the beginning, lends them the DeLorean and wishes them luck. Just think of the potential for the series from thereon.
So instead of eager excitement for August, I am looking to the months beyond which offer some intriguing releases. Ben Affleck’s accomplished thrillers Gone, Baby, Gone and The Town silenced the naysayers, marking him out as a director to keep a close eye on. October sees the release of his third directorial feature Argo, which boasts a belter of a supporting cast, and I do believe we could be in store for an acting master class amidst what could be an engaging thriller based on real events.
The following month will see the return of acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix with The Master, also starring the always popular Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Dern, and complimented by the rising star Amy Adams. Of course concluding 2012 will be Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure, but before then we may have Cloud Atlas, an ambitious project by German director Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski Brothers in October. I know ESLF’s editor-in-chief Jordan McGrath and writer Mike Williams will be hoping for a 2012 release, and following Jordan’s excellent article on Cloud Atlas in which he applauded ambition, I am keeping my fingers crossed it will be sooner rather than later.
A story spanning time, Cloud Atlas could be a potential masterpiece or a pretentious disaster. Nevertheless it will have us all talking, and any film dealing with the vastness of time will probably find itself compared to Malick’s Tree of Life. If it is that good, Cloud Atlas could upset the balance of order, with Tykwer and the Wachowski’s casting their shadows over the great Terence Malick.
Argo, The Master, Cloud Atlas already intrigues me, steering my gaze into the distant future. They may not motivate the kind of excitement that a film like Dark Knight Rises created, nor the kinds of excitement that will be abound come December for The Hobbit. The motivation behind Argo, The Master and Cloud Atlas is intrigue, a quiet, more subtle anticipation and that is fine.
It is not my intention to run Pixar, Bourne or Expendables into the ground. Rather they are a group of films that if their release was pushed back I wouldn’t react, and that doesn’t suggest a sense of excitable anticipation that should come with these films.