While there have been plenty of sequels this year, so far we've avoided last summer's array of “Really? That one?” purposeless reboots and follow-ups. That mostly ends this week with three, count 'em, three sequels that defy the idea that sequels should be of films that people asked for.
Weekend Forecast for July 20-22, 2018
By Reagen Sulewski
July 19, 2018
We refused to pay the demands, so there's a Mamma Mia sequel in theaters this weekend. Subtitled Here We Go Again (I read that with the emphasis on the last word, like a sitcom character's catch phrase), the ABBA jukebox musical returns to whatever Greek island they made up for the first film where Amanda Seyfried's character is now running the inn her mother left her after dying (Meryl Streep don't do sequels, yo). Because of the stress of her new business and strained relationships with her husband, she calls in her mom's old friends for advice and we flashback to the 70s and the time when they were just establishing themselves in life and in their singing group. Oh, and also the circumstances around her conception with one of three possible dads because what daughter doesn't want to hear that?
Christine Baranski and Julie Walters return for the heavy lifting of that plot in the present day, with Pierce Brosnan doing most of the “possible dad” work with Colin Firth and Skellan Skarsgard mostly absent (the weirdest possible choice for the musical – it should carry a warning of “contains scenes of Pierce Brosnan singing” the same way Incredibles 2 had an epilepsy warning last month). Also joining the cast are Andy Garcia as the hilariously named Captain Cienfeugos and in the flashback scenes, Lily James, Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner and Josh Dylan for some bedsqueaking action. There's also the terribly-kept secret of Cher, as Streep's estranged mom (who at three years older than Streep, has little to talk about with respect to scandals).
The question many of you may be asking right now is, are there really enough ABBA songs for two jukebox musicals? The answer, apparently is both yes, in that this film exists, and no, in that they've repeated a bunch of the more popular numbers from the first film. So this is pretty definitionally “if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like. The first Mamma Mia opened to just $27 million ten years ago, and then ran with fairly strong legs to $144 million. Internationally was a lot of the story with it, as it roared to over $600 million, and at one time was the second highest grossing film in the history of the UK. Legs seem unlikely here as with most sequels, but ten years and some ticket inflation later, it should be in line for a bigger opening weekend, with around $40 million and an easy win in the box office charts.
Another person you used to be able to say didn't do sequels was Denzel Washington. That is, until now, with The Equalizer 2 arriving in theaters four years after the first film, adapting the TV show about a retired black ops agent (with some mild OCD) who travels around righting wrongs. A modest performer at $101 million, it doesn't seem likely an obvious candidate for franchising, but whatever director Antoine Fuqua wants, Antoine Fuqua gets, dammit!
This one goes full Bourne, with his character investigating the death of his former partner in the CIA (Melissa Leo) with supporting roles going to Bill Pullman, Pablo Pascal and Sakina Jaffrey. A little more brutal version of Taken ensues, albeit with no real thought of rescue, just revenge.
Washington remains one of the more consistent box office stars in essentially forever – when he's not chasing Oscars, he lands his films right in that $75 to $100 million window, basically every time. It's hard to see Equalizer 2 gaining a bit mess of fans, and opening weekend should be right around the 434 million start for the first film.
Three years ago, Unfriended answered the long debated question, “can you make a movie that is mostly a computer screen of video chats and social media, that also ends with most of the characters' deaths”? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, and actually got a few critics on its side for making an inherently uncinematic premise at least watchable and mildly entertaining. As it was also cheap as borscht to produce and earned about $30 million on its $1 million budget, well, a sequel seems like not the worst financial decision ever.
The sequel, helpfully subtitled Dark Web, lets us know the producers are hip to the latest developments in internet subterfuge, and moving away from what was a supernaturally themed premise the first time around. After discovering a cache of files that hint at some sinister, 8mm-like goings on, a group of hackers appear to be orchestrating some sort of revenge on our (mostly unseen) protagonist, and roping in his friend network. It certainly makes sense as a fertile ground for modern horror with how dominant a force it is in current life, but there's always going to be some plausibility issues to deal with.
It's opening in significantly fewer locations than the first Unfriended movie, though with the tiny budget, this feels more like a tactic to keep distribution costs down than anything else. Reviews are surprisingly OK for this but promotion has been minimal, and I expect we're looking at a reduced opening weekend of around $8 million.
Hotel Transylvania 3 won last weekend with a “right in range” $45 million opening weekend. These films have traditionally been OK in regards to legs, though both previous films were fall releases. Family films in the summer often have a harder time with legs, though that's more than made up for by stronger weekdays. I'd look for a $24 million second weekend in this case.
Ant-Man and the Wasp took a huge fall, losing almost two-thirds of its opening weekend audience and looks probably to be the lowest grossing MCU movie since... the last Ant-Man. Honestly, this kind of thing has to have Marvel's people worried about what follows after Infinity War: More Infinity, as it's going to be hard to build a new world around the C-Team of heroes. Add another $13 million this weekend.
More troubling though is the start for Dwayne Johnson's Die Hard clone Skyscraper, starting at $25 million after tons of hype and promotion. This kind of high-concept action film should be an easier sell, but outside of established franchises, Johnson is still finding roadblocks to his hits. And really, was this more ridiculous than San Andreas? I say nay, people. This should fall pretty steeply, to around $11 million.
A pair of sequels, Incredibles 2 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, pulled in about $16 million last weekend and sit as the #3 and 4 movies of 2018, though the dinosaur movie is playing much better worldwide. Both should see around $9 million this weekend.