The year is 2006, the month is July. It's Comic-Con in San Diego once again and Marvel Studios are there to present their first line-up of directors that plan on bringing Marvel Comics characters to the big screen. One of them is Jon Favreau, best known for directing Elf and as one half of the "Swingers” with Vince Vaughn. Then there's Louis Letterier who has been handed the reigns for The Incredible Hulk and some little guy with a funny accent, Edgar Wright? Oh, yeah, he directed Shaun of the Dead. Got it.
But let's get back to Jon Favreau, who has been given the unenviable task of trying to make Iron Man cool for the masses. They've already cast Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, a move that fans of the comic books are fully behind, and yet the movie itself is two years away and no one knows what to expect.
Cut forward to May 2, 2008 and Iron Man opens to $102.2 million on its way to $318.6 million domestic and $582 million worldwide. The following Monday, Marvel shareholders are given the gameplan for the next three movies leading up to The Avengers in May 2012. That movie sets a new domestic opening of $207.4 million, grosses $623.4 million domestically and $1.5 billion worldwide. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is officially as big as Star Wars.
Now begins Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 2.
Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios/Disney)
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Wang Xuequi
Written and directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) with Drew Pearce
After that intro above, there's really not a lot I can say about this movie that you don't already know. A year after the huge hit that was Marvel's The Avengers, Marvel Studios is back to their core flagship character, Iron Man. Even though Iron Man was a Marvel mainstay for years, he was never considered the most popular character in the Marvel Universe, but Robert Downey Jr.'s distinctive personality helped turn the billionaire playboy Tony Stark into a character that appealed to mass moviegoers in a similar way as Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow and Bruce Willis' Detective John McClane.
One of the most significant differences with the third movie is that it has a new director, reuniting Downey with Shane Black, writer of the "Lethal Weapon” movies who directed Downey in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - and if you haven't seen that movie yet, then you should drop whatever you're doing and go see it. That was a pivotal movie for Downey Jr, and one that convinced many people, including Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and director Jon Favreau that Downey was back and ready to take on such a powerful role as that of Tony Stark.
While it's doubtful Marvel will try to reinvent the wheel with the third movie, this is likely to be a darker movie than the previous two, firstly because it follows the events in The Avengers where the world almost ended. At the same time, it introduces Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin, Iron Man's greatest villain of all time who has plagued him time and time again over his entire career. That also makes it a very exciting prospect for the storytelling since Tony is clearly going to be put through the wringer. With inspirations taken from the "Extremis” storyline by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, the movie also stars Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian and Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen.
Many fans of the original movie were disappointed by Iron Man 2 for one reason or another, maybe because the villains weren't that great, but Shane Black's one of the most respected writers in Hollywood so we expect him to avoid some of the issues, even if it does look like there's just as much of the armor flying around in the ads then there was in Iron Man 2.
This past weekend a big deal was made about Iron Man 3's international opening, setting a new international opening of $195.3 million, beating The Avengers' international opening of $185.1 million from last year. Except that Iron Man 3 opened in 42 territories as opposed to the 39 territories of The Avengers last year, and in many of those territories, they could have literally added thousands more theaters. See the problem with the internet these days is that people will report whatever they're told rather than using their own brains to analyze the situation. They see that Iron Man 3 opened bigger internationally than Avengers and they assume the same thing will happen in North America.
By comparison, the growth in American theaters isn't probably nearly as vast, Americans tend to be far more jaded about what movies they rush out to see and even more importantly, they will have a week's worth of bootleg DVDs and uploaded versions of the full movie released in those other territories to watch if they decide they want to save their $10 to 15 before going to the movie theater. That's the type of thing you have to contend with when you decide to release your movie a week early in other countries who have far less strict movie pirating policies than the United States.
So no, we don't except Iron Man 3 to open bigger than Marvel's The Avengers here in North America, but we do expect it to open significantly bigger than Iron Man 2's $128 million opening and make a play for an opening weekend on par with the "Dark Knight” movies.
Regardless, this is the first big event movie of the summer and the year so moviegoers of all ages will be flocking out to see the movie as soon as possible. As has been all too common, big blockbusters will open early the night before to get in as much business as humanly possible and pump those Thursday grosses into Friday numbers, and for many fans, the 9PM screenings on Thursday will be the way they get to see it first. Either way, Marvel Studios is once again kicking off the summer with another huge hit that sticks around for a quite some time even with lots of other cool action sequels opening in the weeks to come.
Thursday/Midnights: $13 to 15 million; Friday: $65 to 68 million; Weekend Est.: $155 million; Est. Total Gross: $405 million
No need to rehash this weekend last year. We covered The Avengers above.
This Week's Updated Predictions -
We're bumping up our prediction on Iron Man 3 just slightly which will still put it behind the opening of The Dark Knight but ahead of The Dark Knight Rises. We're also thinking Jeff Nichols' Mud starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon will make a play into the Top 10 after its #11 opening last week as it adds a few hundred more theaters.
1. Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios/Disney) - $157.3 million N/A (up 2.3 million)
Because we've already spent a lot of time talking about the movies coming out in May in our May Preview and a lot of this week's limited releases I just haven't or won't have a chance to see... And maybe a few that I've seen I just don't like, we're going to use this summer to create a more stripped-down Weekend Warrior that focuses on the stuff you really want to read about. And let's face it, this week it's about Iron Man 3, but I do want to point out a couple other movies that I feel are worth seeking out and hopefully you'll be in an area where you can find them.
There are once again a lot of new movies in limited release this week, but I give this week's CHOSEN ONE--head and shoulders—to What Maisie Knew (Millennium Films), the new film from Scott McGehee and David Siegel, who have made many daring indie dramatic films that deal with relationships including The Deep End starring Tilda Swinton and 2008's Uncertainty, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins.
This is their spin on a Henry James novel which follows a young girl named Maisie who gets caught up in her parent's bitter divorce and all the repercussions that come with it. It's a really fascinating study of how things going on in a little girl's life can affect her, one that doesn't use a lot of dialogue as much as it just shows her observing what is happening around her.
As the film begins, Maisie's parents, played by Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, are already fighting loudly while their daughter tries to find a safe place to hide. Things get progressively worse between them as they file for a divorce, but then there's the matter of the custody of Maisie, and that's where the film finds its course, because both her parents are fairly neglectful in their duties as parents. Her father has been having an affair with her nanny (Joanna Vanderham) while her rocker mother immediately shacks up with a bartender, played by Alexander Skarsgard. As it happens her parents' new lovers are more involved with caring for Maisie.
McGehee and Siegel have found an amazing young actress in Onata Aprile, who has such an expressive face she can carry entire scenes without saying a word, which is the general direction the film takes. Some of the most entertaining and joyous scenes involve watching Alexander Skarsgard playing with the young girl.
This is just a terrific film I can't recommend enough especially if you enjoy real life family dramas but one that takes a more dream-like fantasy approach to the real world, which is exactly what one should expect when the central point of view is a 6-year-old girl.
French auteur Olivier Assayas returns with Something in the Air (Sundance Selects), which follows a high school student named Gilles (Clément Metayer) who gets involved in the counterculture of 1971 France, as he gets pulled into dangerous political protests by this girlfriend Christine (Lola Créton).
Ziad Doueiri's potentially controversial The Attack (Cohen Media Group) stars Ali Suliman as an Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv who discovers that his wife may have been directly involved with a suicide bombing that kills 17 people.
Michael Shannon plays ruthless mob killer Richard Kuklinski in Ariel Vromen's crime drama The Iceman (Millennium Studios), killing hundreds of men while maintaining the illusion of being a devoted husband and father without his wife ever knowing the truth. Shannon's great in this kind of tough guy role and if you're a fan of movies like Goodfellas then this is for you.
Oscar winner Susanne Bier (In A Better World) returns with something significantly lighter, the romantic comedy Love Is All You Need (Sony Pictures Classics), which brings together two very different families for a wedding in Sorrento, Italy with Pierce Brosnan playing the father of the groom and the stunning Danish actress Trine Dyrholm as a cancer patient who strikes his fancy. If there's anything we learned from Mamma Mia!, Brosnan just shouldn't do romantic comedy on islands. Fortunately he doesn't sing in this one.
Actor Penn Badgley (Easy A) stars in Dan Algrant's Greetings From Tim Buckley (Tribeca Film/Focus World), a portrait of the young singer-songwriter, then an unknown 24-year-old L.A musician who is brought to New York to take part in a benefit at St. Ann's for his father, the late folk singer Tim Buckley. With doubts about following in his father's legacy, he starts spending time with his mysterious handler, played by Imogen Poots.
Everything else? I just didn't see or didn't like but we have a lovely release database where you can click around on titles and see if there's anything that catches your fancy.
Next week, the month of May continues with the return of Baz Luhrmann for the first time in five years with his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's literary classic The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros.), starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke. Meanwhile, Craig Robinson, Kerry Washington and David Alan Grier take a trip to the Hamptons in Peeples (Lionsgate).
You can read stuff like this and regular box office, awards and festival coverage on the Weekend Warrior Blog and to keep up with the latest articles and posts, you can follow us on Twitter.