Disney files another mega-entry under the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while a flurry of quantity and quality fight it out for the rest of the month's top slots. Yes, Dwayne Johnson will likely place second, but a few comedies and a horror film will try to give him a good tussle. Elsewhere, two biopics give new life to long-ago stories that needed retelling.
April 2018 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
April 7, 2018
1. Avengers: Infiniy Wars (April 27th)
In the 1990s, America's top summer blockbusters featured stories about humanity's best and brightest (and a few others) coming together to tackle big, planet-challenging, problems, like errant hurricanes, giant, unstoppable asteroids, and marauding space aliens. We used technological advancements, teamwork, wit, and know-how to mount a triumph over adversity, and we did. Even the most popular superhero of the 1990s, Batman, had no special powers to speak of.
In movies these days, however, the smartest and most skilled civilians take a long coffee break and only occasionally interject with helpful hints from the green room. The real work is done by invincible mega-powered humanoid warriors, oft dressed in incongruous capes and pageantry, who rise above us to the heavens to battle the day's menace. Out-of-this-world superheroes defeat space aliens by hand, while humanity is either unable or unwilling to save itself.
Hey. That last part sounds about right.
And so, in April 2018, after all the years of build-up, clues, teasers, one-liners, post-credits scenes, and post-it notes, Avengers: Infinity Wars features the full-fledged debut of intergalactic terror Thanos, as the villain the Avengers must at last confront.
And indeed, after all of these years of relentless preparation, name-dropping, and hype for the occasion of Thanos' arrival, I maintain, as I long have, that Avengers 3 could have only one legitimate opening scene:
Thanos has gathered his entire army of fearsome creatures, critters, and other despicables, numbering in the thousands, and is standing in front of a map of the galaxy, with Earth circled next to an "attack here" sign that points a helpful arrow. At that point, the film's real villain arrives, immediately kills off Thanos and his followers, and proceeds on down to Earth to confront the Avengers.
After all the teasing of Thanos' would-be unbeatable might over the years, no other opening makes any sense to me. Where else could Thanos go from here but downhill?
But it seems Marvel hasn't taken my advice (which would have been on the house), and proceeded as planned. So, Josh Brolin stars as Thanos, and indeed swoops down to earth, first landing his armada down in Pierre, South Dakota and proceeding southwest from there through Nebraska and Kansas (obviously, not. Yes, he attacks New York City again, and New Yorkers gaze disinterestedly at the sky, seeing yet another giant hole appear up there and spaceships begin to circle overhead, before understandably shrugging it off and going back about their business).
I kind of assumed that Infinity Wars would be set in space, but at least from the early trailers, it seems mostly not to be. I also had hoped that Avengers 3 would include a shot of the Avengers blasting off in a rocket to space to fight Thanos, while twelve year-old (ballpark) Peter Parker walks away sadly on the ground below (and, of course, if the shuttle were to explode in mid-air, killing all the Avengers instantly, that would be remarkably unfortunate).
This may not happen, but as has been promised for near a decade, Avengers: Infinity War includes several murderers' rows worth of superheroes and movie stars, usually both, as they combat the dastardly space menace. I will spare myself and yourself the brain exercise of recounting the names of the heroes and their portrayers, except to say that if you guess a particular Marvel star will appear, you will probably guess right. It's worth noting that box office juggernaut Black Panther's presence among the accounted should of course be a major plus, though, strikingly, the film seems unlikely to match his solo haul of six hundred and fifty million dollars and counting. Indeed, if we must discuss box office at this point at all (for a film of this make and model, that seems redundant), I will predict that Avengers 3 will be one of the few films to finish above $500m and below $600m, even though I always think that's going to happen and then it almost never does.
Now, Disney gifted this forecast with even more length (sorry, guys) when they went for something interesting a little over a month ago, pushing the film up from its first week of May opening to the traditionally little-noticed April 27th frame.
Marvel had in fact made a stab at such subversive activity before: Iron Man 2 was initially scheduled for an April 30, 2010 release, before being promptly pushed back to May 7, presumably after heavy public scolding at the very thought. This means, purely technically speaking, that the first weekend of May, 2018, will be the first, first weekend of May 'not' to feature the debut of a new film based on a Marvel Comics title, since Mission: Impossible III all the way back in 2006 (how are you, Mr. Cruise?).
In any case, if Marvel won't take my opening scene, maybe they can at least use my ending (stolen from the finale of Power Rangers Zeo, in this case, with the names of the characters changed):
Thanos and the Avengers meet in an open field. The Avengers offer their surrender, as Iron Man intones, "You're just way out of our league!"
Captain America reaches from behind his back and presents Thanos with a gift-wrapped and bow-tied box, a present.
"Maybe they weren't a bad sort after all!" states Thanos, as the Avengers pile into their RV to leave. "Go, Black Widow, go!" urgently whispers out Black Panther, as the Widow steps on the gas. The Avengers giggle to themselves in the departing vehicle, as Thanos waves goodbye, and then begins to unwrap his present, which then of course explodes in a massive fireball, blowing Thanos to mostly little bits.
As the Avengers' RV recedes into the distance, Thanos' disembodied head lies helplessly on the clearing, and shouts out to the departing superheroes: "Hey, come back here! What kind of present was that! You haven't heard the last of Thanos and the infinity stones!"
Opening weekend: $232 million / Total gross: $525 million
2. Rampage (April 13th)
In the tradition of the B-films of the 1950s, cuddly and house-trained beasties are genetically and scientifically manipulated to turn to mass size, at which point they behave in the only way they know how: snarl up their fangs and attack metropolitan cities, reducing centuries of construction work to rubble. This cautionary cinematic tale has apparently worked: since the 1950s, real-life scientists have chosen to make no advancements in the field of animal size augmentation.
The beasties' foil this time is not a mild-mannered team of lab attendants in an overcoat but Dwayne Johnson, a rather physically comprehensive man who has... perhaps... been somewhat scientifically enhanced himself (or at least I hope so. No one should have to endure the imprisonment at the gym that would be necessary to produce Johnson). To stay on the subject of implausible size: Johnson has recently delivered his single biggest film, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which spent days, weeks, and months toiling away at the screens to recently pass the $400 million mark (franchise saved). As you must surely remember, I alone predicted that exact box office number (please don't go back and check).
The foils to Johnson's straight man here are at least three giant creatures - a wolf-like monster, a great and mighty gorilla whom Johnson had been intimately acquainted with before its transmutation, and some kind of creepy dragonesque monster, for local flavor. Another, smaller, glowering threat is seen shadow-like in the right downer section of one of the posters.
Monster count aside, and whatever its merits may turn out to be, Rampage seems like a nice, middle-of-the-road blockbuster, the kind that opens high enough into the 30s so that a one hundred million total gross can not be denied to it. As it happens, in between his bouts in the hundreds of millions, Johnson has done well with this type of, uh, smaller, film, too - San Andreas (2015; $155m total), his take on a disaster picture, and Central Intelligence (2016; $127m total), a healthy stab at buddy comedy. He will resume franchise rescue another day, to be sure, but for now The Rock is standing at the helm of some very lucrative programmers.
Opening weekend: $35 million / Total gross: $111 million
3. A Quiet Place (April 6th)
This survivalist horror picture is directed by John Krasinski, who previously helmed two quaint indies, and stars Krasinski and Emily Blunt as a couple forced to endure one of the many hundreds of post-apocalyptic scenarios bestowed on Planet Earth in recent years (to which I say to the Evil Space Aliens: just leave us the hell alone. We have enough of our own problems). As a horror film apparently riddled with old-fashioned suspense and terror, A Quiet Place is a definitive change of pace for the director, after his dramatically-inclined Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (now, now) and The Hollars, the latter a family reunion picture that received fair notices in 2016. The new genre must suit the man well, because A Quiet Place's reviews are quite a bit better than his previous.
The couple's children are played by Millicent Simmonds, the star of recent fantasy Wonderstruck, and Noah Jupe, a young actor who was excellent as the de facto lead of George Clooney's otherwise unseemly Suburbicon last year. This wholesome family is menaced by gangly creatures of some unwelcome origin, whether outer space-based or domestic. The humans can avoid the beasts' untoward attention only through total or near total silence, and indeed the film documents their attempts at such a practically mute existence in a rustic cabin in the middle of nowhere, where still no one is safe from foreign tentacles.
In showing a small family living through earth crisis in the woods, A Quiet Place recalls the intense It Comes At Night (2017). Almost like that one, the film contains little or no dialogue, as it must to avoid a healthy body count. The premise may be seen as a gimmick, but between the advertising, the reviews, and the fact that the last real horror film hit was Insidious 4 back on the year's first weekend, Krasinski seems to have stacked the deck in his favor. May the cards tumble well, and in silence.
Opening weekend: $30 million / Total gross: $80 million
4. Blockers (April 6th)
On one fine night, parents join together on an all-important mission: stopping their errant daughters from losing their virginity en masse at a raucous bash, where such happenings can often seem inevitable (you will notice, maybe, the choice of gender. None of the parents are stopping unruly 'sons' from embarking on the same quest).
The film is led by a trio of actors drawn from the supporting ranks of the comedic successes of years part. Leslie Mann, previously of The Other Woman and This Is 40; John Cena, another wrestler successfully transitioning to humorous roles in motion pictures (a certain swath of tongue-in-cheekness is common in both pursuits); and Ike Barinholtz, previously of satire show MADtv and the rather well-done Fey/Poehler film Sisters, which had an endless and destructive party scene that must provide some inspiration here.
The trailer plays out the humour as of the sort where mature (...) adults participate in tawdry teenage activities, wherein they usually don't do very well. There's also likely some sort of moral lesson to be subtly taught, a mix of 1, overprotecting your teenager is bad, and 2, losing your virginity as part of a high school pact is bad, also. Please avoid both, then.
The good news here is that like its weekend-mate, A Quiet Place, Blockers premiered at some far-off festival weeks ago, and so has already been boosted by overwhelmingly positive critical acclamation, with nods toward a fresh take on the genre, as delivered by director Kay Cannon. All this positivity should lead to a solid opening, and perhaps stronger legs, as Blockers and A Quiet Place make for an unlikely team-up of upstart alternatives to the special effects films for the rest of the month.
Opening weekend: $20 million / Total gross: $75 million
5. I Feel Pretty (April 20th)
Amy Schumer's third lead role, in a film playing off her, or others', perceptions of attractiveness and body image (it's something along those lines. In any case, I can assure you it's topical).
Her character gets knocked on the head with such force and gale, and at just such an angle, that she begins to see herself as an outrageously attractive and lean individual, even if [as the film repeatedly tells us!] this as a matter of fact is not so (don't try this procedure at home, unless you absolutely must). The Farrelly Brothers' Shallow Hall tread similar ground, though Gwyneth Paltrow used a fat suit to play the role, while this particular film proceeds with humor directly at its star's expense (I think the last sentence was also at Schumer's expense...). [Intentional] comedies have met dry wells in weeks past, with Game Night standing alone atop the field, aching to reach a $65 million total after weeks of release. Now, I Feel Pretty and Blockers seem like more than a bit of an uptick. Schumer wrote and did well in Trainwreck (2015), where she generated a lot of goodwill, and whatever Snatched (her film) achieved in 2017, it at the very least brought Goldie Hawn out of retirement for a new go-around and proved she still exists.
Much like Avengers 3, I Feel Pretty was moved up from the official Hollywood-designated summer season to April, the 27th, before the Avengers then staked out that weekend for themselves (Marvel wasn't afraid of this film?). So now Pretty comes on the 20th, where it will likely triumph, two weeks after Blockers and several more before a few of the May comedies get here.
Opening weekend: $23 million / Total gross: $70 million
6. Blumhouse's Truth Or Dare? (April 13th)
A teenage PG-13 thriller entertainment from Blumhouse Productions, which has concocted horror films that in the last two years transitioned from simply successful (The Purge) and entertaining (Happy Death Day) to apparent markers of the culture (Get Out).
Truth or Dare honours the genre's old custom of identifying a seemingly innocent facet of every-day life and turning it into the interest of bloody terror. As with Ouija, which is inherently a more ghostly game, the film carries Truth or Dare, a party practice that evidently goes back centuries, into bloody ground: this particular set takes itself so seriously that it insists on absolute comprehensive completion of every round, and the information it wants to extract, or the tasks it assigns, are nor particularly pleasant for the game's participants.
The lead is Lucy Hale, of television's Pretty Little Liars, and the film assembles a reasonable cast of teenagers and teenage adjacents (if they are playing high school students, then Hale and co-star Hayden Szeto are now the most recent example of 1980s-born actors cast as teenagers. Who will be the last of our generation to graduate high school?).
Advertising seems ubiquitous enough, and the whole of Truth Or Dare? appears as a reasonably commercial enterprise; though John Krasinski's more artistically-inclined A Quiet Place, perhaps playing at the screen next door, might lure away enough eager costumers.
Opening weekend: $16 million / Total gross: $40 million
7. Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero (April 13th)
The film is a true story about a handsome puppy named Stubby, who wandered onto the grounds of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he was taken in and adopted by student Robert Conroy. The two soon joined the army as the U.S. entered the first world war, where they fought together, with the canine notching a remarkable number of helpful actions. The dog came home after the war, living merry years with his master, and dying years later, in 1926.
The title isn't just humorous. Stubby was formally ranked a sergeant, and served as a mascot of the 102nd infantry. Now, his CGI avatar stars in what seems like a nice, low-key animated film, released in a month with little other content directly appealing to children. March also lacked a big CGI hit (Sherlock Gnomes is still actively investigating its own disappearance), which leaves this one some room to grow.
Stubby's life and accomplishments are accompanied by Logan Lerman in his first voice role, as soldier Conroy, Helena Bonham Carter as his sister, and Gérard Depardieu as a character who will possess a strong French accent. This is a gentle, old-fashioned tale of heroism with a small and morally unimpeachable protagonist, and as Sgt. Stubby is not much known, now, a hundred years later, I will give the film some kudos as a re-introduction to this very good boy.
Opening weekend: $8 million / Total gross: $25 million
8. Chappaquiddick (April 20th)
The Chappaquiddick incident begins to recede further into the memories of the past, and so here is a film that aims to rectify the situation. The setting is 1969, in the shadow of President John Kennedy's 1963 assassination and the 1968 killing of his brother, Bobby, the latter right after a winning leg of his own presidential primary campaign. The third politician among the Kennedy siblings, 37 year-old U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, is himself seen as a prospect for the presidency.
In July 1969, Kennedy and campaign aid Mary Jo Kopechne leave a late-night party on Chappaquiddick Island. Ted accidentally drives into a tidal channel. Mary Jo, trapped in the car, eventually drowns, and why Kennedy, who left the scene, didn't immediately seek help for the poor woman is the question this film may attempt to answer. What really happened and why will likely never be known, though Kennedy's political career survived enough that he ran a credible primary campaign for President in 1980, and died in 2009 as a lion of the senate.
Jason Clarke is Kennedy, Bruce Dern has a key role as his father Joe, in his last year of life, and mute after a stroke, though still abreast of the situation. Kate Mara is Mary Jo Kopechne, and supporting actors (Ed Helms, Jim Gaffigan, Clancy Brown) fill the list of credits as 1960s assistants to the Kennedy family.
Chappaquiddick is one of many political films coming down the pike in the months to come (along with pictures about ne-'er do well Gary Hart and the incomparable Dick Cheney), perhaps because of renewed interest in the political sphere. Fans of the topic, such as myself, will be riveted, though for mass audiences, these films must seem quite far removed from the politics of today, as they are. In this case, Chappaquiddick, still, is an important story, in need of re-telling.
Opening weekend: $7 million / Total gross: $20 million
9. The Miracle Season (April 6th)
This under-the-radar title is a member of a subgenre as old as time and twice as popular, the type of film that the late Roger Ebert used to call the Climb from Despair to Victory picture (CLIDVIC), commonly found particularly in the 1980s after the wild successes of Rocky and The Karate Kid, both of which were helmed by the same man, John G. Avildsen. Their stories told of heroes who come from nothing, unlikely entrants into a popular sport who toil away through any number of montages, going from improbable also-rans to top contenders in their chosen field, beloved champions who emerge as winners, challenge the mean-spirited current champions, and take them down.
Like a lot of films in its family, The Miracle Season is a true story, with an Iowa high school volleyball team devastated by the death of their popular lead player, who then recover and mount a strong shot at the championships. Danika Yarosh is a featured player, while providing some nice support and cheering on team spirit are William Hurt, as the girl's father, and Helen Hunt, looking fetching in glasses as the team coach. You may not have heard of The Miracle Season, but as a film with potential grass-roots support (see the recent I Can Only Imagine), its audience base may be much larger than what I give it credit for. Some such films climb high indeed.
Opening weekend: $6 million / Total gross: $18 million
10. Super Troopers 2 (April 20th)
This raunchy comedy is to be found under the umbrella of Broken Lizard, a five-man comedy team formed in 1996 and responsible for (or perhaps guilty of) three 2000s studio comedies that have since received some measure of cult status - Super Troopers (2002), Club Dread (2004), and Beerfest (2006) - and a fourth, The Slammin' Salmon (2009), which was a limited release, and which thus falls mostly outside my jurisdiction. I can sorely report that I've seen only one of the above, the 2004 film, and that was just last year, a mere thirteen too late (its time had come).
Here, the gang's all there, returning with a part 2 to what I believe is their most popular film. Looking at the marketing material, I can assume that fans of the subject matter will find not much has changed: the title characters, Vermont state troopers, are still wholly inappropriate promoters of highway law and order, quibbling with their superior (Brian Cox, who is, indeed, superior) and fending off villains who darken the local highway with their very presence. As the Lizard's legend has grown, more name actors have agreed to join their festivities - Rob Lowe, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and original Wonder Woman Lynda Carter, among others this time, with Marisa Coughlan as a long-suffering fellow trouper. The Lizards' fanbase has waited a decade for another venture, and should reward the troupe about as handsomely as they can.
Opening weekend: $7 million / Total gross: $17 million
11. Dolphins (April 20th)
Disneynature's latest pleasant excursion into the world's wildlife idyll, continuing a tradition began with their highest-grossing film, Earth ($32m in 2009), and continued since on roughly the same Earth Day weekend every year, save two. The subject this time is a spoonful of beloved marine inhabitants, and the title is remarkably self-explanatory. Also on hand on the Earth Day weekend is Traffik, a thriller with Paula Patton and Omar Epps as a couple fending off evil motorcycle riders and other perverts up in the remote outdoors (the film title spelling makes no particular sense to me, but it looks a little cool). The third April release I've banished under the #11 Dolphins heading is Beirut, a particularly well-reviewed thriller from Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist), with Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike engaging in international affairs, in every meaning of the term. Beirut is out April 11, a Wednesday date machinated to get away from the big Dwayne Johnson film, to no avail.
Opening weekend: $4 million / Total gross: $10 million (on average...)