ODDBALLS, AUTEURS & ONE POTENTIAL SURPRISE BLOCKBUSTER
While there are quite a number of anticipated sequels, some of the greatest auteur filmmakers and big name directors are back this summer. Some of them are branching out with bigger movies than what we’ve seen from some of them in the past, others are taking on very different takes on popular characters and themes. All but one of these movies is a big time genre film, and it will be interesting to see whether summer moviegoers are ready to accept another Western.
Mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer reunites with his original Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski and Captain Jack Sparrow himself Johnny Depp for The Lone Ranger (Disney July 3), their mega-budget action take on the classic serialized Western series character that appeared on radio and television going back to the ’30s. The weird thing is that Johnny Depp plays Tonto, an odd-looking Native American who barely talks–that’s a change huh?–to Armie (The Social Network) Hammer’s Lone Ranger. Verbinski has another great cast rounded out by Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner and Barry Pepper.
Opening a movie over 4th of July weekend is usually a great time for a big action gunslinger movie like this, but it also reminds us of another 4th of July Western by another box office star and that’s Will Smith’s Wild Wild West, which bombed big time just two years after his breakout 4th of July hit Independence Day. Disney is going to find a way to sell this and get people into theaters the first two days but the movie can’t hold up over the holiday weekend against stronger choices like Despicable Me 2 and even White House Down in its second weekend. Depp’s star is on the downturn after last year’s Dark Shadows and Bruckheimer hasn’t had a non-“Pirates” hit in some time, and he’s probably still smarting from the one-two stink of Prince of Persia and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice a couple years back. Let’s face it, as cool as they’re trying to make this look, this movie was a very bad idea and this is from someone who put Verbinski and Depp’s Rango in his Top 10 a couple years back.
Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann’s first movie in five years is his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros. May 10), reuniting him with Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time since 1996’s Romeo + Juliet, joined by Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher and Jason Clark – the last three of those bonafide Australians. This was originally going to open in November for an Oscar push but Warner Bros. decided to move it into summer in a weekend where they’ve had some huge bombs like Poseidon, and yet it’s based on a known property, it has Leo and Baz and the marketing is absolutely fascinating. We can see this one opening decently due to those elements alone, maybe as much as $22 to 24 million, although retro-movies like this rarely hold up and with lots more typical summer blockbuster fare behind it, $70 million may be its ceiling.
Then there’s Guillermo del Toro, also back after a number of years spent working on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, and he’s going way big with a movie about monster-fighting robots in Pacific Rim (Legendary/WB July 12), based on an original screenplay by Travis Beacham. It opens against Adam Sandler’s comedy Grown Ups 2, which has a built-in audience, but as much I love the Big Man (that’s GDT), he’s working with a title that’s really going to do much for moviegoers beyond fanboys. His last movie Hellboy II: The Golden Army opened to $34.5 million in a similar July opening but Warner Bros. has been marketing the hell out of the concept so I fully expect PacRim to open bigger, probably over $40 million. Even so, with Turbo and three other genre movies opening the following weekend and The Wolverine two weeks later, we think this one taps out before it hits $120 million but still should do huge business worldwide, especially Asia.
M. Night Shyamalan somehow gets lucky 9 times out of 10 when he releases a movie, but he probably shouldn’t need as much luck when he teams with the father and son team of Will and Jaden Smith for After Earth (Sony May 31), the second post-apocalyptic movie of the year following Tom Cruise’s Oblivion. This one just did an odd switcheroo weekend move to open earlier, just a week after the two Memorial Day movies, which will make it tougher to open at #1. It seems like Sony has about as much confidence in M. Night as 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Disney do at this point, and Smith’s not exactly been doing his best work since making Hitch even though his movies tend to make money. This should open around the low $30 millions but then tail off and be forgotten by the time Man of Steel is released two weeks later.
Not to spend too much time dwelling on the negative ,we’re going to move onto Mr. Neill Blomkamp, the South African filmmaker who made such waves in 2009 with District 9, a look at immigration issues through the focus of an alien invasion, a movie that opened with $37.3 million from Comic-Con buzz, grossed $115.6 million and was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Picture. Not bad for a first timer! Blomkamp is now back with another dystopian future sci-fi movie, Elysium (Sony – August 9), starring no less than Matt Damon and Jodie Foster – District 9 star Sharlto Copley is back too, and it’s opening the same weekend as District 9. If Sony can get people excited enough to forget that it’s essentially the same concept as last year’s bomb Total Recall, they could have a solid $30 million plus opening and if the movie lives up to District 9, it will have strong legs through the fall and be able to hit the $100 million mark.
The idea of Brad Pitt headlining a megabudget zombie movie somewhat boggles the mind especially when it comes to the case of Max Brooks’ World War Z (Paramount – June 21), a super popular take on the zombie genre that looks and feels nothing like the movie being advertised as directed by Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace). Like The Lone Ranger this has been a movie fraught with problems and while Pitt may drive the opening weekend as will the curiosity factor, this one will probably crash and burn after that with a huge drop its second weekend and it will be lucky to make $100 million. And then The Lone Ranger will bomb just as bad a few weeks later making us start to question whether summer blockbusters really need to have stars at all.
And then one week later, director Roland Emmerich centralizes his own invasion movie White House Down (Sony – June 28) bringing together the superstar pairing of Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx proving them to be REAL stars. While a lot of people are worried that the Gerard Butler movie Olympus Has Fallen, which uses a similar premise, might overshadow this as it gets closer to $100 million itself, this is Roland Emmerich doing a movie about the White House being destroyed. He’s done it so many times he’s got it in the bag and this time he has two very funny actors driving the action with humor. We wouldn’t be too surprised if this one opens north of $50 million and holds up well over the 4th of July ’cause we all know that Independence Day is the German fillmmaker’s favorite American holiday. This has the potential to be Sony’s biggest movie of the summer other than The Smurfs, proving that Tatum and Foxx have become the box office stars that Pitt, Smith and Depp once were.