Goodnight Dark Knight, sayonara Spider-Man and adios Avengers. Put away your form-fitting pyjamas for another summer sequel: You’ve proved your point.
Hollywood’s major contribution to contemporary global popular culture is apocalyptic fantasies based on comic books, a genre that is keeping afloat a business (down 4 per cent in North American revenues in 2011) in a sea of piracy, competition from video on demand and wall-sized home televisions. Yet, quaintly, when autumn comes, those same studios produce an entirely different kind of product, with little in common beyond being projected on screens in movie theatres for about two hours.
Through the final third of 2012, Hollywood studios are turning an old page, from comic-book panels to the printed word. Even the fall’s blockbusters – Skyfall (the 23rd Bond film), Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – have their origins in books. We have everything from contemporaries novelists – Salman Rushdie (Midnight’s Children), David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) – back to Jack Kerouac (On the Road), Charles Dickens (Great Expectations) and Victor Hugo (the musical version of Les Misérables).
The welcome miscellany of the offerings may be divided into three groups: the Bestseller List, which are the movies you can’t avoid knowing about, even if you don’t see them; the Literary Lights, movies that primarily exist as spinoffs from popular novels, old and new; and the Remainder Bin, focusing on some of the more promising and provocative art-house and indie films of the year.
THE BESTSELLER LIST
The Master (Oct. 12)
Paul Thomas Anderson should continue his roll as the most fascinating American director of the past 15 years (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood) with this drama about the rise of a post-Second World War Scientology-like religious cult, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Joaquin Phoenix.
Skyfall (Nov. 9)
The culmination of a campaign celebrating 50 years of Bond movies. Daniel Craig, who revived the series with Casino Royale (2006), promises that it will better than Quantum of Solace, which even he says did not work. Other points of interest: Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead) as director, with Roger Deakins as cinematographer and Javier Bardem, in another funny haircut, as the arch-villain.
Lincoln (Nov. 9)
Opening on the Friday following the Nov. 6 U.S. elections, Steven Spielberg’s drama about the Republican president whom Barack Obama takes as his role model can’t help but resonate with modern American ideological riffs. Tony Kushner (Angels in America) adapts Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 book Team of Rivals, with the great Daniel Day-Lewis as the president.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (Nov. 16)
Earning an unexpected extra bump by the summer breakup of its young stars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the blockbuster teen horror-romance series finally comes to a close. The last episode focuses on the fate of Bella and Edward’s oddly named baby, Renesmee, with more trouble promised from those sneery Volturi.
Silver Linings Playbook (Nov. 21)
This black comedy from David O’Russell (Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings) is based on Matthew Quick’s hit 2008 novel and has the Weinstein Company’s push behind it for possible Oscar contention. Bradley Cooper plays a high-school teacher, fresh out of a psychiatric hospital and forced to live with his parents (Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver). His life is improved when he meets a young widow (Jennifer Lawrence), who seems just as eccentric as he is.
Hyde Park on Hudson (Dec. 7)
Another portrait of a beloved president, this time a Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with Bill Murray going Oscar fishing as FDR and Laura Linney as his cousin and confidante, Margaret Suckley. Based on a BBC play, the film takes place over a weekend when King George VI (Samuel West) met with the President to get the Americans onside in the Second World War. Roger Michell (Notting Hill) directs.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Dec. 14)