20 For 12: Sci-Fi TV & Film Highlights For 2012

SFX.co.uk editor Dave Golder reveals what he’s getting most excited about… and a few things that are filling him with dread…

Let’s kick off the year on an optimistic note, with 12 films and eight TV shows that I’m really looking forward to in 2012. I’m not guaranteeing the quality of any of these, and I expect by this time next year I’ll have to eat my word when it comes to a few of ’em, but for the moment these are the one I’m most hopeful about for various, esoteric and sometimes personal reasons…

FILMS

Chronicle

UK Release date: 1 Feb

Just when you’re getting to the point where you wish every found footage film could be lost in the crater of an active volcano, along comes another faux documentary film that makes you wonder if there is still some life left in the genre. Chronicle looks for all the world like the US Misfits has already been made in secret. Three newly-super-empowered high school students chronicle their attempts to learn to control their abilities… but then those powers start to corrupt. The posters have been great and the trailers promise a blackly comic experience. The script comes courtesy of John Landis’ son Max. Has the potential to become a future cult classic.

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John Carter

Release date: 9 March

John Carter could be a hard sell for Disney. Based on a series of books the mean about as much to the mass cinema-going public as À la recherche du temps perdu , and with no stars with any box office clout to shout about, John Carter ’s most marketing-friendly element is that it’s directed by a guy behind two of Pixar’s biggest hits, Andrew Stanton. And even though Pixar isn’t involved with the FX in any capacity, Disney doesn’t seem to mind articles that mention the Pixar connection.

The release of the trailers last year didn’t generate much of a buzz either. Mostly the Twitterati seemed concerned about the comedy alien dog. And yeah, he does set Jar Jar Binks-style alarm bells ringing.

But I was lucky enough to go to the early screening of some of the key scenes from the movie, and, with a few reservations (that dog included, but he might be better in context), came back confident that Stanton has produced something with a bit more depth and wit than the trailers might suggest; it reminded me of the first Pirates Of The Caribbean but with a bit more heart. It certainly looks very stylish, with some eye-popping visuals, and Stanton’s direction has some virtuoso flourishes. Colour me cautiously optimistic.

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The Cabin In The Woods

Release date: 13 April

2012 should be Whedon’s year. And I’m betting the marketing team behind the much-delayed The Cabin In The Woods (it was made two years ago, but became a victim MGM’s bankruptcy) are going to make sure the Avengers connection is well to the fore in the film’s pre-publicity – Whedon wrote and produced Cabin , and it also stars Chris (Thor) Hemsworth. I doubt that the release date (so close to The Avengers ’) is a mere coincidence, either.

The trailer suggests that the film will certainly deliver on its promise that it’s a horror cliché given a new twist… but what the hell is going on?

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The Avengers

Release date: 27 April

The mere concept of an Avengers movie exciting enough. The concept of an Avengers movie directed and written by Joss Whedon? That’s what the word geekgasm was invented for. So far, everything I’ve seen or heard about the film makes me confident that Whedon will deliver something quite remarkable. If there’s been any slight bum note it’s Cap A’s plastic-looking costume, but hey, I’m really straining to find anything negative to say.

The worrying likelihood is, though, that expectation is so high that anything less than utterly awesome will somehow feel like a disappointment.

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Snow White And The Huntsman

Release date: 1 June

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this film. Then I saw the trailer. And suddenly I’m expecting a lot. Now that’s what you call a dark fairytale.

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Prometheus

Release date: 1 June

Ridley Scott returns to the franchise he launched over 30 years ago. How could you not be excited? Okay, in the intervening years Scott’s hit rate has been all over the shop, and there’s the nagging worry that the aliens might only play an incidental role in the whole thing. But from all the evidence so far, it looks like it’s going to be one of the most stylish-looking SF movies in a long, long while.

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More films on the next page…

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The Dark Knight Rises

Release date: 20 July

In the Marvel versus DC war, I am a Marvel man through and through. However, even I have to admit that The Dark Knight was the finest superhero movie ever made. By a long, long way. And that’s even considering the fact that I couldn’t work out what the bloody hell was going on in any of the fight scenes (for all his other areas of directorial genius, Nolan has an annoying reliance on incoherently fast editing when it comes to action). So, yeah, The Dark Knight Rises is a shoo-in for this list. The trailer is stunning, Bane looks brilliant, and I can’t wait to see how Catwoman has been reimagined. It would be a shame, though, if Nolan’s bloody-minded refusal to redub Bane (everyone who’s seen the preview has been moaning that he’s incomprehensible) becomes a major problem. Maybe we should all go to the subtitled screenings?

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Dredd

Release date: 21 September (tbc)

Gotta admit, I’m sticking my neck out with this choice. Certainly the internet buzz so far has been more negative than positive, with fans hating the costumes and suspicious of the idea that it’s a small-scale “day-in-the-life”-style story. The news that the director, Pete Travis, parted company with the project during post production didn’t help (though the split was amicable, apparently). But I still believe this might turn out to surprise us all. Sctrptwriter Alex Garland has a very good pedigree ( 28 Days Later , Sunshine ) and the intention seems to be to make an intense, gritty, claustrophobic, dark sci-fi thriller rather than a bloated, gaudy blockbuster, and to me that feels a better fit for the character. Plus, the cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, reckons, “If we get it right, it will be a cross between Blade Runner and Clockwork Orange .” Now, that’s a good ambition to strive for.

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Hotel Transylvania

Release date: 12 October

There’s not much known about this CG animated film yet except that basic plot – Dracula runs a hotel for monsters – and the name of the man directing it: Genndy Tartakovsky. And he alone is what propels the film onto this list. He was the guy behind Samurai Jack and, more importantly, Clone Wars . Not the current CG version, but the awesome 2D animated version from a few years back, which I absolutely adored. It’s enough to get me excited.

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Cloud Atlas

Release date: October (tbc)

The film version of David Mitchell’s ambitious, thought-provoking, multiple-time-lined and parallel-plotted novel has the potential to be a glorious mess. After all, the Wachowskis are producing and co-directing, and subtlety has never been their strong point. Then again, it’s more the pet project of their German co-director Tom Tykwer ( Run Lola Run , Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer ) who could bring some European sensibilities to the project.

The book certainly doesn’t seem like your usual blockbuster potential, as the official synopsis reveals: “A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan's California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified ‘dinery server’ on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation: the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other's echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.”

The film, which stars Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Susan Sarandon and Jim Broadbent, could either be a wonderful piece of weirdness, or this year’s The Fountain . Either way, it should be worth watching, just to have an opinion on.

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Gravity

Release date: 21 November (tbc)

The Children Of Men and Prisoner Of Azkaban director is already a fan favourite, and the idea of him directing a high concept SF thriller must register on any radar of films to watch in 2012, surely? The film kicks off with an accident in space that leaves it two main space-suited characters (played by Bruce Willis and Sandra Bullock) tethered to each-other and afloat in the blackness. Rumours suggest that the film may involve an number of long, continuous takes.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Release date: 14 December

You didn’t think this wasn’t going to be on the list, surely? Peter Jackson back doing what he does best – promoting New Zealand as a tourist destination. The trailer looks every bit as enticing as we’d hoped it would. And it’s got the best looking bunch of dwarves ever.

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TV highlights on the next page…

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TELEVISION


Being Human

It’s all change on Being Human , with a new, posh vampire, Hal (Damien Molony) filling a Mitchell-shaped hole, and Tom (Michael Socha) returning to become the alpha werewolf now that George (Russell Tovey) has been confirmed as leaving at some point too.

At first, this all sounds a bit worrying. How can a show survive the loss of two of its main three characters? On the other hand a big change in the format might be better than a little one. After all, Hal won’t have to try to be a replacement Mitchell if he doesn’t have to share the spotlight – and form a relationship – with George; instead a whole new dynamic can be forged with Tom. And from what we’ve seen of the chemistry Malony and Socha in action on set, they have the potential to win over fans. Sure, it’s a nerve-wracking time for everyone involved in the show, but series four has the feel of a new beginning.

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Eternal Law

From the creators of Life On Mars and Being Human (we won’t mention –ahem – Bonekickers ), an equally high concept series for ITV about a pair of angels who become lawyers. And there was us thinking that lawyers were all devils in disguise.

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Alcatraz

Despite the protestations otherwise of all involved, the new show from the Abrams hit factory does seem to be a bit of a case of Lost Take 2. There’s an arc plot predicated around a mystery, flashbacks and a spooky island. Not to mention Hurley. Well, Jorge Garcia, anyway, this time playing Diego Soto, a comic book nerd and expert of the infamous prison island of the show’s title.

The plot involves former Alcatraz inmates, who disappeared decades ago, reappearing in the present day. It’s a lot more complicated than that, with Sam Neill as government agent Emerson Hauser, playing one of those “I know everything, but I’m only going to let little hints slip every week” characters that make sure you know there’s A BIG CONSPIRACY GOING ON HERE!

Despite any “here we go again” misgivings, I have to admit, the trailers have been stylishly promising. And let’s be honest – most of the new telefantasy shows that have debuted in the States in the last six months have been decidedly yawnsome, so I’m just hoping that Alcatraz reverses the trend.

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Game Of Thrones

Season one was the best thing in fantasy television last year. Can season two maintain the quality? Hell, even if it’s only half as good, it’s still going to be the best thing in fantasy television this year. Dare we even hope it gets better? In HBO we trust…

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Misfits

Sure, series three had its problems, but it remained a massively entertaining show. And while I acknowledge that Rudy was a divisive character (he had a thankless task, really, trying to make us forget about Nathan), personally I bloody loved him. Especially his power. Gilgun was hilarious as Jiminy Cricket Rudy, chastising his wayward other half. And with series four of the show, it looks like we’re in for a Being Human -style reboot, now that Antonia Thomas and Iwan Rheon have confirmed they’re not coming back. For some, this may mean that show has lost all its best characters, but for me, it’s a exciting chance to mix things up a bit. So yeah, I am excited to see where the show might be heading.

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Powers

Powers is a new superhero/cop show hybrid from FX, the US cable channel that’s home to American Horror Story , Wilfred and Sons Of Anarchy . It’s based on the Brian Michael Bendis comic about two detectives, Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim who work in a special homicide division called Power, investigating cases involving superheroes and supervillains. FX is apparently aiming for a gritty show with the vibe of The Wire or David Fincher’s Se7en . If they manage to achieve that, we’ll be watching. But if just turns out to be Alphas with more sex and swearing… maybe not.

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Doctor Who

Okay, no shocker I’m putting this on my list, rather than, say, the next season of Merlin, because everyone knows I love Who . But I’m not being entirely partisan. While I love Merlin , the end of series four didn’t really finish with the promise of any great developments to come in series five. Doctor Who , though… well, the series that starts this year will be the one that’s paving the way for the 50th anniversary celebrations, so that gets me excited for a start. Plus, there’ll be a new companion, and I always love getting to know a new companion. We’re also promised a heartbreaking end to the Amy/Rory arc. So yeah, Who ’s not just in this list for old time’s sake. Season seven should be something very special indeed.

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Chuck Finale

No, this is not a sarcastic inclusion in a “I’ll be glad to see the back of this” kind of way. Chuck may be far from perfect, but I am extremely fond of it, and will be very sad to see it go. But it has had a good run, and it’s had the chance to plot its final season knowing this is the final curtain. So if Chuck’s ability to produce a stonking season finales in the past is anything to go by, then we should be in for a brilliant series finale. It’ll be a bittersweet experience indeed.

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A few things not to get too excited about on the next page…

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THE DREAD LIST

Things I’m not looking forward to…

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Release date: 10 Feb

CGI porn. And that abs thing in the trailer is just repulsive.

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Mirror Mirror

Release date: 16 March

I loathed Tarsem Singh’s Immortals , so I’m not looking forward to his take on the Snow White story. The trailer suggests it’s going to be another over-stylised piece of the fluff, with some unsubtle sight gags and a script that thinks, “Snow way!” counts as wit.

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Scary Movie 5

Release date: 20 April (tbc)

Somebody please make them stop.

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Men In Black 3

Release date: 25 May

Adored the first film. Snored through the second one. Have absolutely zilch interest in the third, especially after all this time. I’m secretly hoping it could prove me wrong and turn out okay, though the fact it appears to be an Austin Powers knock-off (with Will Smith’s Agent J traveling back to the groovy ’60 where Agent K is played by Josh Brolin) doesn’t sound promising.

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Release date: 22 June

Cards on the table here – I had to review Pride And Prejudice And Zombies for SFX and found the whole experience quite unutterably miserable, so author Seth Grahame-Smith isn’t on my list of “names that guarantee quality”. Grahame-Smith also wrote the book this film is based on, and adapted the script himself, so no, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter isn’t something I’ll be rushing to the cinema to see. Not even with Timur Bekmambetov directing.

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Paranormal Activity 4

Release date: October (tbc)

Okay, that’s a pic from Paranormal Activity 3 . But I doubt 4 will look much different.

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D

Release date: 5 October

Seriously?

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Touch

A lot of people seem to be getting excited by this new US TV show that marks Kiefer Sutherland’s first starring role since 24 . It’s been created by Tim Kring, the man behind Heroes , and Fox seems to be confident it has a big hit on its hands (the show didn’t even go through the pilot process, just straight to series). But to me, it looks like a minefield of sentimental gloop. But no-one would be happier than me if, in three month’s time, I have to eat humble pie and admit it’s great. I’m just not getting a good vibe at the moment.

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The Secret Circle

I’m still finding it hard to believe that this dreary, charisma-free show comes from the same showrunner who gives us the sparky, fun Vampire Diaries . I’m running out of the goodwill from that show to stick around and see if The Secret Circle ever gets exciting. For a show about witches, you’re lucky it they use their powers to do anything more than make a light bulb explode in any given episode.

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Fringe Being Cancelled

I don’t want it to happen. I just dread it happening. The show appears to be living in borrowed time… and we all know that “borrow” is a dirty word in the current economic crisis. I fear the Bank Of Fox may cause a Fringe crash before long.

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The Reaction To Red Dwarf

I’m not actually worried about the return of Red Dwarf . Sure, in its latter years on the BBC it wasn’t the show it once was. And “Back To Earth” wasn’t even the show it was when it wasn’t the show it once was during its latter years on the BBC. But I still enjoyed parts of “Back To Earth” despite all its problems, and it was more fun than most UK sitcoms these days (I’d take “Back To Earth” over Not Going Out or My Family any day). And the news that the show is being recorded in front of a live audience once again strikes me as a good move.

However, I am not looking forward to the fan reaction if the show is anything less than the greatest sitcom since Father Ted . I may avoid the internet the day after the first episode is aired.