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Summer movies 2012: Too good to be true

At the beginning of 2012, this looked like it was going to be one hell of a year for films. We had Ridley Scott returning to the science-fiction genre with “Prometheus.” We had Christopher Nolan capping off his phenomenal Batman series with The Dark Knight Rises. And we had Pixar not making another “Cars” film with “Brave.” What could possibly go wrong?

Turns out, almost everything.

I don’t know what’s happened to Christopher Nolan since his blockbuster masterpiece “The Dark Knight,” but somehow he’s lost his magic touch. “The Dark Knight Rises” is too long, cluttered, illogical and altogether unsatisfying. The acting remains top notch (Anne Hathaway is a welcomed addition to the cast) but without a decent story to tell, the acting talents are wasted.

Surely waiting 33 years to make a prequel to his sci-fi classic “Alien” meant Ridley Scott had a great story to tell, right? Nope. While the script hints at several interesting ideas of creation, evolution and religion, “Prometheus” chooses to follow none of those and instead tells an incredibly annoying story about stupid scientists doing idiotic and unmotivated things, and getting killed off not nearly fast enough.

Pixar’s “Brave” wasn’t as bad, but compared to their masterpieces, it was a letdown. The story of a Scottish princess who doesn’t want an arranged marriage is solid, but unremarkable. The characters are fun, but a bit too cartoonish. The twist at the end is predictable. It’s not a bad film, but it’s simply a decent film – and coming from Pixar, that’s unfortunate.

There were plenty of other disappointments, like “John Carter,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” These are films I shouldn’t have even gone to in the first place, but did, unfortunately.

Thank God for Joss Whedon. “The Avengers” was the one big film of the year that knew how to be fun. From the great cast to the snappy dialogue to the big, brassy action climax, “Avengers” was a hugely enjoyable time at the movies.

Whedon also co-wrote Drew Goddard’s fantastic comic-horror film “The Cabin in the Woods,” a hilarious send-up of horror film conventions.

But really, this was the summer where the smaller, independent films stepped up and beat the blockbusters to a bloody pulp. There were two great documentaries: “Searching for Sugar Man” and “The Imposter,” both about mysterious men. One a missing rock star, the other a serial imposter. Then there were two great black comedies, both of them from Texas: “Bernie” and
“Killer Joe,” both featuring career best performances from Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey as charming killers.

Finally, there was the best film of the year, so far: “Moonrise Kingdom.” Wes Anderson’s latest masterpiece of dazzling art direction and intricate cinematography, it’s also a whimsical tale with real romance and heartache.

There are plenty of good films to look forward to this fall. We have time travel hitman film “Looper,” Quentin Tarantino’s western “Django Unchained,” Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth with “The Hobbit Part 1” and Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis. Those movies all sound great, and I hope they are, but honestly, the coming five months of cinema can’t do any worse than the last seven.