June 2007 Forecast
By David Mumpower
June 1, 2007
3) Live Free or Die Hard
Almost 19 years have passed since the day I saw Die Hard in theaters for the first time. Typing this makes me feel old, but that movie-going experience is one of the fondest of my life. Very few times have I entered a theater with no expectations but left as satisfied as I was on that evening. Die Hard was described at the time as satire though it later became the (accidental) blueprint for over-the-top action sequences. It also featured arguably the best villain of all-time in Hans Gruber. A pair of sequels followed, but for the original production team of Die Hard, a quote from the movie had become self-fulfilling prophecy. "When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer."
Since Die Hard with a Vengeance was released in 1995, there have been ceaseless rumors about a fourth project involving John McClane but fans of the franchise had long since accepted its time had passed. Imagine our surprise at the 2006 news that a script had finally been accepted with filming soon to be underway. Even as a devoted fan of Die Hard, however, I have to acknowledge concerns about whether the Die Hard name is an important brand to modern consumers. After all, even in its heyday, Die Hard's box office revenues were never the stuff of myth and legend. The three films earned just over $300 million domestically with – trivia alert – only the original Die Hard failing to earn $100 million.
Over time, has the Die Hard legend grown to the point where it has the requisite name recognition to do more? Or is Live Free Or Die Hard too little, too late? That's an interesting debate, but it's also one people engaged in with the release of Die Hard: With a Vengeance. This is an important note because that title earned as much as the previous two Die Hard films combined, at least in terms of worldwide box office. Domestically, Die Hard 2 is the horse to beat with $117.5 million. Thanks to the magic of ticket price inflation (the average ticket cost $4.22 in 1990 as opposed to $6.79 now, an increase of almost 61%), I sincerely believe Live Free Or Die Hard has a strong chance to surpass that total.
4) Ocean's Thirteen
Franchise killer is a term tossed around too loosely these days; however, if ever there were a movie that could prove to be a franchise killer, it's Ocean's Twelve. A disastrous decision to focus upon a new character at the expense of the core group from Ocean's Eleven combined with a painful sub-plot involving Julia Roberts not being Julia Roberts but pretending to be Julia Roberts led to an epic cinematic mess. Fans of the first movie, one of the best written and brilliantly performed ensemble pieces of our lifetime, were mystified by what they were forced to witness in the sequel. The box office receipts exemplified this. Ocean's Twelve earned almost $60 million less domestically and roughly $100 million less worldwide. The phrase that applies here is "soundly rejected".
The logical assumption would be that everyone involved would walk away for a while, waiting for the right premise to come along. Instead, the same gap of time has passed between the third and second film as there was between the second and first. Even stranger, this film looks great. It's almost as if Ocean's Twelve didn't even happen. They just threw it out as irrelevant and headed straight to Vegas. I admire the temerity of this decision. So, while I do have cause to believe this sequel will not do as well, at least initially, I am starting to believe that while the last film should have been a franchise killer, Ocean's Thirteen is going to stop the bleeding and restore the promise of the original.