In movie industry terms, the "summer movie season" actually begins before summer, on the first weekend in May (as in, this weekend, which is why we're resurrecting this post from March), and ends before summer, on the last weekend in August. There are 18 geek-centric major motion pictures scheduled for U.S. release in this time-span, so here's your rundown.
Based on early data—which for some films is sparse—I've arrogantly rated each movie on the only scale that matters: What point in the film's life cycle I'll make an effort to see it. The categories are: Opening Night, Opening Weekend, Full Price, Matinee, Rental, TV, or Never. All ratings are subject to change once I find out more about the films in question. (Don't ask me about torrenting; that's a whole other category.)
- Iron Man (May 2) Our lead-off hitter for the summer season, this one promises to be a lot of fun in a plot-optional, popcorn spectacle kind of way. The casting of Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man is inspired, and fanboy/director Jon Favreau looks to have gone the "it's a comic book, not high art" route of snarky cool. Plus, we get to see Jeff Bridges in a battlesuit at some point, which is just too surreal to miss. Rating: Opening Weekend. [Trailer here]
- Speed Racer (May 9) The guys who wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy, which were basically overly serious live-action anime flicks, are doing an overly serious live-action rendition of one of the most juvenile anime series ever. The effects look like a CGI Hot Wheels racetrack come to life, the frenetic visual tone looks seizure-inducing, and the film is way overcast with expensive heavies who are probably going to mail in the performances for the paychecks. Oh, and it's a PG-rated kids flick. Expect this to be the first major flop of the season. Rating: TV. [Trailer here]
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (May 16) It looks and sounds and feels and has the same cast and director and scriptwriter and producer and effects house as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. If you liked that, you'll like this, though I found the first film to be a lightweight, kid-friendly Lord of the Rings substitute. Which was the point. Rating: Rental. [Trailer here]
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (May 23) The first mass-appeal "Holy crap, everybody has to see this" film of the year. Despite my misgivings about this Indy indulging in a UFO hysteria plot, possibly introducing Shia Labeouf as Indy's son so the franchise can go on without Harrison Ford, and the general Episode I vibe coming off the flick, you still have to roll the dice on this being even half as good as Raiders. Rating: Opening Weekend. [Trailer here]
- The Happening (June 13) The latest attempt by director M. Night Shyamalan to prove that The Sixth Sense wasn't just beginners' luck, this one chronicles Mark Wahlberg (bad sign) as he attempts to save his family from an epidemic that causes millions of people to commit suicide. Based on how Shyamalan's films have been trending, there's a chance this movie could have the same effect. Rating: TV. [Trailer here]
- The Incredible Hulk (June 17) Edward Norton and Tim Roth go mano-a-mano as the Hulk and his equally gamma-powered nemesis, the Abomination, respectively. This would make for another great plot-optional popcorn-fest, so long as Norton doesn't try to muck it up with too much depth and symbolism. That's what doomed the last Hulk film. Rating: Full Price. [Trailer here]
- Get Smart (June 20) Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart. Genius. Alan Arkin as The Chief is just icing on the cake at that point. Probably won't be an eternal classic, but should do everything you expect. Rating: Rental. [Trailer here]
- WALL-E (June 27) Short Circuit meets A.I. by way of Cars. Pixar's next computer-animated cash-cow tells the story of WALL-E, a trash-cleanup robot alone on Earth for 700 years after humans have moved on, and left the planet a wreck. He finally gets some company when us jerk Homo Sapiens send a probe back to check on the old homestead. Expect a plucking of heartstrings, uber-cute slapstick comedy, and about a billion merchandising spinoffs. Rating: Matinee. [Trailer here]
- Hancock (July 2) The obligatory Will Smith July 4 weekend tentpole film, this one reads as a cross between My Super Ex-Girlfriend and Arrested Development. (Hopefully more the latter than the former.) Smith plays a hapless, alcoholic, homeless ex-superhero who gets his image rehabilitated by publicist Jason Bateman. It has that "all the funny bits were in the trailer" sheen to it. Rating: TV. [Trailer here]
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army (July 11) Another flick with almost exactly the same cast and production team as the original, which is a good thing. Director Guillermo del Toro's visual genius, Ron Perlman's put-upon cynical superheroics, plus Jeffrey Tambor as a middle management spymaster. Disposable pulp cinema at its best. Rating: Matinee. [Trailer here]
- Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D (July 11) Remember how awful the family-friendly Around the World in 80 Days remake starring Jackie Chan turned out to be? Okay, substitute Journey to the Center of the Earth for 80 days, and Brendan Fraser for Jackie, and then make it 3-D. This has trainwreck written all over it. Rating: Never. [Trailer here]
- Meet Dave (July 11) Okay, so the pitch went something like this: "Remember that one alien from Men in Black that was actually a robot dude with a little tiny alien pilot in his head? What if we made a movie about that dude, only the robot was Eddie Murphy, and the aliens were some B-list hotties and comedians? And then the robot falls in love." That's Meet Dave. Rating: Never. [No trailer yet.]
- The Dark Knight (July 18) The other must-see cinema event this summer, this sequel to the excellent Batman Begins had an X-men 2-like chance of outshining its predecessor until Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker, died of an overdose in January. His death came after he finished filming the part, but the reality of Ledger may overshadow what looks to have been an extraordinary performance as Batman's greatest villain. Either way, this is the one film nobody, geek or otherwise, can afford to ignore. Rating: Opening Night. [Trailer here]
- X-Files 2 (July 25) It's still being filmed, they haven't settled on a title, and rumor has it the plot (as such) will focus on Mulder and Scully's relationship, rather than finally tying up all the annoying loose ends from the ran-three-seasons-too-long conspiracy series. So what's the point? Rating: TV. [No trailer yet]
- Wanted (July 27) Another comic book film, only they've left out the costumes this time. It's got Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, high-end special effects, and the stars are the villains. It's also directed by the same dude who did the cult Nightwatch Russian horror fantasy film, and it's an R-rated dark action flick. Can't be that bad. Rating: Matinee. [Trailer here]
- Lost Boys 2: The Tribe (Sometime in July) Somebody decided to resurrect the corpse of Corey Feldman's career, since the Feldster reprises his role as Edgar Frog, the slacker-turned-vampire-hunter from the original Lost Boys. Now, the first Lost Boys was a cult classic because it was legitimately scary, funny, and a surprisingly lucid allegory for the causes and effects of teenage rebellion. This one looks like a low-budget Fast and the Furious spinoff starring extras from Laguna Beach—only not played for laughs. Rating: TV. [Trailer here]
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (August 1) Apparently, somebody made the mistake of telling a producer that ancient China had almost as many mummies as ancient Egypt, which the studio reads as "we can do a Mummy sequel with Jet Li." To Universal's credit, they aren't skimping on the budget, and they've got most of the cast back, but you don't usually waste a major action movie on late August, so the signs are bad. Still, it can't be worse than The Scorpion King. Rating: Rental. [No trailer yet]
- Babylon A.D. (August 29) The Chronicles of Riddick meets Johnny Mnemonic. Vin Diesel is a sci-fi mercenary teamed with Michelle Yeoh as a kung-fu nun (seriously) who must escort a genetically engineered Typhoid Mary out of post-apocalyptic Russia before she poisons all of humanity. Another brain-dead action flick, trying to get your teenager's last movie-going dollar before heading back to school. Rating: TV. [No trailer yet]
So, which ones are you going to shell out money to see?
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.