Upcoming in 2011: Gods and Monsters and Lots of CGI

Just for the hell of it, here are some trailers that have grabbed my attention for the coming year. There’s been no attempt to be exhaustive on my part; these are just random previews / titles that took my attention.

Battle: Los Angeles (US-2011; dir. Jonathan Liebesman)

Though it wasn’t a great film, the Strause Brothers’ indie invasion flick Skyline didn’t deserve the critical drubbing it got. Though limited in scope, it’s minimal $10 million budget showed clearly on the screen and I thought it a more-than-decent low-budget effort. The SFX siblings were also involved in the upcoming $100 million invasion epic, Battle: Los Angeles, made by a major studio that deeply resented the alleged misappropriation of proprietary effects work that the Strauses were accused of being involved in as regards the making of Skyline. True, the one-line synopses of the two films sound similar (Los Angeles is invaded by militaristic aliens in big spaceships), but the overall effect looks profoundly different. I wasn’t very interested after the first uninspiring trailer was released, but this new one has the buzz. Due out 11 March.

Tetsuo – The Bullet Man (Japan-2009; dir. Shinya Tsukamoto)

This is the third of Tsukamoto’s low-budget exercises in cyberpunk body-horror, following on from Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992). They’re weird, somewhat incoherent and gross in a sort of Cronenberg-Lynch hybrid way, yet fascinating and metaphysically chilling. This one looks slicker, but much the same as before. Alienation and rage give birth to a metal-flesh monstrosity, to the music of Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails this time. It did the festival rounds in 2009 and 2010, and should be available for general viewing this year, love it or hate it.

Thor (US-2011; dir. Kenneth Branagh)

One of my favourite cinema trends over recent years has been the upsurge in quality superhero films. Sure, X-Men, Spider Man and Batman lead the pack, but there’s others that haven’t reached those heights — and haven’t gained the kudos of critics and rabid fans for one reason or another — and are nevertheless fun and of a decent quality. The use of CGI in cinema has become excessive and often unnecessary, sure, but, generally speaking, it’s essential in superhero films. Hey, computer imaging was made for superhero films, which simply can’t be done properly without it (Superman the Movie notwithstanding). So 2011 (not to mention 2012) is looking good for the subgenre. First off for me is Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Hemsworth as the God of Thunder and Anthony Hopkins as the ever-judgmental Odin. This could be done badly and just look silly. Early indications suggest otherwise. Here’s the Superbowl teaser, followed by the longer trailer:

Captain America: The First Avenger (US-2011; dir. Joe Johnston)

Then there’s Captain America: The First Avenger, directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers. Design-wise and concept-wise (such as setting it during the Second World War, thus ameliorating some of its nationalistic, or at least politically sensitive, potential), it looks like the right decisions may have been made. Here is the teaser trailer that was screened at the recent Superbowl, with a brief glimpse of Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull:

And these lead to the Marvel Comics pièce de résistance — the Joss Whedon-written-and-directed Avengers movie (due for 2012), followed by the inter-related Nick Fury with his the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow (maybe).

Green Lantern (US-2011; dir. Martin Campbell)

But it’s not all Marvel’s way, despite scheduled sequels/reboots for the X-Men, Iron Man, Wolverine and Spiderman. DC Comics have been generally less successful as regards cinematic live-action versions of their superheroes (with the significant exception of Batman and to a lesser extent Superman — and we shall ignore Jonah Hex, shall we?), but now they’re trying to gain some ground with Green Lantern (starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan and directed by Martin Campbell), leading a charge that will eventually include movies from Wonder Woman and maybe The Flash, plus a Superman reboot and the third Batman movie. Green Lantern is a hard call to get made successfully; its non-naturalistic, otherworldly scenario — though well served by the animated versions of the hero (and his successor) that have surfaced on DVD of late and in the great Bruce Trimm-produced Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series — may alienate wider, less geeky audiences. From the trailer, the filmmakers seem to be shooting for a different tone from that of the the wildly successful Dark Knight. Is that a promising direction to take? We’ll have to wait and see. Right now, I’m a little skeptical.

Cowboys & Aliens (US-2011; dir. Jon Favreau)

The blandly descriptive title certainly makes this film irrefutable proof (if any were needed) that one-time B-flick subject matter is now, post-Jaws, box-office gold. Cowboys & Aliens, starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wild, is directed by Iron Man superstar Jon Favreau, and firmly appropriates territory hitherto mined by low-budget genre flicks such as High Plains Invaders (2009; dir. Kristoffer Tabori). I’m definitely looking forward to it!

Super 8 (US-2011; dir. J.J. Abrams)

Speaking of aliens, this new trailer has sparked my interest (not that it needed sparking) in Abrams’ latest enigmatic project:

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (US-2011; Michael Bay)

I want to be enthusiastic about this second sequel to Bay’s (to my mind) successful Transformers (2007) film, but really Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) — giant robots and pyramids notwithstanding — was pretty awful. I want giant robots trashing stuff, Michael, but I need real people, too. Still, this trailer for Transformers 3 does look rather more interesting than I might have expected. At least Megan Fox won’t be in it playing a hooker look-alike and hopefully Bay will forego his over-use of pre-pubescent humour and racist stereotyping.

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