The “Summer of Smackdown” continues! Last week we took a look at the superhero movies vying to be this summer’s big blockbuster. Forget about beefy gods in capes or super soldiers slinging shields. We’re moving from the land of comic books to the realm of full-on fantasy & adventure.
For me, this is what summer is all about. I love a good blockbuster adventure, be it of the Indiana Jones or Flash Gordon variety. A good action-adventure film can transport us to new worlds, different times, and show us unimaginable things made real.
Unfortunately, Hollywood has recently begun transferring films in this genre to 3D in post-production, creating a cheesy effect at greater expense to the viewer. Each of these films has been given the 3D treatment, but only Pirates was filmed in 3D.
Priest (May 13)
In a world where vampires and humanity have been at war for centuries, a legendary warrior priest (Paul Bettany) breaks his vows to track down a murderous pack of vampires who have kidnapped his niece. He is joined on his quest by a young sheriff (Karl Urban) and a former princess (Maggie Q) who has otherworldly fighting skills.
Based on a Korean comic book of the same name, this film is the latest in a new sub-genre of fantasy that I like to call post-apocalyptic Western.
Fusing the Western genre with the supernatural horror of vampires is new and interesting, but the previews of this film make it seem more interested in action that world-building. The action may attract some fans, but over the course of the summer this is likely to get lost in the shuffle.
Check out our Smackdown! of Priest -vs- Book of Eli
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May 20)
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) returns to the screen in a new epic that leaves behind the show-stopping story of two young lovers. Instead, the new film focuses on the true star of the series. This time Jack is off on a quest for the fabled Fountain of Youth. Of course, it’s never easy to be Jack. Along the way, he has to get past mermaids, zombies, and the legendary pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane).
Nothing short of a trip to Davy Jones’ locker could keep me from seeing this film. Add to the already stellar cast the lovely Penélope Cruz as Blackbeard’s daughter, and I want to see it twice. It’s a pity they had to give this film the IMAX 3D / Real D treatment. The franchise has done well without it so far. I envision lots of swords point out from the screen. Oh, well…
Check out our Smackdown! of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides -vs- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (July 15)
Harry’s journey through adolescence has all led up to this. In the second half of the final film, Harry must fulfill his destiny and come face-to-face with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. On the run and without Professor Dumbledore to guide him, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his friends — Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) — must return to Hogwarts to destroy the last of Voldemort’s horcruxes and destroy him once and for all.
At this point, there’s no second-guessing the Harry Potter juggernaut. Harry is destined to go out with a bang, not a whimper, as fans from all over the globe give him a final send-off. If WB is smart, they’ll release Part I in the theaters to give fans a chance at a double feature. But considering that it’s already been released on DVD and Blu-ray, it might be up to fans to orchestrate their own movie marathons.
Conan the Barbarian (August 19)
The Conan films made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name in the 1980s. Now that The Governator is considering rebooting his film career, it makes this reboot of the series a bittersweet thing. Starring Jason Momoa as Conan, this reboot is the most recent attempt at a Conan film, after previous efforts languished in development hell for years.
As a fan of cheesy fantasy movies – hey, I watched Beastmaster this weekend – I would be lying if I said I was above seeing this. But Conan isn’t a character that appeals to me as much as, say, Sinbad. I liked Arnold as Conan. I loved Kevin Sorbo’s turn as Kull the Conquerer, which had a bit of wit to it. But if this Conan is as dark and violent as the marketing makes it seem, it may only appeal to the hardcore fans.
I usually lump science fiction together with fantasy, but we’ll be looking at that genre in our next post. Science fiction has more than enough interesting entries that it deserves it. See you next week!