Although big budget superhero spectacles (The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises), computer animated family fare (Ice Age: Continental Drift, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted), and durable franchises (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 2, the James Bond comeback Skyfall) dominated the box office in 2012, the year also saw a number of movies released aimed at adults. This was significant considering the major Hollywood studios have seemingly killed off any production they couldn't repackage to sell toys, hamburgers, or video games . In other words, it hasn't been a good time for serious filmmakers who want to tell humanist stories.
Grown-Ups Go To The Movies
That changed to some degree in 2012, when several high-profile movies caused a stir with critics and audiences alike. Early in the year, Joe Carnahan returned the action movie to a more rugged, character-driven mode with The Grey. Iconic 1970s director William Friedkin returned to his gritty roots with Killer Joe, a thriller that oozed menace and prodded audiences with some genuinely disturbing scenes. In the indie comedy/drama Safety Not Guaranteed, '80s era Spielbergian sci-fi got a reworking for the modern age, appealing to many middle-aged people nostalgic for their youth. The Master, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, was one of the year's most complex, critically acclaimed movies, and seemed defiantly antithetical to everything else at the multiplex.
Where Younger and Older Audiences Connect
Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom may have focused on two lovesick youthful protagonists and furthered the director's penchant for stylized childlike whimsy, but Anderson also gave us adult characters bruised by life and unrequited love. One of the most notable and critically heralded movies all year was Beasts of the Southern Wild, another feature that had a young protagonist but was clearly not a kid's movie. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a teen-oriented movie, but with its melancholic and sensitive look at growing up (not to mention its early 1990s setting at the dawn of the Generation X era), it was definitely not geared toward the Project X crowd.
The Envelopes Please
As awards season drew closer, a number of other movies -- Ben Affleck's thrilling period drama Argo, Steven Spielberg's powerful and timely political drama Lincoln, the oddball romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook, the economically-driven minimalist crime thriller Killing Them Softly, Kathryn Bigelow's controversial Zero Dark Thirty, the Judd Apatow comedy This Is 40 -- were hopeful signs that maybe Hollywood hadn't given up on older audiences after all.