Spring Movie Preview 2012: Action Movies

This spring’s action movie slate deals mostly in science fiction. Two of 2012’s first blockbusters come out this month including “John Carter” and the highly anticipated adaptation of “The Hunger Games,” and dare I forget “Wrath of the Titans” at month’s end. There’s also a sci-fi prison escape film as well as Jason Statham’s latest.


John Carter (Mar. 9)

Directed by Andrew Stanton
Written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon, Edgar Rice Burroughs (story)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe

Summary: A Civil War vet named John Carter (Kitsch), presumed dead, ends up having been transported to Mars, where he finds himself in the middle of another war in which he could be a determining factor.

The Word: Disney has placed its faith in “Finding Nemo” and “WALL*E” director Andrew Stanton, who brings the 1917 grandfather of all science-fiction novels, “A Princess of Mars,” to life. The pulp classic has a small group of fans these days, but Disney hopes that will change fast, putting together a beast of a marketing campaign since the Super Bowl.

My Thoughts: When “Cowboys & Aliens” struggled last summer, I thought “John Carter” was doomed. Kitsch is merely an aspiring actions star and the other veteran names are not quite household compared to Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford. The early reviews have been positive for sci-fi/fantasy fans, however, so even if Disney finds itself in a financial pickle, it appears Stanton isn’t merely a great animation director.


The Hunger Games

Directed by Gary Ross
Written by Gary Ross, Suzanne Collins and Billy Ray
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

Summary: In a dystopian North America divided into districts and ruled by the wealthy Capitol, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) volunteers to take her sister’s place when her sister is chosen by lottery to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a tournament in which young people must battle to the death.

The Word: Suzanne Collins’ young-adult novels have been the most successful since “Twilight,” and while both series feature a love triangle of sorts, “The Hunger Games” has the wider appeal. Collins helped write the film as well, so expect it to be loyal. Expect Lawrence, an Oscar nominee and star of “X-Men: First Class,” to launch to superstardom as the central heroine. With record pre-sales, many believe this is the start of another film phenomenon.

My Thoughts: Minus the romance elements, I’m a big fan of these books, though I have my doubts about a PG-13 version, as the most striking feature of Collins’ work is in all honesty the violence, the way she unapologetically rips characters from the story. Along with interpreting the luxurious and excessive lifestyle of the Capitol, this will be the biggest challenge the film will need to meet for fans to be satisfied.

Embedding trailers for this movie has been disabled on YouTube, so check the trailer out here


The Raid: Redemption (Mar. 23. Limited)

Written and Directed by Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Ananda George, Ray Sahetapy

Summary: A SWAT team goes after mobster and his various henchman and thugs in a run-down 30-story slum building in Jakarta, but when their cover is blown, they find themselves trapped inside with no way out.

The Word: When it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, the film then simply titled “The Raid” caught everyone’s attention as one of the best action films to come along in some time. The film features the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat. This is Evans and star Uwais’ second collaboration on an Indonesian martial arts film, the first being “Merentau” in 2009.

My Thoughts: With an American remake already underway and Indonesian sequels planned (hence the addition of “Redemption”), it would be wrong not to get curious about this film, even if you’re all for the American blockbuster and nothing else. Other than math, kicking ass is the universal language, and it seems “The Raid: Redemption” has plenty to spare.


Wrath of the Titans (Mar. 30)

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by Dan Mazeau, David Leslie Johnson, Greg Berlanti
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Rosamund Pike, Ralph Fiennes, Édgar Ramírez

Summary: Many years after the events of the first film, Zeus (Neeson) calls on Perseus (Worthington) to stop his rebellious son Ares (Ramirez), god of war, who has along with Hades (Fiennes) has unleashed the Titans (thought to have been imprisoned forever) on Earth.

The Word: Worthington looked set for global superstardom after “Avatar” and “Clash of the Titans” came out with four months of each other. He cooled off in 2011, but hopes to prove “Clash” was no fluke as it made lots of money but was not a hit with critics or most audiences. Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles”) fills the shoes of Louis Leterrier, but both have an in-your-face action style anyway.

My Thoughts: Have you ever seen so many monsters in one movie trailer? The budget looks to have increased significantly and the action (which was unmemorable in the first) appears to have been ratcheted up big time. Despite highly disliking the first film, the intensity of this one has me almost willing to forget about it. Either way, I’m not optimistic about the story.


The Cold Light of Day (Apr. 6, Limited)

Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri
Written by Scott Wiper, John Petro
Starring: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver

Summary: A family unites for a vacation in Spain. While on a yacht, eldest son Will (Cavill) leaves and comes back to find them missing. He later finds his father (Willis) who it turns out is CIA. He must then make a choice when some higher ups propose to trade him his family’s return for something his father has of theirs.

The Word: One of the only traditional action movies of the spring, though it comes in limited release from Summit Entertainment. Henry Cavill, who will be known to the world as Superman in a year’s time, starts building his star profile here (after November’s “Immortals”) alongside reliable vet Willis. Director El Mechri previous made the unique Jean-Claude Van Damme film “JCVD.”

My Thoughts: No surprises or revelations here, just a chance to see how Cavill will perform as a more traditional action star. It doesn’t hurt to work alongside one of the best, but Willis has starred in as many pieces of junk as he has great action movies. The limited release has me a little trepidatious.


Lockout (Apr. 13)

Directed by James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Written by Luc Besson, James Mather, Stephen St. Leger,
Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare

Summary: On a goodwill mission to an advanced maximum-security prison in space, the president’s daughter (Grace) is in danger when the prisoners break free. With the lunatics running the asylum, only Snow (Pearce) has the skills (or balls) to extract her.

The Word: Besson, initially famous for “The Professional” and “La Femme Nikita,” has gone on a mainstream tear as a writer/producer since “Taken” exploded in 2008. Those movies, however, have been the poorly received “From Paris with Love” and “Colombiana.” This premise takes his typical revenge/rescue story into the future and space, in what seems like a take on “Escape from New York.” Pearce will get a chance to really prove himself an action star, which worked out well for Liam Neeson, who also had to save Maggie Grace in his Besson role. “Lockout” is the feature debut for the film’s other writers, who also direct.

My Thoughts: I like the clear-cut premise, though I’m wary based on the cliché trailer execution. I’m glad to get to see more of Pearce, however, and think if done right this could be at the least a terrific watch on DVD later in the summer.


Safe (Apr. 27)

Written and Directed by Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Chris Sarandon

Summary: Former NYC cop Luke Wright (Statham) saves a 12-year-old girl from being abducted at a subway stop. He learns that a lot of powerful people are after her as she’s memorized a lengthy and important code, so he vows to do whatever he must to keep her safe.

The Word: Statham’s latest star vehicle comes from Boaz Yakin, whose previous directing credits have not been action films, with his most memorable being “Remember the Titans.” He has written quite a bit recently, however, including “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and next year’s magician heist thriller “Now You See Me.”

My Thoughts: One of the few great action stars working today, Statham generally delivers a solid product, though “Safe” would be more appealing if it hadn’t been pushed back from last fall and had a few more stars in its cast. The plot here is a bout as simple as they get; expect Statham to run a lot in this movie while holding the girl’s hand.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment