2011 Summer Movie Preview: 50 Movies to Watch Once It’s Hot – ‘The Blockbusters’

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The first day of summer this year falls on June 21. However, I think Universal would argue it started this last weekend after Fast Five opened to $83.6 million. But if the idea of summer beginning in April doesn’t float your boat we’ll stick with what has now become, more-or-less, the official start of the Summer Movie Season, which in this case is this Friday, May 6 when Paramount’s Thor hits theaters.

Thor is one of several blockbusters coming this summer and by my count one of ten films that actually exceeded a $100 million production budget. I didn’t take the time to look around to see how that compares to previous years, but I would imagine that’s right around the norm. And with that said, I tried to break up my Summer Preview of 50 total films by category and I thought there was no better way than to begin with the blockbusters…

BLOCKBUSTERS

We’ll start from the top and work our way down, beginning with two of the summer’s ten sequels/reboots Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (5/20) and Transformers: Dark of the Moon (7/1). Based on early production budget information these are the big kahuna’s of Summer 2011, both coming in around an estimated $200 million and both also have something else in common, the last installment in each franchise was a disappointment.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen carries a 20% RottenTomatoes approval rating and Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End wasn’t much better at 45%. Yet, the two films brought in a combined $1,797,293,720 in worldwide box-office receipts. Based on that kind of return it would seem a sequel was a good idea and should these two films manage to improve on their predecessor the sky is the limit. Early buzz from commenters on the newly released trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon (watch to the right) is already signalling big things as the 3D ticket sales for both films will also help pad the studio’s pockets.

Next we come to the previously mentioned Thor (5/6) and Warner Bros.’ Green Lantern (6/17), a pair of rather risky $150 million superhero ventures for both studios as neither is exactly conventional. One features big helmets and a fallen god and the other features a lot of CGI, a guy that looks like a fish and Ryan Reynolds flying around aided by a magical ring. Both could be big flops or massive hits and while both studios are hoping their investments pay off, it’s interesting to think Disney is probably the most interested as they will be carrying on the Avenger franchise.

Following Thor, Paramount will also be releasing Captain America: The First Avenger (7/22) and as the title insinuates, Captain America is the first of the superhero team that makes up The Avengers alongside Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk and others. However, once Paramount is done with these two films the rights move to Walt Disney where Marvel has set up shop and where Joss Whedon is already busy directing The Avengers for a 2012 release bringing all four worlds together. Captain America is budgeted at $140 million, which gives Marvel a $290 million investment in its future. Will it pay off?

Rounding out the summer’s superhero films we come to the first of a few films budgeted around $120 million with Fox’s return to the X-verse with X-Men: First Class (6/3) directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) and featuring an all-star cast that includes James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, Rose Byrne, January Jones and many others.

Vaughn isn’t exactly picking up where Brett Ratner left off as this film goes back to the beginning of it all, but it will be interesting to see how audiences respond. Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand was fans’ least favorite film of the X-Men trilogy but also the highest grossing. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine also didn’t fare well with fans or critics and stumbled a bit at the box-office. Will audiences be ready to give this one a chance or is the sour taste of the last two films still a bit of a pollutant?

I had to guess at the budget for Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens (7/29), and I figured $120 million is as good a guess as any for what looks like perhaps the most unique blockbuster of the summer as Favs is going back to the Wild West only he’s decided to bring with it attacking aliens. I can’t help but think if this movie is even remotely good it will do gangbusters at the cinema as the cast and content is sure to attract audiences of all ages. From the director of Iron Man and starring Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, those three factors right there alone bring in an audience. Add aliens, cowboys, explosions, Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell and you pretty much convinced the entire movie-going world. Now all that’s left is the question of quality.

I had to also guess at the budgets for these two, but considering their predecessors were each over $100 million I think it’s a safe bet they too eclipsed that mark. I’m talking about the summer’s two big animated features Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda 2 (5/26) and Disney and Pixar’s Cars 2 (6/24). The first is a follow-up to a wildly successful first installment while the other is a sequel to what is generally considered to be Pixar’s one misstep. Will Kung Fu Panda 2 repeat its predecessor’s success and will Cars 2 be able to right the original’s wrongs? We’ll know soon enough.

The final film of Summer 2011 that I currently have budgeted over $100 million is the one you’ve been waiting ten years for. The eighth and final installment to the franchise that has brought in over $2 billion in domestic box-office receipts. Harry Potter returns for his final battle with Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (7/15). I don’t think I need to say much more than merely mention the film’s title to get fans excited, and I wonder, if you aren’t a fan are you also interested in seeing how it all ends? I know I can’t wait.

Even though the budget is currently reported at only $90 million, I find it hard to believe once marketing truly kicks in Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes (8/5) won’t be a $100+ million film once all is said and done. What I’m most interested in is whether or not a modern day audience is going to care. Also, as I wrote recently, this looks to be just another CG-show-off film as CGI has pretty much ruined all hope for new films to mimic what we saw before. Limitations in effects used to force screenwriters to try harder when it came to story whereas now a director can rely on a dazzling display of monkeys attacking helicopters.

And finally, it’s definitely not a blockbuster in terms of budget as it’s currently pegged around $45-50 million, but J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 (6/10) certainly has the chance to be one of the biggest films of the summer, especially when you consider that smaller budget. In an attempt to pay homage to the sci-fi features Steven Spielberg brought to audiences several years ago such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Super 8 runs the risk of either playing to sci-fi fanatics alone or potentially appealing to a mass audience. The end result should be interesting.

If you liked this installment be sure to check out the rest of my preview at the following links: