Although I saw slightly fewer movies in 2012 than I had in previous years, I was predisposed to liking those I went to the theater to screen. Here are my top genre films of the past year, with honorable mentions (I couldn’t get up to a top 10 list).
6. Skyfall. James Bond made a triumphant return, melding modern grit and parkour with many small homages to 50 years of films. Skyfall also served as a “soft reboot,” restoring a status quo familiar to fans of the superspy. I haven’t yet seen female-led actioners Haywire or Underworld : Awakening.
5. Looper. I was initially wary of this time-travel tale, but the world-building and seasoned actors won me over. To be fair, I didn’t see Men In Black III, which used a similar plot device for comedic effect, or the remake of mind-bender Total Recall. Dredd and Iron Sky were other speculative fiction flicks I missed.
4. ParaNorman. This heartfelt gothic Halloween story ended up being my favorite animated picture of the year, edging out Studio Ghibli’s Borrowers adaptation The Secret World of Arrietty, the funny The Pirates! A Band of Misfits, Disney’s beautiful Brave, and the syncretic Rise of the Guardians. I haven’t seen Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie, and Wreck-It Ralph, but I’m sure I’ll catch them eventually thanks to nieces and nephews.
3. John Carter. Several mainstream media critics have put this planetary romance on their “worst of 2012” lists, but I enjoyed the film, which combined the precursor to much space opera with modern visual effects and pacing. It was also less pretentious than Avatar or Prometheus. Speaking of retro sensibilities, I haven’t yet seen likely Oscar contenders Argo, Lincoln, or Django Unchained.
2. The Avengers. After years of buildup, Joss Whedon’s superhero teamup flick turned out to be perfect popcorn escapism. I preferred it to the dour Dark Knight Rises, which was well-done but less fun. I preferred the gonzo first Ghost Rider to its wan sequel Spirit of Vengeance. The Amazing Spider-Man was a decent comic book reboot, but the strong cast wasn’t enough to overcome the feelings of déjà vu.
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Peter Jackson’s fantasy prequel has garnered much criticism for stretching out J.R.R. Tolkien’s slender novel, but it was still satisfying to return to Middle Earth. The first part of another trilogy may not equal Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, but it was better than Snow White and the Huntsman or Mirror, Mirror. I’ve heard mixed reviews for the mythic Wrath of the Titans.
In 2013, I’m most looking forward to continued revival Star Trek: Into Darkness, kaiju vs. giant robots in Pacific Rim, a new Superman in Man of Steel, and The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug.
I don’t yet know whether fantasy flicks Jack the Giant Slayer or Oz: the Great and Powerful, the postapocalyptic After Earth or Elysium, or the superheroic sequels Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, or Thor 2 will be worth the hype. So much to see, so little time!