We're just a few days away from entering 2013, a year the Mayans told us shouldn't exist. Now's a good time to try and get a lay of the land ahead, moviewise, and so I've compiled this list of ten questions I have about movies in 2013. This isn't the definitive list of questions about the movie year ahead, but these are ten things I find myself thinking about often as I ponder the next twelve months.
10. Will Star Trek Into Darkness actually have a good script?
JJ Abrams has never made a movie with a good script. Even the best script he's directed, Mission Impossible III, is mostly nonsense. Super 8's script is a joke, and Star Trek 2009 - well, it isn't the flimsy, poorly thought out script holding that film together. It's interesting that a guy who got his start as a screenwriter (Regarding Henry, Gone Fishin') has no respect for a well constructed, good script.
But will Star Trek Into Darkness be any better? He's brought back the same goons from the last go-round, but they've had more time to work. They've had a chance to really think this through and to attempt to make a solid, tight script that will deliver not just sequences that work (Abrams' specialty) but an entire movie that works.
I'm not holding my breath.
9. Will 48FPS go big?
I am not sure what the final verdict on 48fps for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be. The movie is doing well at the box office, but compared with The Two Towers and Return of the King (and with 3D and IMAX surcharges taken into account), it's a disappointment. How much of that comes from the 48fps? Probably not too much, I'd wager, as comparatively few screens are showing the film in that format.
But did the brouhaha about 48fps lead to The Hobbit's (relative) softness? Did it cloud the discourse? It's possible that everybody complaining about 48fps created enough bad buzz that it scared off marginal moviegoers. Or maybe the movie simply isn't as good as the Lord of the Rings films. There are a lot of potential blames to be made here.
What all of that means is that 48fps finds itself in something of a limbo when it comes to the next films in the trilogy. It seems like people didn't quite take to it, but it's hard to gauge. Warner Bros deliberately went smaller scale on the 48fps release this time out, but will they go bigger on The Desolation of Smaug? They'll certainly release it in 48fps in at least as many theaters as An Unexpected Journey, but the question is whether they'll go bigger. And whether theater owners will want to play it in that format. There's no upcharge to make it worthwhile, and unlike Avatar, The Hobbit didn't set America on fire for the new format. The demand, it seems, isn't quite there. Although I'm sure WB will be able to pull out figures that prove theaters showing in 48fps had more admissions than 24fps theaters.
8. Will Pacific Rim make waves?
We'll be running a 'Most Anticipated' list for 2013, and you can bet that Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro's giant monsters vs giant robots movie, will be on it. Having visited the set and being privy to some inside stuff, I can tell you that the film looks to create a world as big and explorable as Star Wars. But will it be the next Star Wars?
This is kind of an important question, because Pacific Rim comes at a critical juncture in genre history. We might be on the waning side of big budget genre blockbusters, and part of the problem is the fact that cinemas are inundated with rehashes, remakes and reboots. Pacific Rim is an original film, and it's an original film that's unlike anything in theaters lately. This is a movie that, if it hits, will impact the imagination of a generation - again, I think this could be the next Star Wars. This could be the movie that massively realigns what people want to see in theaters. This could be a movie that wires kids' brains in whole new ways.
If it hits. And in this climate, being an orginal concept, that's a big question mark.
7. Will Ken Russell's The Devils ever get a US DVD/Blu release?
Ken Russell died a year ago, and yet one of his greatest films remains unreleased on DVD/Blu in the United States. That film is The Devils, as envelope-pushing a movie as any major studio has ever released, and it's been sitting in obscurity for 40 years. You can get the film on home video in other countries, but you'll have to navigate a sea of different cuts of the movie. Will 2013 finally be the year Russell's original cut sees home video in the US?
Based on an Aldous Huxley novel, The Devils is a phantasmagoria of sex, violence and sacreligious imagery. Oliver Reed plays a Catholic priest accused of heresy in the wake of a series of 17th century demonic possessions, and Vanessa Redgrave is the sexually repressed nun who does him in. The film was notorious for a sequence called "The Rape of Christ," which features a whole group of naked nuns cavorting with a statue of Christ. The movie was so trangressive that Warner Bros kept demanding cuts while it was in release. Very few people have seen the entire film as intended.
We keep hearing rumors that it's coming, but will 2013 be the year that The Devils finally gets its due?
6. Will Hollywood take the necessary steps to fight piracy?
Piracy is here to stay, or at least it's here to stay in Generation Lazy. There's a whole social cohort that is growing up self-centered, attached to devices and expecting all of their entertainment for free. I think this group, the 16-30 bracket, is a loss. They'll always balk at paying for movies and music, and will never understand why every artist doesn't just Kickstart their new movie or album. But what about the next generation coming up, the kids who will have only known life with iPads and streaming movies?
Hollywood has a chance to kick piracy in the nuts by making their movies available at home sooner. Ultra VOD - where indie movies play VOD before opening in theaters - has proven to be a huge success for the likes of IFC and Magnolia. Universal played with the idea of demolishing the home video window, and tried to offer Tower Heist on demand day and date with theatrical. That didn't work because theater owners shit their pants - they know they don't offer enough of a compelling reason to go to the movies when the movies are available at home (which is why I love having this site owned by the Alamo Drafthouse, a chain that gives you a good reason to see movies as they're meant to be seen, in theaters). But Fox has been experimenting with putting movies on demand after theatrical but before traditional home video, and it seems to be working for them.
This sort of timing will be the key. If the studios can figure out the correct timing to get movies on demand, piracy will drop off. It will never go away, but when decent people have the option, they seem to choose paying for their entertainment. It's time that Hollywood gave them the option.
5. Will Paranormal Activity flame out?
Nobody is more suprised by the success of the Paranormal Activity franchise than Paramount. After all, they sat on the original film for years, intending to remake it with a higher budget before being convinced to finally release the thing. Now the fifth movie in the series is heading into theaters this Halloween, making Paranormal Activity one of the heavyweight theatrical horror franchises. But how much longer can it last?
Paranormal Activity 4 saw a major drop from 3, but then again 3 was a better movie. And it seems like the odd numbered films are the ones that do the boffo box office, so maybe 5 will have a chance. I'm just curious how long Paramount intends to milk this series, and whether or not they're going to attempt and create any sort of mythology closure. The Saw films made it to seven features; I think Paranormal Activity gets to six.
4. Will Marvel's Phase Two movies be connected?
Marvel's Phase One movies were all connected by the presence of SHIELD, who brought the disparate characters together for The Avengers. Will there be something similar happening in the next group of movies leading up to 2015's The Avengers 2? Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige says no, but that guy loves lying to us. What's more, The Avengers proved that Marvel has the capability and the stones to shoot new material for their movies after the films premiere. This is a gamechanger in terms of hiding stuff in the films.
It makes sense that Marvel would attempt to lay some groundwork for the next Avengers, especially if it's going to be getting as cosmic as we all think. And with Joss Whedon overseeing the whole business from a creative end, don't be surprised if some references work their way into the films... and if those references aren't handled better than Iron Man 2's heavy handed SHIELD bungling. I think half the fun of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World will be parsing them for clues to Avengers 2. And beyond.
3. Will Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity be an Oscar contender?
It's hard to look at the year ahead and get a sense of what is and what is not an Oscar contender. Sundance will give us our first look at some of the movies we might see dominate awards season, but it's possible that the 2014 Oscar ceremony winner hasn't even been shot yet, let alone slated for release. If you look at the upcoming movie calendars for 2013, December is a big open space, and that's when your big money Oscar studs hit theaters.
But we can look at some of the films we know that are coming and wonder whether they're contenders. The one that probably excites most of us is Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron's scifi movie starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. It's got everything - a reportedly great script, big actors, a director in his prime and the support of a major studio. The downside? The movie was originally a Thanksgiving release this year, but got pushed. Does that mean Warner Bros didn't think it was a contender? We'll have to see when it gets slotted in 2013.
What makes Gravity exciting for the Oscars is simple history: no scifi movie has ever won Best Picture. The past decade has seen scifi finally getting in the race, with District 9, Avatar and Inception being nominated, but we're still without a winner. There's been a horror Best Picture - when will we get a scifi Best Picture?
2. Will Pixar come back?
Let's all be honest here: it's been a weird couple of years for Pixar. Even if you don't agree with my revisionist take on Toy Story 3 as merely okay, and sort of a rehash of Toy Story 2, the last couple of years have been disappointing for the ultimate animation powerhouse. There's been a sense that they're vulnerable, that maybe they're not as infallible as we had all believed. Even the people who liked Brave a lot have to admit it's a movie that doesn't quite work, a film that feels fractured.
Will 2013 be the year that Pixar reasserts itself? I'm worried the answer is very much no, since their big release is the prequel Monsters University. This is exactly the sort of thing that has led to the sense of Pixar's decline, and while Monsters University could be a delightful film, are prequels and sequels and spin-offs (Planes is coming in 2013, although Pixar has wisely kept their name off it) what we really wanted from this fountain of imagination and wonder?
1. Will Star Wars Episode VII be completely spoiled online?
Star Wars Episode VII comes out in 2015, but it will likely be in production at some point in 2013, or be about to enter production. There will be a finished script, a director, a cast and some basic plot details available.
But will there be more? When The Phantom Menace was in production the movie blog world was young, but they went apeshit covering the movie, and spoilers were the rule of the day. It was easy to be spoiled on every scene and every beat of The Phantom Menace months before the movie opened (the big discovery in the theater wasn't the plot, it was the disappointment). Judging by the early frenzy of Star Wars stories following the Disney buyout/Episode VII announcement, I think it's safe to say we'll have history repeating itself.
I would guess that by the end of 2013 it will be possible to know the entire plot of Star Wars Episode VII. Hell, I'm willing to bet that by the beginning of 2014 it'll be all but impossible to remain unspoiled on major elements, such as returning characters and cameos.
Maybe the better question would have been 'Will we see a trailer for Star Wars Episode VII in 2013?' That's actually debatable.