Film Anticipation 2012

5. The Avengers
Dir. Joss Whedon | Superhero | May 4

As a nerd it is my obligation to be excited about anything Joss Whedon touches, right? And further, as a nerd, I should be barking like a sealion in anticipation of anything that brings four major Marvel superheroes together in a single movie, right?

Wrong. I'm not that sort of nerd.

My relationship with the Marvel Studios films has been mixed. Iron Man? Okay. Robert Downey Jr. is a lot of fun to watch. Hulk? Do. Not. Care. Thor? Surprisingly fun and less over-the-top ridiculous than I expected. Captain America? A good, competent film, but one that made a few story decisions which decreased my enjoyment a lot.

So why is this on the list? Because it's either going to be a whole lot of fun or a completely and utter disaster. Either one will be a fun. Either way, this is going to be a crazy movie.

My first reaction was "that's a terrible idea! How are they ever going to pull that off?" But, y'know, I've been surprised enough lately that I'm willing to give The Avengers the benefit of the doubt. Plus with Whedon not only directing but also writing the thing, at least there will be good character moments. In the end that's the best we can hope for because - hey - let's not kid ourselves, the plot's not going to be surprising. I predict it will involve them saving the world. YIKES! SPOILER!

4. The Amazing Spider-Man
Dir. Marc Webb | Superhero | July 3

Oh, the Spider-man reboot! Yes, this is on the list.

I wasn't the least bit excited about this until I saw The Social Network which featured new Peter Parker, Andrew Garfield. That gave me a bit of hope.

I liked director Marc Webb's debut (500) Days of Summer, although genre-wise pseduo-romantic-comedy-drama is pretty far from superhero. I have my doubts about whether Webb can do action.

Judging by the trailer, this could be a laughably pretentious take on Spider-man... or just an overblown trailer. I hope it's the latter because a "darker" more "brooding" take on Spider-man sounds like the last thing I'd want to see. Sami Raimi played "emo" Peter for laughs and everybody hated it (except for me, I love that bit).

Also, what's the deal with the "untold story"? I'm pretty sure most people know the origin of Spider-man. Radioactive spider bite. Uncle Ben dies. So what's going to be so different about this one?

Finally, I have to gripe about the first-person bit from the trailer mostly because everybody else thought that was great and I hated it. I sure hope not a lot of that ends up in the film. First of all, platforming in first-person doesn't work. That's why Spider-man video games are in third-person. First person can easily be dizzying and disorienting. Second, if you are going to show first-person stuff to give us a sense of Spider-man's webslinging flights, use it sparingly. Do it while he's swinging and not while he's running across roves. They were just showing off with that stupidly long shot in the trailer. And third, it looked super, super fake to me. It's certainly better than the GCI in the original Spider-man which we all make fun of now, but this is 11 years later. I shouldn't be looking at those effects and thinking it's a video game.

Basically, The Amazing Spider-man is on this list for the same reason that The Avengers is. It'll either be a good movie or a hilariously bad flop. Either way = entertainment. To be honest, I have no prediction how this one'll turn out other though I think it has a better shot at being a good movie than The Avengers does.

But I will say this: having no J. Jonah Jameson means it's going to be at least 30% less funny from the get-go.

3. Prometheus
Dir. Ridley Scott | Science Fiction | June 8

I am no fan of Ridley Scott. Gladiator? Overrated. Blade Runner? Overrated and boring. Alien? Hey, I kinda like that one.

Much as I dislike the typically slow, plodding pace of Scott's films, I do enjoy a little breathing room in my sci fi my favourite being 2001: A Space Odyssey (yes, I actually like it, I don't just say that.) But, basically, I'm a sucker for space movies and it seems like there aren't a whole lot of them made anymore. Since Star Trek 2 is taking an eternity, this film, billed as a spiritual prequel to Alien (though not actually connected with that series), caught my eye.

It's plot, little as we know right now, sounds fairly high-concept. The crew of the titular ship Prometheus search for clues to the origins of humanity and there's some sort of advanced alien race or the ruins of one involved. Good enough. Better still: there's an excellent cast including Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, and Guy Pearce.

Also, the music in this trailer's pretty cool.

2. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Dir. Peter Jackson | Fantasy | December 14

After years of legal wrangling between studios and filmmakers, a change of director, and a change of mind on the two-film deal, we are finally getting The Hobbit... part 1. There's a lot to be excited about with the return of the filmmaking crew, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Andy Serkis as Gollum and the excellent new casting choice of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.

Even after all this anticipation, it doesn't make the number 1 spot and here's why: a lot of the film is a known quantity. We know what Peter Jackson's Middle-earth looks like. We know Rivendell, the Misty Mountains, the Shire, even the trolls have already been glimpsed in the trilogy. We know the story from the book (those of us who've read it). And we know that this film is only half the story.

Most of the really exciting stuff - the stuff we haven't seen before like Mirkwood, the wood elves, Laketown, the Battle of the Five Armies, and, of course, Smaug the dragon are in the second half of the story. To be honest, although I'm definitely going to see this movie and I have a pretty high degree of confidence that it'll be great... I'm not actually that excited about it.

Having said that, it's a whole year away and there's lots of time for me to get more excited as I'm sure I will. Now part 2? That I really wanna see!

1. The Dark Knight Rises
Dir. Christopher Nolan | Superhero | July 20

Is there really any surprise? No. There is no other choice for most anticipated film this year.

The Nolan Batman film series has the potential to be one of the greatest film trilogies. Heck, with a strong enough third movie I'd say it could even be the best. Certainly it looks like it's going to have a good shot.

Based on all I know of the film (I've been following the major news and I've seen the early preview of the opening 6 minutes of the movie) it looks like Nolan's bringing us around full circle thematically.

In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne sets out to become an ideal and a symbol to fight the criminals of Gotham. As Ra's al Ghuld points out, if he devotes himself to an ideal he can transcend human limitation and can become more than a mere man. He can become a legend. In The Dark Knight, Batman's resolve is tested by the Joker and the Joker's corruption of Harvey Dent, the man he hopes might replace Batman.

Now we have The Dark Knight Rises, a title which has grown on me considerably since its reveal. Our villain is Bane most famous in the comics for having broken Batman - literally. If the poster is any indication, it looks like something similar could happen here. There's been rampant speculation that Bruce Wayne could die. Perhaps that would be the ending? Batman's death inspires others to take up his mantle (perhaps Catwoman and/or Joseph Gordon-Levitt's yet unnamed cop character?) and enshrines him as a legend in Gotham City history. Sounds like a winning plot to me.

We'll just have to wait until July 20th to see how Nolan ends the legend. For now we've just got to be satisfied with this awesome trailer.


Game Anticipation 2012 & 2011 Retrospective

Last year I did a list of my Top 10 Most Anticipated Games of the year. This year, there look to be more exciting games on the horizon though not quite as many for me so I've truncated this year's list to a Top 5. First a look back.

2011 Games in Review

It's funny looking back at last year's list. Some titles turned out more exciting than I thought others less so.

Early in the year Bioware had the closest thing they've ever had to a flop in Dragon Age II. I didn't even end up playing the game. I was bored by the demo. Yeah, that's a good sign. Heavily criticized for it's more linear and generally less epic story, hopefully this was just a fluke because I'm still expecting great things from Bioware (but we'll get to that.)

At the other end of the year, Bioware did manage to release Star Wars: The Old Republicits first MMORPG and it seems to be doing pretty well. I am only interested in the game passively as someone generally interested in the state of the gaming industry (and wondering if anyone can dethrone those smug guys at Blizzard from their World of Warcraft perch high atop a mound of cash). Reports from friends and acquaintances who've played the game seem very positive, but I'm still not buying something that'll cost me $60 up front, $15 a month after that, and gradually suck my life and savings away. Still sounds like drugs to me.

In April we got Portal 2 which I hardly need to comment on as both myself and Joshua have both previously talked about how awesome that turned out. What turned out less well was my 1# most anticipated pick, Crysis 2. I'm still kinda sore about that. The game had so much promise and while it definitely has its moments... well I just shake my head at the game's mention. Again, I've already talked about that.

Also filed under "Games, Extremely Disappointing Ones," are two shooters from old developers. Duke Nukem Forever, much to the astonishment of everyone in the known universe, did actually come out as scheduled. And it sucked. Is there really any surprise about that in hindsight? Like The Old Republic I was only interested in this game for its prominent status in the gaming subculture and not in the franchise or actually playing the game. As it turned out to be a perverse, unsightly mess, it did not change that initial outlook and I did not play the game though I certainly got a good laugh over how pathetic it turned out to be.

Rage, the other disappointing shooter in question, was far less funny and far more baffling. How legendary Doom developer id Software managed to turn out such a lackluster game after so much hype is... well, actually that's kind of reminiscent of Doom 3, isn't it? 'cept that game sold because it was from a franchise. Guess id's probably going back the their cash cow next.

A couple of games were ranked criminally low on my list in hindsight. The subtitled "sky" games as I like to call them turned out to excite me much more than I was anticipating. Both The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have thus far been fantastic. For all my skepticism of motion controls (particularly the Wii's) the latest Zelda title has convinced me that motion controls can not only work in some instances, but actually serve to make the game more fun. I'm looking forward to playing more.

It's a wonder to me looking back how I wasn't more excited for Skyrim. Although the game certainly has its flaws and drawbacks, I do not want the games industry to stop making games like this: games with immense freedom, immersion, player choice, and value. But this will probably receive its own review at some point.

Finally, Batman: Arkham City was ranked just about right. I just finished the game and I have to say it's mostly an improvement over Asylum. This will also receive its own review.

Now onto anticipation!

Top 5 Most Anticipated Games of 2012

5. Bioshock Infinite

2007's Bioshock is far from my favourite game. I found it a bit of a chore to play at times, actually. I also didn't find the system of switching from plasmid powers to guns very fluid. I just never got into the gameplay. What did suck me in (along with almost everyone else who played it) was the story and presentation. That was absolutely fantastic... except for the last fourth of the game or so.

With all those gripes it may be a wonder that I've chosen Infinite for this list. Here's the thing: I believe in developer Irrational Games' potential. Instead of the underwater city of Rapture, we now have a sky-bourne city called Columbia. We also have a speaking protagonist (imagine that!) as well as an interesting companion character with weird space-time fabric ripping powers... or something like that. Looks really interesting. Hopefully there's a great story like last time (and better gameplay) to go along with what looks to be a beautiful and unique setting.

4. Metro: Last Light

Metro 2033 was a surprisingly good game for most who picked up and played it. The post-apocalyptic shooter was set mostly in the Moscow Metro system with sections of the game taking place on the surface. It had a unique feel due to Ukrainian developer 4A Games and the fact that its story and setting were adapted from a novel of the same title. Last Light picks up after one of the two possible endings to the first game.

One of the most fun parts of 2033 was sneaking around enemy metro stations shooting out lights, sneaking up on guards and generally being a sneaky Russian ninja. Last Light looks like it's going to focus more on human-vs-human combat which was my favorite part of the first game.

3. Far Cry 3

During my E3 2011 coverage I highlighted this game as one to watch. Certainly the demos look promising. Far Cry 2 was a flawed game, but quite a bit of fun when you got past some of those flaws. If this game hones the story and the missions while still allowing for lots of freedom and choice along with a huge variety of weapons... well, sign me up!

2. Mass Effect 3

On my list for the second year running on account of being delayed is Bioware's Mass Effect 3, the (hopefully) epic conclusion of Commander Shepard's story. Will this game be fun? No doubt. Will this game be great? That's a lot more fuzzy.

Bioware had a few missteps last year with Dragon Age II being widely panned (for a Bioware game). The final Mass Effect 2 DLC "The Arrival" was also not well received. Plus there's the general pressure of the "third in series" ruining the whole thing. It's happened a lot with movies (we'll get to that) and it tends to happen in gaming although less so.

The story has been building and after Mass Effect 2's huge lack of plot I'm really ready for something significant to happen again. I hope there's not too much "go here and recruit these people" type missions because that's basically the entirety of the last game and I'm worried that might be sort of similar here.

The more I look back on the first two games, the more I'm impressed by ME1 over ME2 at least in terms of storytelling. Hopefully ME3 is a combination of ME2's improved mechanics with a ME1's wonderfully paced plotting.

The worst part will be having to buy it through EA's stupid Origin service...

1. Half-Life 2: Episode 3 / Half-Life 3

"What?!" you say. Half-Life 3 is coming out? When did that announcement happen? Well, sorry folks. It didn't.

It needs to.

I love, love, love, love Half-Life above all the other Valve games (even Portal), but even I'm worried that I'll start to not care about this series.

Fact: Half-Life 2: Episode 2 came out in October of 2007. Assuming Valve's been working on Episode 3 (or HL3, whatever it is) since then, I'll be be 5 years in development this October. It took 6 years between Half-Life 1 and 2, but in that time Valve developed an entirely new engine from the ground up as well as the Steam platform. Plus the company was younger, smaller, and less mature. Portal got a full sequel already. Given that information, it seems perfectly reasonable that Valve will either release the game this year or at least tell us when it's coming. Again, they need to.

The biggest question is will it be the promised Episode 3 or is this a full-fledged sequel? I expect in either case the game will be longer than the previous episodic installments and we'll see at least one new major game mechanic. It seems we have a lot of story left before the Combine story-arc is over. Either way, that's my prediction crazy and unfounded as it might be. This year Valve will finally count to three.

Up next... My Top 5 Most Anticipated Films!