August is here, so it's time for the B Team of the summer movie lineup to take over. On deck for this weekend; an action remake that I'm not sure anyone was clamoring for, and the third film in a middling tween franchise. Rock on!
Weekend Forecast for August 3-5, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
August 3, 2012
The original Total Recall remains a landmark in the world of sci-fi cheese, and the middle film of Paul Verhoeven's unofficial trilogy of insane satirical action films (including RoboCop and Starship Troopers). It also has one of the more outlandish Arnold Schwarzenegger performances outside of the Conan films. It's this memory that the remake is competing with as it opens this weekend, and it seems like a pretty difficult standard to live up to.
Stepping into Schwarzenegger's role as the scenery- (and dialogue-) chewing Quaid is Colin Farrell, playing the construction worker who has nagging dreams of a grander life. Heading to the memory-implantation service Recall, he immediately finds himself embroiled into a spy plot that mysteriously matches the fantasy he went in to get. Is it a real scenario, unlocked by the memory service, or is it simply something so perfect that it can't be told from the real thing? The 1990 film was a bit coy about the whole thing, and I'm not sure if I trust director Len Wiseman (of the Underworld series) to actually stick to that level of subtlety.
What he has done is amp up the action, which, okay, maybe I can see as a justification for this sequel (which appears to not have anything to do with Mars but still manages to throw in the three-boobed chick). So instead of the bonkers industrial set design of the original, we've got a sort of warmed-over Blade Runner feel combined with the flying cars of Fifth Element. Hey, if you're going to copy, might as well copy, right?
Farrell isn't the physical specimen that Schwarzenegger was by any means though he's fairly capable as an action guy. It's the female leads who are a definite improvement in my opinion, with Kate Beckinsale taking over for Sharon Stone, and Jessica Biel stepping in for Rachel Ticotin. Bryan Cranston (as Cohaagen, which is just perfect), Bokeem Woodbine, Bill Nighy and John Cho also make appearances in the film, but I don't see any credit for Quaato, which might be the original film's greatest legacy. In that respect, the updated version seems safe and tame and generic, although some of the action set pieces do appear to have something going for them. Remakes are kind of a dicey proposition, and without giving audiences a good reason to check them out, they can fall well short of their predecessors. Just look at the last time someone tried to remake a Schwarzenegger film – last year's Conan the Barbarian failed to match the original in a straight-up box office comparison, even with a nearly 30 year inflation advantage.
The 1990 Total Recall wound up earning around $120 million, which seems like a really optimistic final total for the update, especially since critics aren't lining up to support it and give it that last boost it'll need. Twenty years of inflation probably loses again, which doesn't say much for the way that Hollywood treats its properties. I look for an opening weekend of around $28 million.
Perhaps hitting the nail a little on the head with the title, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days makes its debut this Friday as well. The third film based on the Wimpy Kid series of tween novels, it's something something summer vacation wacky adventures indeed. The first two films in this series have been remarkably consistent in opening to the low 20s despite generally terrible reviews, which is a bit of a testament to knowing your audience and/or pushing out the base minimum of an acceptable product. The other two films were released in March, which could make for an interesting case study about whether that time was crucial to their success, but in all probability, the fact that kids are out of school right now will have exactly the same effect as the spring break release date. The biggest danger for kids' films series is always having your audience outgrow you, but it's my understanding that the series is still pretty popular, and new readers are still finding it, replacing the ones who are now teenagers. Let's throw in a little series fatigue and make it about $19 million for the weekend.
While The Dark Knight Rises is still probably the favorite to win the weekend, it's not clear cut thanks to that slightly alarming 61% drop last weekend. While most mega-blockbusters do have pretty large falloffs thanks to midnight showings and the Friday Night Rush Factor, that's quite a bit more than The Dark Knight and many of these films in general. Of course, $300 million in 12 days is nothing to complain about, and it wouldn't be totally impossible for it to get to $500 million domestic in the final analysis (although that's definitely on the higher end of possibilities). The film would need to start this weekend with a drop of less than half its $62 million from last weekend, but I think that's right about the line it'll hit, with $31 million.
Ice Age: Continental Drift will rather plainly be the lowest grossing film in that franchise to date, though it's a bit like being the shortest person on the Olympic volleyball team – you're still pretty tall. It's a little behind pace of the first film, which grossed $176 million total, which puts this one on pace for about $150 million. However, as mentioned many times, this remains a bizarrely popular series in international territories, with almost $500 million in earnings outside North America. An increasingly irrelevant $8 million should be the take here this weekend.
Last week's new films will struggle for relevancy as well. The Watch and Step Up: Revolution both landed with a thud in the $11-12 million range, squandering star power and a popular franchise brand respectively. Unfunny comedies are the saddest of all film groups, with extremely specific niche films perhaps in a close second. The Watch should grab a little over $5 million, while Step Up may end up just below that mark.