Considering the warm glut of sequels that will be bearing down on audiences in the next few months (or, Summer ‘06: The Logical Conclusion), a little reflection may be due. The summer blockbuster has been enjoying something of a renaissance after the recent success of the powerhouse X-Men and Spiderman franchises, and is providing a much-needed element of originality to the blockbuster scene.
Not to say that the mark isn’t occasionally missed – Van Helsing, Constantine and their ilk are testament enough to that – but movies like The Bourne Identity and Night Watch have proved that a fast-moving, visually aggressive plot need not discard nuanced performances or artistic flair to pull in a crowd. Even when a franchise explores the absurd – I’m looking at you, Pirates of the Caribbean – the conceit is strong enough to produce a refreshingly entertaining film.
The rest of this year’s crop is mixed at best. It remains to be seen whether Bourne can return to the quality of the original, while Fantastic Four 2, Shrek the Third, Die Hard 4, Harry Potter 5, and Ocean’s 13 fill out the ‘but, why?’ category. The odd gem might slip through, though, so keep an eye out.
Further ahead, a couple of projects due for wide release in the autumn are worth your interest. First off, the Coen brothers return, three years after their relatively failed attempt to import The Ladykillers to depression-era Mississippi, with another adaptation, this time of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country For Old Men. In Coen tradition, the movie will assume a period setting, on the Texas-Mexico border in 1980. Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson, the plot revolves around a botched drug deal which leaves $2m in the hands of Brolin’s unsuspecting hunter, who finds himself under attack from the various factions chasing the money. Playing like a cross between Fargo and The Big Lebowski in the desert, The Brothers Coen have chosen some excellent source material.
Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There is an ambitious-sounding Bob Dylan biopic, played by six actors at different points in the singer’s life. With Heath Ledger, Christian Bale and, of course, Cate Blanchett currently completing their takes on the Freewheelin’ One, I’m Not There could be the big movie of the autumn.
Both have premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, which is covered in full on pages 12-13 of Muse.