When is a blockbuster not a blockbuster? We're about to find out this weekend as a CGI tech demo masquerading as a spectacular superhero film tries harder to make a thing out of something that's not a thing than anything has ever tried before.
Weekend Forecast for February 26-28, 2016
By Reagen Sulewski
February 26, 2016
If we measured films by their Try Hard and ambition, Gods of Egypt would be well up there. Unfortunately for all involved, those two things don't make for a quality movie by themselves. Directed by Alex Proyas, his first movie in seven years, it's a green-screened dumpster fire of a movie that attempts to build a mythology out of ancient Egyptian gods, Clash of the Titans-style.
The problem comes, however, when the film tries to treat these characters as something we should already be familiar with and care about. It’s one thing to make some movie about Poseidon, Zeus, Hades and Hera, but it’s another to make one about Anat, Horus, Uthwin and Thoth (quick – which one of those is made up) and expect us to already have buy in. With its character posters (the most out of place since Armageddon made them so long ago and gave us a 40 foot tall visage of Steve Buscemi that I am still working on getting out of my nightmares), Gods of Egypt looks like nothing so much as an attempt to turn these historical gods into action figures and trading cards.
Now, it’s not like there’s anyone still out there still worshipping these notions to get upset about their portrayal, but it’s all vaguely unnerving in a “should we really be doing this” sense, especially when we have the very Danish Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and the very Scottish Gerard Butler (not even attempting to hide his accent) as two of the lead roles. Its tonal issue takes suspension of disbelief and takes it out back behind a dumpster and shoots it in the head. Of course, to be fair, even if they had gotten all Middle Eastern/African actors to portray the main roles, I wouldn’t be ready to call this a good idea based on what we’re being shown.
While some films have worn their artificiality well, embracing a sort of “CGI Our Town with battle scenes” aesthetic, like Sin City and 300, Gods of Egypt, seems to want us to believe in what they’re showing. Still, they're presenting it in a “this is all happening, guys” way despite being one of the first films that most obviously had no sets in ages, and with effects that seem to go out of their way not to impress. An extended “dive” through the an explosion in the trailers is so desperate to please that it becomes kind of sad, really.
With an insane $140 million budget, there’s precisely zero chance of this working out for Lionsgate, unless there is some sort of international fervor for ancient Egypt that I’m unaware of. Opening quite wide at over 3,000 venues, this should open to a dismal-for-its-budget $13 million.
In due time, every moment of the 1998 Calgary Winter Olympics (official motto: “Sure, Why Not”) will eventually be committed to a dramatic film (Coming soon – Aaaaaaaaaaaaa: A Story of Luge). For now, we’ll settle for Cool Runnings and this weekend’s Eddie The Eagle, the story of Eddie Edwards, the 24-year-old British ski jumper who competed in the Olympics despite having almost no actual training. An amateur skier, he saw that Britain had no competitive ski jumpers and thus, he could earn a way into the Olympics. Facing opposition from every angle, he managed to find a way to compete… and finished dead last. Like, by a lot.
That’s not the point of the story, of course, as the Olympics are in equal parts about the thrill of competition, determining which country is best (dammit, Luxembourg) and the thrill of pleasing corporate sponsors. Eddie’s story is a fantastic one in that first realm, as it exemplifies the idea of competing for competition’s sake. An almost unrecognizable Taron Edgerton, most recently of Kingsmen: The Secret Service, straps on the oversized goggles to play Eddie, while Hugh Jackman plays the John Candy role (and there’s a natural statement) as the disgraced coach to takes on the challenge of getting Eddie up to snuff, or ensuring that he doesn’t get snuffed on the hill.
It’s your standard heartwarming underdog sports drama that doesn’t have lot to say, but it’s inoffensive enough and the material is still memorable, which is often just enough to make for a good, medium level performer that runs forever on cable (c.f. the 24/7 airing of Cool Runnings that takes place). I’d look for this to grab a nice $12 million this frame.
Lastly, we have Triple-9, or Dirty Cop Thriller: The Movie. When a crew of crooked Atlanta cops is blackmailed into performing an impossible heist, they decide to do what groups have done since time immemorial – let the new guy bite it. By setting up an “officer down” situation, that’ll create enough of a distraction to let them carry out what they need to do. The problem – the rookie doesn’t bite it, and doin's set to transpirin’.
Starring Anthony Mackie, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Chiwetel Ejiofor and a curiously left out of the ad campaign Kate Winslet, it’s a slightly intriguing if almost entirely generic-looking cop thriller (I think Harrelson alone has been in about 12 of these movies). This isn’t one I would hold out much hope for financially, and should hit just $8 million this weekend.
So, we get a third straight weekend of Deadpool at the top of the charts, as it continues its march to becoming the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time. It is already, by a significant margin, the highest grossing X-Men or X-Man related film, and it’s within rock throwing distance of the first two Iron Man movies, which Deadpool would totally do if he were near Iron Man. About the only Marvel films that look safe from Deadpool at this point are the first two Spider-Man films and the two Avengers movies, and wouldn’t you have liked to have gotten odds on that a month ago. For its third weekend, it should pull in about $27 million.
Kung Fu Panda 3 churns along solidly this weekend, with about $7 million, though it’s still way behind pace compared to other entries in the series. Religious drama Risen rounds out our slate with about $7 million as well.