Latinos at the Movies, Summer 2012 Blockbuster Edition
A long, dry season‘«™except for The Avengers
A report from midsummer: a dozen blockbusters already here or on their way‘«™and not a Latino lead or significant supporting character to be seen.
Published on LatinoLA: June 22, 2012
There's been a lot of talk about the number of Latinos on TV arriving in the fall of 2012‘«™but at the same time we've missed a different and far less positive story that's already well underway: the almost complete absence of Latinos in lead roles in any of 2012's summer blockbusters.
Think about the big-big movies you've already seen, mega-hit and flop alike: "The Avengers," "Dark Shadows," "Battleship," "Men in Black 3," "Snow White and the Huntsman," "Prometheus." Then think about the ones still to come: "The Amazing Spider-Man," "The Dark Knight Rises," "Brave," "Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," "The Bourne Legacy," "Total Recall." None of these summer blockbusters for 2012 ‘«Ű not one ‘«Ű have Latinos in significant roles‘«Űnot in the lead, not even in a large supporting role with the exception of Martin Sheen as uncle Ben in "The Amazing Spider-Man."
Sure, you can comb through the cast lists on imdb.com and see a few Latinos buried in there (for instance, Nestor Carbonell as the mayor of Gotham in "Dark Knight Rises," or Jesse Garcia and Walter Perez as S.H.I.E.L.D. techs and pilots in "The Avengers"), but ‘«Ű with no offense to the actors ‘«Ű these are way, way down the cast list. And those few hard-to-find names are all you'll find, no matter how hard you look.
That's not to say Latinos are entirely invisible in theaters this summer. We've already seen "What to Expect When You're Expecting," with Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, and Rodrigo Santoro in May, though, honestly, it came and went so quickly it was barely noticed.
Yvette Yates did a fine job in the small independent, "El Gringo," and Eva Mendes, Cierra Ramirez and Eugenio Derbez, among others, gave very sweet performances in "Girl in Progress" as well, but "Girl" ‘«Ű like every other theatrical release in May ‘«Ű was smashed by "The Avengers," a movie with the longest legs in history.
It was a full month before people stopped going back to see that superhero epic for the fourth or fifth time, and every film released in for weeks after its premier, from rom-com to actioneer, was lost in the tidal wave. Besides, these films ‘«Ű good or bad, well-received, or panned ‘«Ű were small films, meant to fill in the breathless weeks between blockbusters, and the point is, those blockbusters were totally lacking in Latino talent.
It didn't get any better as June progressed. "For Greater Glory" finally had a theatrical review, but it opened in only 750 theaters ‘«Ű a pretty anemic number ‘«Ű and that dropped by half just one week later, even after some fairly impressive per-theater numbers.
Obviously some combination of the studio and the distributors never intended to push it.
Right now, in mid-June, we're seeing some attention being paid to Aubrey Plaza and her charming indie romance "Safety Not Guaranteed," as well as the American release of the Spanish film "Extraterrestrial" and another small film, "Americano," with Salma Hayek and Carlos Bardem, among others.
And you could make a (small) case that Diego Bonita is a bit of a breakout star in "Rock of Ages," but the whole film seems to be overwhelmed already (it came in #3 in its first week, behind "Madagascar 3" and "Prometheus," both in their second week), already relegated to gimmick-flick status by the presence of Tom Cruise as a rocker. (Isn't that amazing? He can sing!)
In the weeks to come, we see that Stephen Soderberg's "Magic Mike" has places for Adam Rodriguez and Denise Vasi in its large ensemble cast, but that's far from a high-end crowd pleaser. Chances are it will go virtually unnoticed in the midst of the animated feature "Brave" and the quirky "Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," both of which appear in late June, and are sucking up whatever buzz there might be, and neither of which both have any Latinos in sight.
And then comes July, and the Big Boys arrive: "The Amazing Spider-Man," followed closely by "The Dark Knight Rises." And again, no one above the title ‘«Ű no one even poster-worthy, it seems.
In other July releases, John Leguizamo and Jennifer Lopez will both be lending voices to the animated sequel "Ice Age: Continental Drift," but you'll look in vain for any further Latino involvement until Oliver Stone's "Savages" late in the month. And it's true, Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek, and Demi?Ūn Bichir, are featured players here, along with M?°a Maestro, Gonzalo Menendez, and Sandra Echeverr?°a ‘«™ but the triumph is bittersweet, since some are playing exactly the kind of roles that Latinos find most embarrassing: crazed and/or homicidal drug lords. Worse, they'll do it well.
August will bring more blockbusters as the summer ends: "The Bourne Legacy" early in the month with "For Greater Glory"'s Oscar Isaac, and "Total Recall" a few weeks later ‘«™ but you won't find any Latino names at the top or even in the middle of the bill. We will get to see Michael Pe??a, Gary Cervantes, and Monique Gabriela Curnen in strong supporting roles for "The Good Doctor," a small drama starring Orlando Bloom coming our way in August‘«™but that's it. That's the summer.
Last Summer you could find Latinos in power positions in films that premiered from May through August, including a presence in at least some of the blockbusters (just like the year before). Additionally, three were a few well-received independents that actually made an impression, even on the Oscar crowd.
Remember Pen?ģlope Cruz in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," and Demi?Ūn Bichir's Academy Award-nominated performance in "A Better Life"? We also saw "Cowboys and Aliens" with Raul Trujillo and Ana de la Reguera (co-written by Roberto Orci, too), "Zookeeper" with Rosario Dawson, Tom Hanks' "Larry Crowne," with a host of Latinos in supporting roles, "Without Men" in a truncated theatrical release (see "For Greater Glory," above), Michael Pe??a in "30 Minutes or Less" and "Tower Heist" AND "The Lincoln Laywer," Robert Rodriguez' "Spy Kids 4," with its predominantly Latino cast, Pedro Almodovar's "The Skin I Live In" with Antonio Banderas (who also voiced "Puss in Boots"), and "Gun Hill Road" with Esai Morales and Judy Reyes, among many others.
And that's not even the complete list.
All in all, there were more than 20 films, large and small, with Latinos in the mix.
But 2012? Depending on where you draw the line, there are something between ten and twelve "big" movies premiering this summer ‘«Ű even more than 2011. And only one ‘«Ű "Savages" ‘«Ű has any significant role for Latinos. All told, you will find less than a dozen movies ‘«Ű big or small, praised or panned ‘«Ű in the entire line-up; barely half as many as last year, and no blockbusters at all.
And ‘«Ű at least so far ‘«Ű no 'breakout' indies (though "Safety Not Guaranteed" may yet prove itself). We can hope for some more action in late September when Michael Pe??a joins Jake Gyllenhaal and America Ferrera for the cop drama "End of Watch" ‘«Ű the buzz is good‘«Űbut that will be long after this long, hot ‘«Ű and nearly Latino-less summer -- will have ended.
So say what you want about the so-so season for Latinos on TV this fall. The real question is‘«™what's up with the movie studios and Latino leads? We seem to be going in the wrong direction‘«™and at a pretty fast pace.