Ah, summer: time to lie back, pour yourself a tall lemonade, and watch the world go to hell in a handbasket. If there is a theme to the studio blockbusters coming out between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it is that Apocalypse is nigh, is here, or has already happened.
Consider: In “After Earth,” arriving in June, Will and Jaden Smith play futuristic father-and-son adventurers stranded on Earth 1,000 years after it was abandoned by the human race. In the same month’s “World War Z,” a heroic UN employee (Brad Pitt) is the only person who can stop a global zombie pandemic. July sees “Pacific Rim” from “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro, in which monsters from beneath the sea assault humanity and we respond by building ginormous robots (think “Transformers” meets “Godzilla” with a sense of style).
August brings a baldheaded, cyborgified Matt Damon in “Elysium,” directed by South Africa’s Neil Blomkamp (“District 9”). Set in the year 2154, it’s the ultimate 99-percenter’s nightmare, with the ultra-rich living on a cushy space station and the rest of us sweating it out on a ruined Earth. Demons erupt from an alternate dimension in “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” and zombies invade London in the antic “Cockneys vs. Zombies.”
Cartoons and comedies stare into the void, too. A mythical forest is the setting for a face-down between the forces of good and evil in the animated “EPIC.” “This is the End” casts Seth Rogen, James Franco, Paul Rudd, Emma Watson, Michael Cera, and Rihanna as themselves at a Hollywood party as the planet goes kerplooey, and “The World’s End,” the latest from the “Sean of the Dead” gang, envisions a pub crawl on the eve of apocalypse. Even “Man of Steel,” the much awaited Superman relaunch, climaxes with bad alien dude Michael Shannon bent on destroying Earth.
What the heck is going on here? The summer movie lineup does include the usual share of sequels — “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “Kick-Ass 2,” “The Hangover: Part III,” “The Fast and the Furious 6” (!) — and there are a number of major releases that aren’t specifically pegged to disaster, although fans of “The Great Gatsby” and “The Lone Ranger” may disagree once they see what Baz Luhrmann and Gore Verbinski, respectively, have done to those properties. And there are a few small, witty mammals running between the feet of the dinosaurs: A new Woody Allen (“Blue Jasmine”), a new Sofia Coppola (“The Bling Ring”), a second collaboration between “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling (“Only God Forgives”).
There’s even “Before Midnight,” the third film in the beloved series begun by 1995’s “Before Sunrise.” That’s cause for cheer in a summer slate that desperately needs some. Is it that our global calamities have finally seeped into our escapist entertainments? Or is this just natural Hollywood escalation? If summer movies are all about blowing things up louder and better than last year, it stands to reason we’d eventually have to blow everything up. In any event, sit back, relax, and enjoy Armageddon.
Note: Like summer weather, opening dates are subject to change.
THE GREAT GATSBY Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay. Tobey Maguire is Nick. Carey Mulligan is Daisy. Baz Luhrmann is the director. Guess which one of those names has the ghost of F. Scott Fitzgerald feeling a mite nervous.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST After “Amelia,” director Mira Nir returns to more familiar, cross-cultural ground. Riz Ahmed plays a Pakistani man trying to make it on Wall Street. Also on hand are Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, and Kiefer Sutherland.
PEEPLES Tina Gordon Chism makes her directorial debut with this very broad comedy, which she wrote and Tyler Perry produced. Craig Robinson, sensible man, wants to marry Kerry Washington. First he has to meet her parents. Uh-oh.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR Director Olivier Assayas looks at how ’60s politics and ’70s art did, and did not, merge, in this autobiographical story of an aspiring painter-filmmaker (Clément Métayer) set in 1971.
THE SOURCE FAMILY Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille directed this documentary about a post-’60s commune that started out in Hollywood, moved to Hawaii, and did not end up at all well.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Having done so well by the franchise four years ago, Chris Pine (as Kirk), Zachary Quinto (as Spock), Zoe Saldana (as Uhura), and J.J. Abrams (as director) return. Benedict Cumberbatch provides villainy.
THE ENGLISH TEACHER Julianne Moore plays a teacher in a small Pennsylvania town. When a favorite pupil returns home, having failed as a playwright in New York, she gets a colleague (Nathan Lane) to stage his work. Things then get complicated. Continued...