Hey, it's summer! Well, Hollywood summer anyway...
May 2009 Forecast
By Shane Jenkins
May 1, 2009
It's been a fantastic year so far at the box office, with one movie or another outperforming expectations almost every weekend. I'm curious to see if the trend continues with this summer's crop of mega-blockbusters. I mean, if Fast & Furious can rack up $70 million off-season, who knows what kind of numbers we might be looking at once the big guns start rolling out? And oh man, are the guns ever big (is Hugh Jackman part ox or what? Jeez.)! Let's get to the predicting!
1) Terminator Salvation
May is full of sci-fi heavy hitters, but I'm giving the edge to John Connor and his robot troubles. Despite the cyborgs and time travel stuff inherent in the story, I get the feeling that this will be more accessible to non-geeks than Star Trek or Wolverine. Six years ago, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines opened to over $40 million in spite of lackluster trailers and the presence of Claire Danes. I think the bar has been raised quite a bit since then, mostly due to Christian Bale taking on the role of Connor just a year after driving the The Dark Knight to record sales. Bale being in the movie almost subliminally makes it seem like a fresh reboot, rather than the straight-up sequel it apparently is. It also helps that the trailers are fantastic. The wild card here is director McG, with only the Charlie's Angels movies and We Are Marshall on his feature film resume. I'm a little nervous that the man behind Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle has been allowed to even be in the same room with cameras, much less given the go-ahead to helm a tentpole sci-fi summer spectacle. I guess we'll know how it works out soon enough.
2) Star Trek
And at the opposite end of the directorial spectrum, at least in my perspective, is JJ Abrams, who I think is doing some of the most interesting stuff around in entertainment (even the issue of Wired he guest-edited was amazing!). His only other feature film directing credit until now has been Mission: Impossible 3, which I believe to be the most underrated action movie of the past five years, but his instincts as a producer are almost inarguably solid (Lost, Cloverfield, etc.). Okay, I'll admit it – I'm geeking out right now about Star Trek, which is easily my most anticipated movie of the summer, and honestly, I'm not even a Trekker; I just like a good space yarn. I think the Trek brand will scare off a few people, but the reviews, which are already pouring in and glowing, should offset that to some degree. Seriously, why isn't it the 8th yet?
3) X-Men Origins: Wolverine
I guess I don't fully get Wolverine. Sure he's got bad-ass claws and everything, but a grunting, mono-syllabic indestructible hero does not make for a very interesting character. It's as if Batman were impervious to harm and never became Bruce Wayne. Yawn. But it's a moot point, because Wolverine is the official start to summer blockbuster season, and interest seems to be high. There is, of course, the much-publicized leaked copy that made it online weeks ahead of the premiere. Fox is right to be concerned, and I think it's going to cost them some viewers, but this is an event picture, designed to be seen in a crowded multiplex of texting teens, and this has proven to be a good year for communal moviegoing. I think ol' Logan's going to be just fine.
4) Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
Plus, Fox has this to fall back on. I get the feeling this is going to be absolutely huge, possibly huger than most of us are expecting. The kids that I know love the first one, and this sequel will be the first big summer movie aimed squarely at family audiences. The trailers play really well, and the appearances by Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch in the new spots will add another $10 million or so to the opening weekend themselves. I'm curious about the release date, though. Museum 2 would have a terrific opening wherever it landed, but I wonder if they are leaving money on the table by opening it before kids are out of school for the summer.
5) Angels and Demons
Or The One Where Ron Howard Tries To Make Us Forget How Bad The Da Vinci Code Was. Seriously, that was a terrible movie. Like, memorably bad, and it's the only thing keeping its sequel down here in spot number five. Angels and Demons has everything going for it: it has a whole weekend to itself, with nothing else opening wide; it's based on a huge best-seller; it stars Tom Hanks, who we all still love, and even more so now that he cut his hair. But do you go back to the same restaurant that served you a maggot-infested steak? The waiters and chef might insist that this time the steak will be delicious and maggot-free, but can you really trust them anymore? Didn't they say the first steak would be delicious too? Okay, I'm done with the maggot analogy, but Howard and company have a lot of bad will to make up for, and I think it's going to cost them a little.
Up looks fantastic, and I have no doubts about its quality. It's a tough movie to market to kids though, isn't it? There have been reports in the media about how there are fewer tie-ins and toys being made than for the usual Pixar film (though I really want a Dug the Dog stuffed animal!), and any movie with an octogenarian as its hero seems like it would be hard to appeal to kids. Plus, it has the misfortune of opening a week after Night at the Museum 2. Pixar is the star here, though, and if anyone has earned a benefit-of-the-doubt pass, it's them. I think (and hope) parents will take their kids, knowing that they will get a solid-quality film, even if it's not the usual wisecracking squirrel-type cartoon.
And the rest...
7) Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Matthew McConaughey as a horny Ebeneezer Scrooge. This is date-movie hell, but it has that market mostly to itself. Sorry fellas.
8) Dance Flick
9) Drag Me to Hell
Sam Raimi returns to directing horror after all these years, and early word-of-mouth sounds promising. This summer is unusually light on horror, so this should perform well, relatively speaking.
10) The Brothers Bloom
Rian Johnson's much-delayed follow-up to his insta-classic Brick. This is one of my most anticipated movies of the year, even if there is next to no chance of it doing well against all these summer monsters. Please go see it. Please?