From epic superhero movies like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises to hilarious comedies like The Dictator and TED, to movies that were downright awful, such as Wrath of the Titans, 2012 had it all. All in all though, we got some pretty great movies this year. Sure, this isn’t exactly a definitive list, especially considering that I haven’t yet seen Skyfall or Argo, two movies people say are some of the greatest of the year. I can only judge what I’ve seen, and from what I’ve seen, these are the best of 2012.
10. The Dark Knight Returns Part 1
Coming hot on the heels of The Dark Knight Rises, it was only fitting that 2012 should see the release of the animated adaptation of a graphic novel that in so many ways influenced the biggest movie of the summer. Despite being an animated film, the Dark Knight Returns is as dark and gritty as the source material, something that I have come to expect from DC animated movies. Doing The Dark Knight Returns in two parts, despite my initial skepticism, was an excellent move. It allows for the movie to flush out the characters extremely well, especially Two Face, the Mutant leader, and Carrie Kelly. It also allows the movie to properly introduce one of the main themes of the graphic novel: Does Batman create his own enemies? The exploration of this in the film is extremely interesting, especially since it that theme doesn’t come from the main action. It instead comes from the news that interrupts the movie at points. The debates that we see here are the classic debates about whether Batman does more harm than good. And the movie does a great job of giving us both sides, showing the good that Batman does alongside the violence that he creates. Hopefully Part 2 is as good as this was.
9. The Hunger Games
I dreaded the release of this movie. It was one that I had hoped would never be touched by the film industry, actually. But with it’s explosion into the mainstream a few years ago, it became inevitable that it would be made into a movie. As a fan of the book, I felt obligated to go see it, if only to point out all of it’s flaws. However, what I expected and what I got were two immensely different things. What I got was a mostly faithful rendition of the book, more than doing justice to the world of Panem and the characters that inhabit it. Watching Katniss and Peeta develop was characters was extremely well done, and was handled a lot better than I expected. The scene on the rooftop, where Peeta tells her he wants to be something more than a slave to the government, hits hard, as that one scene embodies the entire trilogy. But it’s what happens within the games that I loved so much. While many were not fans of the jerky cameras, I found that the cinematography only added to the movie’s atmosphere, and was a tool in conveying the mood of survival. The action in the games is awesome as well, but it is most certainly not the movie’s only allure. In addition to that, the selection of actors was simply incredible. Jennifer Lawrence, as always, gave a convincing performance, and was the perfect selection for Katniss. But Lenny Kravitz’ Cinna was what really stole the show. He did an excellent job as the character, and gave a performance that was easily one of the best of the year.
8. The Campaign
The Campaign did something incredible: it made me like Will Ferrell. Anchorman? Hate it. The Other Guys? Boring. All of his other stuff? Garbage. But The Campaign? It was hilarious. I know that that isn’t really the only reason to like a comedy movie, and there’s certainly more to The Campaign than it’s jokes, but it had to be said. The movie is funny. Very funny. And that is thanks, in part, to the setting. Because when you take a step back from American politics, they are actually something of a joke. The brutal election cycle is shown extremely well here, as the movie, while being funny, manages to expose everything that is wrong with the American political system. The ignoring of the real issues, all of the disgusting actions involved in campaigns, and, above all, the influence of the rich on elections. The end of the movie does this extraordinarily well, showing how quickly ideologies can change when election is ensured. But what really stood out to me was that the movie showed political campaigns in their true light. they showed viewers that the actual politics take back seat to pathetic personal attacks on your opponent, and this is true of both parties. And it is also true in real life. The similarities between the campaign that was portrayed in the movie and the last presidential race were striking, and it’s really quite sad. While The Campaign is undeniably a comedy, there is more to it than that. At it’s core, is a social commentary, but with some excellent humor layered over it.
Prometheus is easily my favorite Ridley Scott movie. Yes, Alien fanboys, gasp in astonishment. The thing is, his other movies really don;t have a clear message or theme besides the extermination of a small group of humans by aliens of some sort. But Prometheus explores, and to an extent, answers, the biggest question of all: Where do we come from? And in Prometheus, we were created by an alien race called the Engineers. But we weren’t the only species that the Engineers created. And it appears that they had every intent to wipe us out. This raises a number of philosophical questions. What did we do to deserve that fate? why create us and then wipe us out? Sadly, the questions remain unanswered, but, in one of the final scenes, where a small group confronts the last Engineer, the answer becomes evident. Humans are a greedy, and in many ways, evil race. It is interesting to me that it is the cyborg David that is actually, in many ways, the most human. Sure, he’s cold. But at the same time, he is very much like humans. And it is he that raises the most interesting philosophical question of the movie: What if the Engineers onyl created us because they could? Despite it’s deep, philosophical themes, Prometheus is also a horror movie, and there are scenes that are very similar to Alien. The action and horror scens are very well done, and serve as a nice relief from all of the philosphy and character development. And the development of the main character, Elizabeth Shaw, si the best part of the movie. Prometheus chronicles her evolution from a timid, scared scientist to a hardened, nearly fearless scientist, who’s goal is to find out more about humanity. And, hopefully, that means a sequel. And the last scene of the movie is shocking… but, for fear of spoiling it, I won’t reveal what happens. but those of you who have seen it know exactly what I am talkign about.
Seth MacFarlane’s comedic talent is no secret. His work on Family Guy has been stellar, and his first venture into film resulted in one of the best comedies of the year. Following two best friends, John Bennet and his teddy bear, Ted, the movie is ridiculously funny. Mark Wahlberg, who really should be doing more comedies, does an excellent job. And Ted is awesome in every way. Not only is he the funniest character in the movie, the CGI used for him is some of the bets I’ve ever seen, and Seth MacFarlane does an excellent job with the voice acting. But on top of the extremely predictable love story that takes up a good portion of the movie, and the extremely well done comedy – some of it due to excellent improv work and some to an excellent screenplay – is a deeper message. It is a movie about friendship, and what friends mean to people. Despite being in his late twenties/early thirties, John still has his best friend. And the ending is especially sad because of the fact that John has a reaction very similar to what nay of us would have to the loss of our best friend. Sure, it’s filled with it’s share of horribly funny jokes, but, at the end of the day, it’s a movie about the true meaning of friendship.