After a relatively quiet couple of years where the superhero movie genre has been concerned, they will be prominent again in the summer of 2012 with the release of reboots of Spiderman, the first movie in the aspiring Avengers mega-franchise, and Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises – and one might add, Men in Black III. (Arriving at other times, and with less grandiose expectations, there will also be Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance in February, and a new crack at the Judge Dredd franchise, Dredd, in September.)
Given this schedule the superhero movie seems poised to set movieland on fire again - though I wonder if a hard crash isn't also a possibility. Certainly I've enjoyed the genre, but the truth is that the current wave of them has been ongoing for over a decade now, rather longer than any comparable trend I can think of, and to me it has come to feel something like a financial bubble, overinflated and bound to pop sooner rather than later. (Indeed, I wonder about the particular crop of films upon us. The Spiderman reboot has come along way too soon, especially given how good the first two films of Sam Raimi's trilogy were. I was impressed with The Dark Knight, but the third film in the franchise has tended to not go well for superhero movies, artistically speaking.)
The end of this year will see the release of Bond 23 (titled Skyfall, and currently shooting). Given the producers' continuation in the direction established by Casino Royale I suspect I'll have my usual gripes when I get around to seeing it, but that audiences and critics on the whole will be kinder, and the film gross a half billion-plus at the box office. Bond will be joined by a number of other, familiar fictional spies at theaters this year, including Jason Bourne in The Bourne Legacy (based on Eric Van Lustbader's continuation of Robert Ludlum's series, and about which I will likely have similar gripes), and Bryan Mills comes back in Taken 2, while the '80s-style action movie sends another ripple down to our time in the form of The Expendables 2.
There will be other sequels to recent hits (like the Clash of the Titans' sequel Wrath of the Titans, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Resident Evil: Retribution and the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2), prequels to well-known properties (The Hobbit, and in a looser sense, Prometheus) and remakes (like Total Recall and, appallingly, Red Dawn). There will be 3-D reissues of '90s-era blockbusters like Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and Titanic. (Disney's Beauty and the Beast is already in theaters now.) There will be . . .
In short, there will be much, much, much more of what we've already been getting, so much so that I feel exhausted just having gone over the list. Still, Hollywood will bring a few other well-known genre novels to the screen. John Carter (based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels about that character) is hitting the big screen in March, but there will also be big-screen versions of newer works, like The Hunger Games (also a March release), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June), and World War Z (December), as well as a movie based on the old Battleship game, creatively titled Battleship, which I guess is about all they were able to take from it. There might even be a movie or two that are actually not based on something else (like Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity). The result is that this year will have plenty of big "events" (with such films as The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit and the end of the Twilight saga - enough, I suspect to quiet those observers who obsessed over weak ticket sales at the box office during 2011) and perhaps a fair amount of lightweight fun too, but few real surprises – the status quo restored to the satisfaction of everyone but such viewers as demand originality and other such commercially irrelevant qualities in their cinematic entertainment.
2011 Round-Up, Part II: Reflections on the Year That Was
Reflections on the Jason Bourne Series
A Fragment on Indie Film
From Screen to Page: Reading Ian Fleming
The 2011 Summer Movie Season
"Was 2010 the Worst Year for Movies Ever?"
2010 in Review
Give the Superheroes a Rest?
The End of James Bond?