I’ve been looking forward to 2012 all year. This is mostly because of the movies I’m planning to see. I’m excited about more upcoming movies next year than any year before it and quite possibly any year in the future. There are several reasons for this; ironically, the original reason is no longer true. It began roughly six or seven months ago, when I first realized that 2012 might have a Batman movie, a Spider-Man movie, and a Superman movie. To the part of me that’s still a kid, this was incredible news. Of course, since then, Superman has been pushed to summer 2013, but it was never just about those three anyway. I’ve come up with a list of twenty movies that I’m especially excited to see. These twenty don’t even cover every single movie that I know I will want to see, but they’re the movies I’m excited to talk about even before they’re released.
But before I get to the list (and pardon this long-winded intro), I feel the need to share the story of how it came about and why I don’t expect any year in the future to match 2012 — for anticipation, remember, not for how well the movies actually turn out. The last decade has seen me grow a great deal in my love for and knowledge of movies. Gradually, I’ve become better informed about who makes movies and how, and at the same time I’ve tried to broaden my horizons and discover just how many ways there are to make a good movie. This year saw a major development in that process, as I started paying much closer attention to movie news. I had been using the internet for several years to learn a little about upcoming movies, but this year I discovered an abundance of resources, which fed the desire to learn more. There are movies coming out next year that I’ve been following for months already, excitedly reading about the latest casting decision or the release of a trailer or poster. Put simply, I have never made a list like this one before, but now I expect to do so every year.
This past year and the next are pivotal for me in a way. They are when I expect to embrace adulthood fully, shaking off the last vestiges of college (debt) and striking out on my own. How fitting that these two years are pivotal for my experience of movies as well. The last decade in Hollywood has been dominated by movies about comic book superheroes. In other words, for someone who grew up loving those superheroes, these years have been heaven. But ten years of even something you enjoy can get wearying. So, if I had made a list of my most anticipated movies of 2011 (and I really couldn’t have made a top 10 a year ago), this past summer’s superhero films would not have been on it. Putting out movies for Thor and Green Lantern felt like scraping the bottom of the barrel, frankly. This, combined with what I flatter myself are increasingly highbrow tastes on my part, made me cynical about those movies before I even saw them. However, there is an interesting trait that each of those movies share. This year, for the first time, the superhero movies were made by directors with whom I had at least a passing familiarity. Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan were unknown to me before Spider-Man (2002) and Batman Begins (2005). The same was not true this year for Kenneth Branagh, Matthew Vaughn, Martin Campbell and Joe Johnston. I’ve gotten to know about directors in the last few years and have reached the point where I feel that the director behind the movie should be the number one reason to get excited about it. A major factor in getting on this list is having one of my favorite directors involved. Still, that’s not the only factor, and as I said before, there are a number of superhero films that I’m still excited to see. So the transition is not complete.
But really, it’s that moment of pivot that fascinates me most about 2012. The list combines boyish excitement with perhaps more adult fascination, a love for thrills with a love for ideas. That these particular movies are being made by these particular people at this particular time in my life means that some kind of metaphorical planets have aligned. For this reason most of all, I don’t expect any future year to surpass this one for anticipation. Sadly, there’s another reason that I’m still wrestling with, although I think I’ve begun to overcome it. The announcement a few months ago that physical film was about to be replaced for good by digital cinema, combined with the recent rise of 3D movies, the ever-growing internet and new devices for portable video-watching, have all cast the future of movies in doubt. Can the art form survive as it exists now? We’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, no amount of high-profile 3D-converted re-releases can dampen my excitement for next year, any more than another batch of idiotic sequels and product-placement movies could do so. 2012 is going to be splendid.
Briefly, here’s how the list was formed. Attempting to impose a sort of scientific formula on a fundamentally arbitrary method, I ranked upcoming movies according to three categories: Director, Cast and an X factor unique to each film except in cases where the X factor is the genre. The sum of the points achieved in each category gave me my ultimate rankings. For the director, I tried to balance an ordering based on my all-time favorites with one based on the directors who have made movies I liked in the last couple years. For example, Tim Burton and Ridley Scott have been disappointing recently, which knocks them down a few spots. Someone who has not, like them, been directing for over twenty years shouldn’t be overly disadvantaged. As for the cast, I also tried to balance quality and quantity, so that a movie with one of my all-time favorite actors wouldn’t get ranked above a movie with several actors I respect. The X factors, naturally, were the most difficult to rank, but I feel pretty good about how I’ve ordered the ideas and stories I’m most excited to see.
In closing, to whet the appetite for the list that should appear, in two installments, over the next two days, here are five honorable mentions: Len Wiseman’s Total Recall remake, Kathryn Bigelow’s Bin Laden film, Stephen Frears’ Lay the Favorite, Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire and Rian Johnson’s Looper. They just missed the cut, and if one of the movies on my list should happen to get pushed back to 2013 (which is still possible for a couple of them), then these movies would get on by default. But I’m not going to bother with that. These rankings reflect where I’m at right now. I truly hope that some of my favorite 2012 movies will sneak up on me, and I also expect some of these movies to be disappointing. A train wreck is fascinating to watch, after all. All right: I’ll put up numbers 20-11 tomorrow.