If at first you don't succeed, fail and fail again. That appears to be the strategy for this weekend's top new film, which attempts to revive one of the comic world's A+ properties that just hasn't connected. I, uh, have some bad news for them.
Weekend Forecast for August 7-9, 2015
By Reagen Sulewski
August 7, 2015
In theory, I don't have any problem with trying to trying to remake films that didn't work – in fact, those are the ones that should be remade, but done properly this time. The Fantastic Four movies fall well into this category, as the Tim Story films were a tragic mix of miscasting, shoddy FX and a confused tone, so there's lots of room for improvement there. The unfortunate part: none of that seems to have improved too much this time around.
Josh Trank was given the reins thanks to his surprise success at pulling something out of nothing with Chronicle, the found-footage superhero film. Whether that proves to be his flash in the pan, or whether there's just too much studio meddling here – or maybe it's a fundamentally unadaptable project (I find that hard to believe, c.f. The Avengers), but things don't look too good in any way shape or form. The cast has gone way young – in theory a decent move – with Reed Richards passing from aloof doofus Ioan Gruffudd to cocky douchebag Miles Teller, the Invisible Woman to Kate Mara, The Thing to Jamie Bell (conspicuously absent from the ads and press campaign) and Johnny Storm going to Michael B. Jordan and you know what, I don't want to hear it, comic nerds.
The problem with the project comes from the lack of anything remotely interesting looking in the ads, which rarely rise above “It's the Fantastic Four! And they're doin' stuff!” Considering this was once upon a time the flagship property of Marvel comics, this is a bit of a problem. Nowhere is the sense of adventure that made Spider-Man such a hit, the spectacle and discovery that made the X-Men work, or the humor and action of Iron Man and the other MCU properties. Instead, it's a grimdark take on a franchise that needs light and air beneath it to work. We are, shockingly, in “Worst Comic Movie Ever Made” territory here, and that is shocking in a world where Elektra, Green Lantern, Jonah Hex and two Ghost Rider films exist. Name recognition will probably push this to around $35 million this weekend, but it's likely a disaster scenario all around.
Being that it's now August, the undercard of the box office starts to take on a bit of a mishmash feeling. The Gift is Australian actor Joel Edgerton's directorial debut, and starring himself as a troubled man who revisits a high school classmate (Jason Bateman), seemingly still harboring a grudge for years of mistreatment in high school. These interactions start taking on more and more sinister undertones, with mysterious gifts from Edgerton's character that hint at dark past actions.
A thriller that's being marketed more as a horror movie, The Gift has gotten a surprising level of support from critics, but the genre is mostly dead of late, and the cast (which also includes Rebecca Hall as Bateman's pregnant wife) doesn't exactly scream box office success. This is a potential candidate for some legs based on word-of-mouth but I'd expect just $9 million or so this weekend.
In “premises that are difficult to swallow” land, Ricki and The Flash stars Meryl Streep as an aging Stevie Nicks-type rock legend attempting to reunite with her family (played in part with some stunt casting of her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) after years of being on the road. While Streep can essentially play anything and is once again receiving raves for her performance, the film itself looks like a bit of sentimental, feel-good pablum. Screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jonathan Demme go together like chalk and cheese, and the cast guarantees this plays pretty much only to the older portion of the boomer set. I'd expect a weak weekend of about $7 million here.
Two family films opened earlier this week, though neither should have a huge impact on the weekend. The confusingly titled Dragonball Z: Resurrection 'F' pulled in $3.5 million over two days on just 900 screens which is moderately impressive, but is the definition of a niche film, and the last one of these films to receive a North American release flamed out in about five days. I'd look for about $5 million on the weekend.
Aardman studio's Shaun the Sheep also premiered early, but grabbed a very modest $850,000. We're quite a ways away from the high flying days of Chicken Run, and the last Aardman film to hit theaters earned just $11 million during its opening weekend. That was The Pirates! Band of Misfits and at least had a bit of star power behind it – Shaun the Sheep is a beloved character to be sure , but to a much younger audience than many of their other films have been. The Wednesday showing proves that to a certain extent, and we should expect just $5 million this weekend.
Mission: Impossible 5 – Adjective Noun beat tracking expectations to earn $55 million on its opening weekend in a number that still feels like an underperformance. An action franchise like this does seem like it should be competing in the ranks of the mega-openers. Whether it's latent dislike for Cruise or bad experiences with some of the earlier entries in the series (I lean more towards the former), this franchise has never quite performed to what it was capable of. It should compete for first place this weekend but fall a little short with $31 million.
Like many road trips, the Vacation reboot started strong, then became a hollow shell of itself, with people clamoring to get out of the car by the end. Opening to just $14 million over the three-day weekend and $21 million over five, it's looking to wind up with maybe $60 million domestic, which would probably put it below the take of the original film – in 1983 dollars. In case you were wondering, that's bad. Look for about $7 million this weekend.
Coming in with a little over $6 million each this frame will be Ant-Man and Minions, with Pixels and Trainwreck pulling in about $5 million each this weekend. We are basically running out the string here until the prestige pictures start showing up in October.