Two action films make up the slate of major releases this week, one a sequel to a film that was almost a disaster, the other, one that has been a disaster from the words "go picture". In a summer that has been hit and miss for properties with established names, these two films epitomize the summer.
Weekend Forecast for July 23-25, 2004
By Reagen Sulewski
July 23, 2004
The Bourne Identity should not have been as good as it was. Director Doug Liman reportedly delivered a mess to Universal after feuding with lead Matt Damon, and the film needed multiple reshoots and rewrites that delayed it over a year. That it proved to be one of the best films of 2002 and one of the best spy thrillers in recent memory is something of a miracle. It ended up grossing a decent $120 million domestic and becoming the highest renting video of 2003, so a sequel was natural. Based on the second of the books in Robert Ludlum's series, The Bourne Supremacy is just about a carbon copy of the first film, except that this time, Damon's character knows who he is. After being framed for a botched CIA mission, Bourne decides to keep his promise to 'take the fight to them' if they didn't leave him alone.
While the Bourne franchise isn't quite the James Bond series yet, it does have the potential to rival it to some degree; a likeable anti-hero traipsing around exotic European locations, killing the people that get in his way. The DVD rentals and sales certainly prove out that there's a desire for this sort of thing. The Bourne Identity opened to $27 million two years ago, which is about average for an action film with a moderately popular cast. It helps that basically all the characters from the first film that didn't die are back (though Liman has stepped away as director, with Paul Greengrass taking over), including Franka Potente, Julia Stiles (who outgrew the tiny role she was given in the first film) and Brian Cox, with the significant addition of Joan Allen and Karl Urban (Eomer in the Lord of the Rings films). Without a really high concept or a comic book tie in these days, it seems like it's really difficult to break into the upper stratosphere. A weekend of about $39 million is pretty realistic in this case, a healthy increase for a film in a series that took a little bit longer to be discovered by some.
Though it does have a comic book connection, Catwoman won't reach that upper stratosphere I was talking about earlier for a very simple reason - it's going to suck like a tornado. Though Batman's feliphilic nemesis is probably the most famous female comic book superhero/villain, it's readily apparent and has been for some time that they've simply botched this one. The first clear sign of trouble was when the costume was first revealed on lead Halle Berry; upon seeing it, some Halloween S&M party goer must have been pissed that her idea was stolen. It simply bore no resemblance to anything that should be designed for a self-respecting comic book film. An initial leaked trailer was as bad as could be, with lame cat jokes and painful acting. Recent clips have been better - but not much - and have started to reveal the dirty little secret of the film, that Sharon Stone is the main foil. Yeah, I agree you don't want to publicize that, but why hire her in the first place?
So at whose feet do we place the blame? At Halle Berry, who has been bored with genre roles since winning her Oscar, but still takes the cheques? At Pitof, the singularly named French special effects wizard who was given the director's reins? Or right at Warner Bros, who greenlit this piece of crap in the first place in a shallow attempt to capitalize on a property? I think there's more than enough blame to go around, quite frankly. The sad thing is that the tactic will work, to some extent, as even the Gigli-level of bashing that the film is receiving won't be enough to keep everyone away. With the promise of action and girls in skimpy outfits, there will still be some who will turn out at least for curiosity's sake. Look for about $19 million before this ill-fated camp fest makes a hasty retreat. They still have eight lives left to use, though.
I, Robot exceeded almost everyone's expectations, both box office wise and quality wise, opening to $52 million and surprising many by actually being a quality science-fiction film (mostly; it's not without its glaring faults). Almost a Matrix prequel in scope, it delivers on both action and thought-provocation (as I said, mostly). While I'm not expecting it to be an extremely leggy film, it should at least hold its own for a few weeks, starting with about $30 million this weekend.
While Spider-Man 2 isn't adhering to the breakneck pace of its summer challenger, Shrek 2, it has shown itself to be no slouch overall, passing the $300 million mark in the second fastest time ever. The original had about $75 million left to earn after its weekend that earned similar to Spider-Man 2's last one. I expect it to fall a bit off that pace, but this early projection still gives us around $350-375 million total, slipping anywhere from seventh to tenth all-time.
In other milestone news, Fahrenheit 9/11 is about to pass the $100 million mark in five weeks, a tremendous achievement for any low budget film, especially a documentary. Though Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 are the top earners for the year (and will probably remain so), Michael Moore's film is far and away the relative box office champ of the year.
The lone movie sneaking this weekend is Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, one of the stranger films being released this summer, if not without its recent precedents. Hell, it even acknowledges them (Dude, Where's My Car?). It's sneaking in about 800 theaters in advance of its release next weekend, perhaps just giving the stoners advance warning.