In this topsy-turvy “franchise films any time of year, damn the calendar” world, one series has stood out for how it operates and has carved out a unique and frankly absurd space for itself. Its eighth (eighth!!) entry arrives this weekend into an environment where the general public has just sort of surrendered to it.
Weekend Forecast for April 14-16, 2017
By Reagen Sulewski
April 14, 2017
The two-month old baby some inconsiderate idiot brought to a screening of The Fast and the Furious is now able to drive itself to a screening of The Fate of the Furious, one of the stranger franchises to grace the cinema with its presence, especially considering its origins. Beginning as a car-themed remake-in-all-but-name of Point Break, it's now morphed into what any only truly be classified as a super hero movie/spy thriller group of films, and will probably eventually end up in space at some point in its run (“We gotta drive these orphans up to the International Space Station!” “But Dom...” “RIDE OR DIE!”), although I'm holding out hope it finishes up with a Merchant/Ivory costume drama.
Perhaps not yet having achieved full cast bloat (The Avengers movies think these have a lot of characters in them), this film brings back all its previous surviving characters (with the obvious exception of Paul Walker) and even some that you were pretty sure got killed (Hi, Kurt Russell) -- then adding Charlize Theron as a new villain, and then Helen Mirren (I mean, finally). The plot of this one ... well, the plot seems indescribable, as it has about as many plot threads in the commercials as it does characters – there's the whole “Dom turns evil” bit, including one the top 13 least erotic kisses ever – not just on film, but ever – the “Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are prison frenemies” bit, and then something involving an international crisis that leads the crew to end up driving across the Arctic (?) and fighting a submarine with a tank and a Lamborghini. Because hey, why not.
At this point, we've all just agreed as a culture to embrace the absurdity of these films and their bizarre insistence that these characters are distinguishable other than as extremely broad personality traits only as if they were driving versions of the Seven Dwarfs (“Let's see, there's Yelly, Smarty, Muscley, Ugly, Girly...”), along with their brazen insults to the laws of physics, space and time. It's basically just an exercise in Upping the Ante and doing sweet car stuntz with a broad “family is all that matters” theme.
This film has had to stretch a bit on that, since the bulk of that weight was carried by the bromance between Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, who died during (but not on) the shooting of the last film. Diesel has promised that this film is the start of three that's going to wrap up the whole thing, though all bets may be off if it continues bringing in insane amounts of money like the seventh film – a $1.5 Billion-yes-with-a-b worldwide earner. Seriously, it's the sixth-highest earning film of all time, which I defy anyone to have credibly predicted back in 2001.
Since Diesel's return to the series with the fourth film, opening weekends have steadily increased as the crazy ramped up, reaching the $147 million insanity of the last film. There's some sense that this was in part a bit of curiosity to see how they'd handle Walker's death, as well as a bit of a fond farewell from fans, much in the way that Heath Ledger's death ramped up The Dark Knight's box office.
Put another way – this trend of opening weekend just can't continue, can it? Surely there's some sort of ceiling to how many people want giant, ridiculous, illogical set piece action movies (oh hey look, new Transformers trailer)? I do think there'll be a bit of a let down from the Walker issue, and there's a quality drop evident in the ads. The surprisingly great reviews of the last film have faded away, and we may be looking at “just” an opening weekend of around $110 million.
This is more than enough to beat up on the anemic rest of the box office, led by three family films (of wildly varying quality and format). Boss Baby grabbed its second weekend at the top of the charts and I hate everyone and everything. It will likely have cleared $100 million by the start of the weekend and at the very minimum after Friday matinees. Easter weekend should give this a bit of a boost, in that it won't see that near 50 percent drop from last frame, earning about $16 million. Beauty and the Beast might see a similar phenomenon as it makes stabs at $500 million (it probably won't get there). Look for about $13 million for Disney's best idea in ages.
Smurfs: The Lost Village was a rather dismal attempt at a reboot, earning just $13 million, though they're likely going for that sweet, sweet international money as a focus. However, this probably kills these films as a going concern in North America – the Chipmunk movies got axed when they made more. I'd expect about $6 million this weekend.
Lastly, Going in Style's septu/octogenarian heist film surpassed some dismal expectations to start with about $11 million, but should drop precipitously in the face of poor word-of-mouth to around $5 million, aiming towards a $25 million finish.