Summer films to feature sequels & comic books

Michael Lewis

As the school year winds down and the weather gets warmer, one thing is clear: the summer movie season is upon us. Well, perhaps it’s a bit clearer if you’re the type of film junkie who lives for this time of year. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance that no matter who you are, you’ll fork out more cash at your local cinema over the summer than you will during any other time of year. From May to August, there will be major releases every single weekend. Let’s have a look at what Hollywood is throwing our way.

The summer season is officially kicked off with the May 2 release of “Iron Man.” With Robert Downey Jr. donning the metal armor and Jon Favreau directing, don’t be surprised if this matches high octane action sequences with equal character and wit. An “Iron Man” fan himself, Favreau is likely to deliver a film that will please diehard devotees of the comics. And with the supporting cast of Terrance Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges, this has the potential to entice a wider range of moviegoers.

May 9 brings “Speed Racer,” written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers. At a glance it may seem strange that the creators of “The Matrix” trilogy decided to bring this ’60s cartoon to life, but their affinity for anime has been apparent since “The Matrix.” From the looks of the trailers, they’ve found new ways to push visual boundaries with this project. Expect a more subversive take on the material, too. Stars Emile Hirsch as Speed, with Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon and Matthew Fox.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” (coming May 16) reunites director Andrew Adamson and the cast of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Disney’s first cinematic foray into C.S Lewis’ world of Narnia performed very well at the box office in 2005, but it should be noted that as a winter release, it didn’t have to face the stiff competition that its sequel will.

Such as Indiana Jones. Need I really say more? Spielberg’s long-awaited fourth installment of the series, “Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” (which did some shooting in New Haven this past summer) arrives on May 22. George Lucas has modestly advised overzealous fans not to expect the second coming. Reservations about Shia LaBeouf and a 65-year-old Harrison Ford reprising the role aside though, Indy’s latest adventure is sure to be one of the highest grossing films of 2008 and we hope, a great time at the movies.

The second Marvel Comics movie of the summer is “The Incredible Hulk,” which comes out June 13 (the same day as M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening”). This has no relation to the 2003 Ang Lee film and is essentialy a reboot of the story. With a solid cast that includes Edward Norton, Tim Roth, Liv Tyler and William Hurt, this has the potential to be successful at the box office as well as with the critics.

Keep an eye out for Disney/Pixar’s latest, “Wall-E,” on June 27. Pixar has a fine track record and if you’re a fan of “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” this simple story about an adorable robot will qualify as a must-see.

Finally, we come to what is perhaps the most feverishly anticipated film event of the year: “The Dark Knight,” (opening July 18). Ever since Christopher Nolan reinvented the Batman franchise with “Batman Begins” in 2005, there was a swelling of hype for the sequel, which was sure to pit a deadlier, more ominous type of Joker against Christian Bale’s Batman.

With the casting of Heath Ledger as The Joker, and the subsequent viral marketing campaign that gave fans a glimpse into this new Joker’s morbid and twisted humor, the excitement continued to grow.

Buzz about Ledger’s performance started with raving cast members (including Michael Caine) and then carried over to the mainstream once the trailer was released.

Now, with Ledger’s untimely death still fresh in the public’s mind, the film will inevitably garner a different type of attention. While some are likely to be disturbed by Ledger’s ghastly presence in the film, others will see “The Dark Knight,” to witness a young star’s last completed work.

Ironically, the effect of this tragedy could ultimately serve to enhance the mystique surrounding Nolan’s film, which already had the makings of a somber epic. The darker, more adult-oriented nature of the movie might prevent it from doing Indiana Jones-like numbers, but it is still sure to dominate the latter part of the summer season.

It should be noted that the films highlighted here are not all this summer season has to offer, as there’ll be some high profile comedies such as “Sex and the City,” “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” “Hancock,” “Get Smart,” “Pineapple Express” and “Tropic Thunder.” And, in case you thought 2008 might have been lighter on sequels than previous years, take note of “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” and “The Mummy 3.”

There’s plenty to choose from, so mark your must-sees and get ready to down some popcorn.