Ten years and a week ago, an obscure site named Box Office Prophets launched with a weekend preview featuring a Planet of the Apes movie. A big round number and change later, and we've got another Planet of the Apes movie. Kismet? Coincidence? Vengeance from a wrathful God? You decide.
Weekend Forecast for August 5-7, 2011
By Reagen Sulewski
August 5, 2011
Between the 1968 original, the 2001 remake and the multiple sequels, TV series and spinoffs of the Planet of the Apes world, something that has never really been explored is exactly what led up to the ape domination of the Earth. I know, I know, it's an almost unforgivable oversight and I've been wrestling with the question at night just like you have. Thankfully, the writers of Eye For an Eye and The Relic, and the director of nothing you've ever seen have come along to answer this question for us with Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
James Franco stars as a brilliant brain researcher who has apparently never seen Deep Blue Sea and starts experimenting on an Alzheimer's cure using chimps and a special designer drug. When will scientists ever learn to stop helping? As the chimp, Caesar, played by Andy Serkis (no, really) is inevitably mistreated and made an outcast in society despite his near-human intelligence, he formulates a plan for freedom for all ape-kind, starting the rebellion against humans. I say again, thanks a lot, scientists.
As much as there's a rich vein of material to mine in mocking the idea and inessential nature of a Planet of the Apes prequel, the joke is apparently on those of us who were wondering why this film would be made. One of the highest rated films of the summer at Rotten Tomatoes, it's getting heaps of praise for its dazzling action scenes, top-notch effects, and, get this, a thoughtful, intelligent script that confronts actual ideas. This is going to give all the other Hollywood blockbusters a bruised ego. Still, it's a Planet of the Apes movie, and will still have to battle through the damage that Tim Burton inflicted on the franchise, something that can depress a superior quality reboot quite a bit – cf. Batman & Robin and Batman Begins and the two Hulk movies.
Some of that quality is sneaking through into the ads, even if James Franco is already distancing himself from it (though after the year he's had, perhaps he's just a little gun shy) and any movie in the franchise can't help but appear campy. While 2001's Planet of the Apes opened to a then massive $68 million, Rise of the Planet of the Apes will represent a step back in the opening weekend, to around $44 million.
Continuing the Summer of Raunch, The Change-Up bring the R-rated comedy approach to the body-switching genre, a move that has literally dozens of people excited for it. Really? We're still making these movies? OK, then. Instead of exploring a child/adult switch, The Change-Up goes for the much more challenging (to make interesting) switch of self-absorbed douche bag/workaholic with no real problems. Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman play that pair, who switch after peeing into the same fountain (so we know right away what level the film is working at), putting Bateman into the lothario's body, and sticking Reynolds with the family life and the horror of being married to Leslie Mann.
The film comes with a decent pedigree in terms of its behind-the-camera talent – directed by David Dobkin of Wedding Crashers and written by the guys from Hangover, but there's a major sense of coasting here, and the premise seems lazy and way too reliant on bodily-function humor for its comedy. Plus there's the inherent cheating aspect to the movie, a la Hall Pass, which pretty much guarantees no women will ever want to see this film.
Both of the film's two leads had summer films this year, and while Reynolds' out-grossed Bateman's on the opening weekend, it's not a difficult argument to make that Bateman's had the better season. Horrible Bosses just crossed the $100 million mark, while Green Lantern will tap out at $114 million against a $250 million budget. Bateman's probably more relevant to The Change-Up as well, since it shares a genre and rating with Horrible Bosses, if not sensibility. However, the hoary-old body-switching premise and the dismal reviews should keep this film well below the heights of some of the other R-rated comedies this summer, and I expect an opening weekend down towards $18 million.
Last weekend's top of the box office charts were a battle of mediocrity, with Cowboys & Aliens beating out The Smurfs by less than $1 million, in a result that people should take as seriously as North Korean election returns. As it is, the $36 million opening weekend for the Jon Favreau-helmed western/sci-fi was pretty close to a disaster against its $160 million budget, and an almost certainly sub-$100 million domestic total in the offing. I'd look for $19 million for its second weekend.
The Smurfs may fare a little better, but as Cars 2 proved earlier this summer, there's no guarantee for kids films to have legs anymore even when schools are out. Then again, Alvin and the Chipmunks had legs so who can tell? I'd give it $21 million for weekend number two.
Free-fall seems to be the order of the day for several summer films, even if they're strongly reviewed – Captain America shed 60 per cent of its opening weekend gross, while Harry Potter 7.2 still dropped over 50% in its third weekend, following the free-fall from its record start. While producers of neither film should panic, the $13 million and $10 million takes for both these films aren't nearly as strong as they ought to be at this point in their runs.
The best chance for legs may be from Crazy, Stupid, Love, though that's pinning a lot of hope on it being a romantic comedy, something that didn't help Friends With Benefits avoid being chopped in half. Give the newer film $10 million, while Friends slips down to around $5 million.