In this topsy-turvy, churned-up, "any time can be a blockbuster launch weekend hey try October why not" movie environment, who knows when summer really starts any more. But I will say this - the epitome of what a summer movie should be arrives in theaters this weekend.
Weekend Forecast for May 31-June 2, 2019
By Reagen Sulewski
May 31, 2019
American attempts at converting Japanese monster movies adn their associated aesthetic for North American audiences have met with, let's just say, varied success (Rule #1: Don't let Roland Emmerich do anything, ever). In 2014, Warner Brothers may have finally figured something out, with a serviceable version of Godzilla that both treated the idea with seriousness and leaned into the inherent ridiculousness of giant fire-breathing monsters. Crafting a coherent mythos around the existence of Godzilla and his foes was a smart move, and while humans certainly played their part in that film, we were mostly bystanders and witness to awesomeness. It was a strange but effective tactic for a Hollywood blockbuster, and helped it to stand out, earning $200 million domestically.
This, it turned out, was the genesis for a shared universe, with Kong: Skull Island being the next entry in that series. A period piece, it managed a respectable $168 million domestic, and sets up a Godzilla vs Kong battle, but which also brings us to this weekend's Godzilla: King of Monsters. This film brings out all of the big guns from the Japanese monster mythos, including Ghidorah, Mothra, Gamera and Rodan, which have awakened to do battle for the planet. As with the 2014 film, Godzilla is nominally on our side, but probably barely notices us. Among the humans actors who are tangentially invovled in the storyline, we have Vera Farmiga, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford, Thomas Middleditch, Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things, and Ken Watanabe, returning as a kaiju expert.
While the ante has rather firmly been upped in terms of number of monsters, "depth of story" may not be something that's been considered here, and reviews have as a murky, confusing bit of FX mayhem. If you want to see a Hollywood take on the classic Japanese movie monsters of yore, this is clearly the kind of thing that will satisfy that urge. Keeping that massive audience from the first film is not likely to happen with soft reviews, even after a solid trailer. Expectations should probably remain limited but a weekend of $72 million seems reasonable here.
While you don't get a film into production that quickly, the success of Bohemian Rhapsody last year has no doubt served as a trail blazer for this weekend's Rocketman, a biopic about the early life and struggles of Elton John. It even shares a director, kind of, with Dexter Fletcher having served as the substitute helmsman for the Freddy Mercury film, and being the full time man on this one. Taron Egerton plays John, taking on the singing role as well (having proven his mettle with the material in the animated film Sing). Other roles go Jamie Bell as his long time lyricst Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as his manager and lover, and Bryce Dallas Howard as his mother (in younger days).
Filled with semi-fantastic scenes, a la Across the Universe, it pulls few punches about Elton's sex and drug fueled days as an early performer, as well as his struggles to embrace his homosexuality in a time period where that was still very controversial. Reviews are solid but not spectacular, however, the audience has been primed for this kind of flamboyant rock biopic. Bohemian Rhapsody started with $51 million, but without the critical hype of that film this seems primed for a slightly more moderate result with around $37 million.
The horror genre is handled by Ma, where the key scare is teenagers interacting with someone over 30. I kid but... Octavia Spencer plays the title character, a woman who helps out a group of teenagers and then offers her house as a party hangout, where all sorts of shenanigans are gotten into, as long as you follow her rules. As things turn more for the debaucherous, Ma's insistence on being involved in their lives starts to become creepier and more sinister, and the notion that there's more of a connection between Ma and these teens becomes more apparent.
Outside of what appears to be a powerhouse performance from Spencer, this looks like a fairly trashy thriller, and there's not much help from its cast, made up mostly of anonymous teen/YA actors. It does own its insanity, which is something, and may become a bit of a cult hit. Ultimately that's going to take some time and I'd say we're in for around a $12 million weekend, here.
Aladdin was far from a whole new world last weekend as far as what it did for cinema, but its $91 million take over Memorial Day Weekend allowed to it beat out some doused critical expectations. It's no Beauty and the Beast, but it's no Dumbo either, and this helps to counter what was some mounting concerns about Disney's live-action strategy. I don't expect huge legs, but at least as an opening weekend, it's satisfying. Look for $49 million this weekend.
John Wick 3 had a steep second weekend drop, mostly as expected, but broke the $100 million milestone and seized the top spot among this franchise's films. How far it can climb, or grow its sequels, is still up for debate, but this has become an unquestioned modern action classic. Give it $14 million this frame.
Avengers: Endgame will likely not top The Force Awakens domestic all time total, but is now just $90 million short of the worldwide record total of Avatar. You wonder if the Marvel universe will ever quite reach these heights again, but it's an incredible feat beyond all caveats. Look for around $9 million here.
Detective Pikachu broke past the $100 million mark, setting a high water mark for the franchise in North America. It should have one more week of relevance, with around $7 million.