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The movies of 2013 we hope don’t suck (part II)

As you might have ascertained by the carefully positioned “part II” located in the headline, this is the continuation of our look forward toward 2013 and the movies we really hope don’t suck. There are plenty of intriguing films coming out this year, but if these suck, there will be blood! Well, probably not blood, but severe, life-altering consequences! Well, maybe not life altering consequences, but they will cause problems! That doesn’t sound quite as impressive, but bear with us.

Of course, there are some truly creative and original movies that you won’t find here. For example, missing from this list is the completely original sci-fi action thriller set after the fall of Earth, Oblivion. Also absent is the totally unique sci-fi action thriller set after the fall of Earth, After Earth. You might also note the missing film, the unparalleled sci-fi action thriller set after the fall of Earth, Elysium. (To be fair, all three movies look good, and Blomkamp’s Elysium could be the film that builds on the director’s District 9 success and launches him into director superstardom.)

There are plenty of major titles coming this year, both sequels, and – shockingly – original films with big budgets and high profiles. Don’t think that we aren’t keeping a close eye on those as well. Two eyes in fact: one filled with anticipation, and the other filled with a skepticism born of being burned by movies like Green Lantern and Battleship. Those films could wound a monk’s soul. On the other hand, we’ve had flicks like The Avengers, which could have so easily gone wrong, but turned out to be a very good film instead.

So once more unto the breach, dear readers. Check out Part 1 for a look at the movies of 2013 we hope don’t suck in the first half of the year, then read on for the 10 movies coming in the second half of the year that for one reason or another we just really hope don’t suck.

Lone Ranger (July 3)

This film almost made it onto a different list altogether: “Movies we assume are going to suck, but hope we’re wrong.” There are a lot of questions about this film. First and foremost, why is Johnny Depp playing a Native American? “How” would be a question you might hope for in a better world, but sadly, the how is obvious. Disney has found the secret to making money: just ride Depp until he collapses. To be fair, Depp did confirm that he does have some Native American in him. Somewhere in his family history, possibly his great-grandmother. Maybe she was Cherokee, maybe Creek Indian. Depp may – may – be one-eighth Native American. By historical Disney standards, casting an actor with even one-eighth the ethnicity of the character he or she is playing is pretty good.

Despite the racial divide between the former Captain Jack Sparrow and his character, Depp is a good actor. Maybe he can play a completely different race without it coming off as insensitive. Perhaps every talented Native American actor was just busy the days they shot this film.

Depp is the draw, but the titular role goes to Armie Hammer, best known for his dual roles in the Social Network as the Winklevoss twins, and for the continual rumors that DC wants him to play Batman in a Justice League film. He is a charismatic guy, and studios want him to be successful. Just like the studios wanted Taylor Kitsch to succeed so they put him in two major films, John Carter and Battleship. D’oh.

A western adventure about a wronged man seeking justice, a superhero with a six-shooter, and Johnny Depp are all working in this film’s favor. Disney got burned with John Carter, but it’s a studio that is willing to take a few chances and invest big money in what could potentially be another franchise. Because of that, if this film is even moderately successful – or just not a straight up bomb – there will be plenty of sequels, licensed games, toys, and more merchandise than you could hope to escape. It will be everywhere. This film will be inescapable, so we hope it doesn’t suck.

Pacific Rim (July 12)

With many of the films on this list we hope the movies don’t suck because they will have a greater effect on the film industry in general. With this one though, we just hope it doesn’t suck for entirely selfish reasons. Just look at it! A giant robot punches a Kaiju monster in the face with a rocket powered fist. That’s a line that really deserves to be written more often.

Guillermo del Toro is basically the answer to the prayers of 14-year-old anime fans all around the world. A lot of people have noted the familiarity between this film and the famed anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, and there’s some truth to that, but it goes deeper and is far simpler. This film is about giant robots fighting Godzilla-esque monsters. And it’s told with a $200 million budget. If that doesn’t interest you, then may God have mercy on your soul.

The trailer instantly went viral when it was released, and nary a Facebook news feed was left without a link to it. The short clip showed exactly what expectant fans were hoping to see, but that doesn’t mean it will be good. In fact, that could just set us up for even greater disappointment.

While this film sounds like it could hit that sweet spot between Kaiju fans, anime watchers, and just fans of movie spectacle, it could also be very dumb if it takes itself too seriously. If on the other hand it doesn’t take it seriously enough, it could be just as bad. Del Toro has already confirmed he has more ideas for sequels and there is a fanbase hungry for this subject material, so there is a lot riding on the potential of this film. As long, of course, as it doesn’t suck.

The Wolverine (July 26)

The development of this film has been enough to send longtime Wolverine fans to the emergency room. The previous solo Wolvie offering, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was … well, it was boring and dumb. There were problems all around, from the story to the production values. Any film that can make Deadpool dull has serious issues.

But off all those involved in Origins, Jackman came off the best. The character managed to survive a poor movie thanks to his performance, which was at least good enough to give fans hope when a sequel rumored to take place in Japan was mentioned. When Darren Aronofsky was attached, things looked even better, which made his departure heart-wrenching. At one point, it was rumored that Duncan Jones was in the running, again sending fans into a tizzy. That didn’t happen, which hurt, but the studio then landed on the odd, but intriguing choice of James Mangold. Yay?

In comics, the character of Wolverine was fairly middle of the road when he was first introduced. He was liked by X-Men fans, but went undefined for years until Chris Claremont and Frank Miller sent him to Japan for a four-issue mini-series that changed comics forever. Instead of an ill-temperes brawler, he was a samurai. He was the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice. It was the story that catapulted Wolverine into superstardom. So perhaps it will be the movie that saves him. If not, the character is too popular to simply let die, but there will need to be some significant changes.

If The Wolverine fails, it could also lead to further legal complications between Fox, who owns the character’s film rights, and the Disney owned Marvel, who would surely like to bring Wolverine and the X-Men back into the fold for a rebooted movie series contained within the same world inhabited by The Avengers. Maybe that could even lead to an X-Men versus Avengers film. On second thought, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad thing if this film failed… The film rights to the X-Men aren’t going anywhere anytime soon though, so we should try to make the best of it with the existing X-Men timeline that includes the upcoming sequel to X-Men: First Class. The continuity already exists, and there will probably be more Wolverine from Fox in one fashion or another. So since it is inevitable, hopefully this film will live up to the potential it has and won’t suck.

Riddick (September 6)

This is going to be a tough one to defend, but hang in there before you dismiss it. Vin Diesel is a giant nerd after our hearts. During an interview a few years ago, the interviewer was skeptical about Diesel’s claims of being a lifelong D&D fan, so he quizzed him about it and offered a scenario. Diesel fired back that he needed to know more about the statuses and location, then the two of them high-fived and engaged in an awkward bro-hug over the correct class to use against an ogre. When it comes to geeks, Diesel is legit. If you need more proof, just look at the video game studio he founded just because he could.

Pitch Black introduced the character of Riddick in a memorable way, but it was supposed to be The Chronicles of Riddick that would be Diesel’s contribution to the world of sci-fi. He loves the character, and wanted to use what fame he has to create a new sci-fi universe. It is the dream of all slightly alienated sci-fi fans to have their own world, and you can’t begrudge Diesel for pursuing it.

The film was messy though. There were conceptual flaws, and it didn’t help that there were several chefs in the filmmaking kitchen. The studio wanted to be involved, the director had his own vision, and Diesel had his ideas too. The result was a somewhat schizophrenic film with design issues, pacing problems, and a huge amount of wasted potential. But the character of Riddick remained sound, even with the goofy “Underverse” story. A better look at the character can be found in his two video game outings developed by Diesel’s Tigon Studios. Both of which were very good, and both kept things simple: see Riddick trapped, see Riddick kill.

In order to finance this film, Diesel agreed to a massive pay cut. The character will go back-to-basics and again be a hunted man on the run instead of a would-be space Conan. If it is successful, Riddick will ride again. A lot of people don’t like Diesel, and that’s fair. But in a Hollywood system that is driven by the bottom line, and often features actors that are there for a paycheck instead of the art, it’s nice to see a guy willing to go to the matts for a project he believes in, especially one with such a geek backbone. So for the sake of all would be genre actors with a vision, including Diesel, here’s hoping this film doesn’t suck.

Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (October 4)

The reason this film is on this list isn’t just because the original was well done and deserves a good follow-up, but because it could go so horribly wrong. The previous Sin City film, based on Frank Miller’s comics and directed by Robert Rodriguez, was well received and earned a spot on the list of most comic fans’ “best comic book movie adaptation” lists. It probably isn’t number one very often, but it is on the list. Hopefully the sequel will follow suit.

There is cause for concern though. In the original film Rodriguez fought tooth and nail to get Frank Miller co-directorial credit. When the Directors Guild of America refused to give Miller the official honors, Rodriguez quit the Guild. Miller deserved that credit too, as he was heavily involved with all aspects of the film, from the look of it to the actors’ motivations. But he did so with Rodriguez’s help.

Left to his own devices Miller went on to create The Spirit, a film that most view as one of the worst comic book films ever made – and when you factor in the long and painful history of comic book film adaptations, that’s saying something. The Spirit was the spiritual successor to Sin City in every way. The films used the same cinematic style, Miller wrote both screenplays, and both are based on comics. And yet it was bad enough to receive several nods on multiple “worst films of all-time” lists. Not “worst super-hero films of all time,” or even “worst film of the year” lists mind you, but worst films. Period.

Now Miller is back, once again co-directing the Sin City sequel with Rodriguez. If Rodriguez can control Miller, there is every reason to think that this sequel will hit the same heights that its predecessor did. If Miller tries to dominate the film making process, we could have another Spirit, and nobody wants that. So for the sake of everyone, hopefully Miller’s involvement will be curtailed and this film won’t suck.

The World’s End (October 25)

Even with the geek cred assembled in front of and behind the lens of this film, you may be wondering why a comedy grounded in realism(ish) is on a list with films that include giant robots smashing monsters, comic book heroes galore, and generally heavy sci-fi fare. The answer is that Edgar Wright must be allowed to continue.

There will, of course, be plenty of sci-fi discussions and allusions in this film, but it’s of the utmost importance that Wright be allowed to continue making films the way that he wants to. And not just for his sake, but the sake of all society! No, seriously.

Wright is a visionary. That term has been so overused that it almost has no meaning anymore, but in Wright’s case it’s apt. Even if you don’t like his work, you can’t mistake his style. His current career path isn’t all that different from someone like Tarantino, who also is well on his way to creating his own genre, although their styles are obviously completely different. Both, however, are operating independently from the mainstream, and yet both have found passionate supporters.

The more success Wright has, the more that Hollywood will begin to reawaken to the idea of giving clever filmmakers room to make something new rather than yet another adapted property, sequel, or remake. There will always be the Michael “Boom Boom” Bays of the world, out there making films for the lowest common denominator and regurgitating sequel after franchise sequel, but filmmakers like Wright (and many others) remind us that there are alternatives to the recycled content that has dominated entertainment for the last few years. Besides, Wright’s latest offering (and his third film paired up with his former Spaced cohorts Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) sounds like it could be another winner. If it sucks, however, it could further scare Hollywood away from investing in young, think-outside-the-box filmmakers.

Ender’s Game (November 1)

This film has been a long time coming, as any sci-fi novel fan can tell you. Since it was released in 1985 Orson Scott Card’s book has gone on to be considered one of the “must read” books in science-fiction, which has kept it right at the top of the list of properties sci-fi fans would like to see converted to film. But just because there is desire doesn’t mean a property will be adapted, even with the current Hollywood mentality of adapting anything with even a moderately established fanbase. Just look at the long languishing Neuromancer which seemed to be heading to the big screen this year, but yet again has met with delays.

After years of rumored attempts to make this property into a film, it’s finally happening, and it seems like it’s being given proper respect. To give you an idea of how remarkable it is that this film is actually in production, the last actor officially attached to it was Jake Lloyd, immediately following his turn as Anakin Skywalker in 1999’s The Phantom Menace.

But that’s the past. Principle photography has concluded, and director Gavin Hood has moved on to the lengthy post-production process. With more than a year to polish the film that stars Harrison Ford, Abigail Breslin, and Ben Kingsley, there is good reason for optimism. There are a few things worth being alarmed by though, including Hood’s resume, which includes X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Feel free to panic.

To be fair though, Hood shouldn’t receive all the blame for that movie. The studio hired a director that it could manipulate, and the result was a mess with no clear vision. With Ender’s Game, Hood was given more liberties, and he wrote the screenplay himself – which differs from the book, but stays true to it, according to Card. If he can pull it off, the book series will likely provide fodder for several possible sequels. But perhaps more importantly, if the film is a real success, it could cast Hollywood’s greedy eye on some long overlooked sci-fi fiction gems that fans would love to see adapted. A lot is riding on this film. Hopefully Hood can shake the stink of X-Men Origins off of him and create a big-budget adaptation that doesn’t suck.

Thor: The Dark Worlds (November 8)

Of all the Marvel success stories, the character that still has something of a question mark hanging over him is Thor. The 2011 film was generally well received, but among the other recent Marvel films, it was the weakest. It wasn’t bad, but there were issues.

Chris Hemsworth is a likeable enough guy and he made a good addition to The Avengers, but he was constantly overshadowed by Tom Hiddelston’s Loki, who is a more interesting character performed by a better actor. That isn’t a knock on Hemsworth, but rather praise of Hiddelston. But when a film’s title character and the driving force of the franchise isn’t the most interesting part of the film, you have issues.

Part of the problem is simply that while the other Marvel heroes are grounded in reality – well, at least they exist and live in a relatively realistic portrayal of modern society – Thor lives and operates in a completely artificial world with rules that are unique to that setting. That could make for a compelling story that stands apart from its peers, or it could lead to a silly offering that pales in the shadow of its cousins.

With the Marvel legacy going strong, this film can take a few more chances than its predecessor. It doesn’t need to waste time on humbling a thunder god to make him into a good drinking buddy, nor does it have to force him into “our” world in order to establish his continuity and to hit on Natalie Portman (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Instead, the film can go as far off the rails as it wants, and hopefully show what a Thor film can really be, rather than just create another Marvel film starring a guy with a big hammer. If it works, it will show that Marvel has range, which could fast-track other more off kilter characters like Dr. Strange, a hero constantly mentioned by Marvel but who has yet to show any real momentum as a film property. That could change quickly, assuming Thor: The Dark Worlds doesn’t suck.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (November 22)

This is one of the more important films on this list, but maybe not for the reason you might think. There are actually several reasons we hope this films succeeds. The first Hunger Games was a hit, and it propelled star Jennifer Lawrence into the A-list spectrum. She was likely already on her way after Winter’s Bone and X-Men: First Class, but The Hunger Games cemented it. Not only is she a talented actress, her characters are strong – a nice change from decades of underdeveloped female leads.

Another reason to wish success on Catching Fire is that this film is one of four (the final book is being split into two movies), and the sequels have already been greenlit. If this film suddenly bombs they may halt production, but it would have to be a disastrous outing to stop the concluding chapters. This film needs to be good in order to carry on the momentum through the remaining movies and bridge the coming expansion of the story into the larger narrative that awaits it. It has an interesting overarching story, and this film needs to stick the landing in order to get us to the even bigger finale.

Those are all good reasons to root for this film, but beyond all that, this movie needs to be good in order to save us from the horror of another Twilight franchise. No one that has read the Hunger Games book trilogy will likely argue that Suzanne Collins’ series is fine literature, but compared to the Twilight books they are The Great Gatsby. The difference in literary style is stark. Collins is not an amazing writer, but she is a master compared to Stephanie Meyer, and surpasses her in almost every way, including story content and morality. And yet the two are intertwined.

Both The Hunger Games and the Twilight books exist within the Young Adult genre, and Hollywood has seen that there is a lot of money to be made mining that audience. Yet despite the genre tag, The Hunger Games is a far more mature series than Twilight, so with luck – with a lot of luck – the next films taken from the YA genre will more closely resemble Collins’ work than Meyer’s. If it sucks and makes Hollywood think that Twilight is the way to go though, God help us all.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (December 13)

This was the first film added to this list for multiple reasons. For now, let’s go ahead and ignore the frame rate issue of An Unexpected Journey. Let’s even put aside that a lot of people felt it was inferior to The Lord of the Rings trilogy (and it is, but that doesn’t make it bad). The biggest hurdle The Hobbit trilogy is facing is that it is a trilogy at all.

It really is tough to cast the decision to stretch a single book into three films in a favorable light. An Unexpected Journey covered around half of the original novel, and it included a slew of new content created exclusively for the film. It made sense to split it into two movies, even though it could have been serviced by just one – the book isn’t all that long to begin with. Going to three films could be a mistake.

The third film will feature a full scale battle, along with the culmination of the new content that will see the rise of Sauron. It will have action and drama, and tie the prequel firmly into Peter Jackson’s previous trilogy. The second film however, is just sort of there. As both the name and the plot of the book suggest, it will focus on the dragon Smaug, the foe that the band of dwarves (plus one hobbit) originally set out to defeat. This means that the entire film will be based on one single action, as well as setting up the events of the third film. Even if the climactic battle with Smaug is eye-ball meltingly awesome, there is bound to be a lot of filler in this movie.

The Lord of the Rings ended each film in its series on a high note, leaving fans painfully excited for the next year’s offering. The Hobbit isn’t likely to be able to generate that level of devotion though, no matter how good each film is. It just isn’t that epic of a story. Of course, it could all turn out fine, and Jackson has earned a lot of slack from fans. But as part two of an unnecessary trilogy, it had better be great in order to justify the stretch to three films and to keep up the momentum heading in to the finale that hits theaters in December of 2014. If it sucks though, it could derail this trifecta and could possibly even retroactively hurt the superior previous trilogy. Just ask George Lucas.