December 2007 Forecast
By David Mumpower
December 8, 2007
For all intents and purposes, the 2007 box office campaign ended on Labor Day. In the interim since the perfect storm of summer threequels, there has not been much out there to excite consumers. What had passed for a run of the mill blockbuster during the summer such as Ocean's 13 or Live Free Or Die Hard wouuld have been one of the strongest titles of Fall 2007. It has been grim out there, and I can best demonstrate this with an anecdote. During a dinner with my brother's family around Halloween, I was asked what were the big titles of Holiday 2007. The question stumped me. I came up with only two answers for titles that I consider to be foolproof hits. Everything else I could list had a downside to it. This means that the December list you read below has a lot of depth to it, but the number of slam dunk hits ends at #2...a number that accurately represents the movie release schedule since Labor Day.
1) National Treasure: Book of Secretss
I thought that the first title would be a hit, but I would be lying to a degree that would make Pinocchio uncomfortable if I said I knew it would be that huge. The movie made roughly $350 million worldwide. People know this was a Nicholas Cage movie, right? This story is the genius of Hollywood, really.
If an actual person tried to steal the Declaration of Independence, we would treat them like King Leonidas treats Team Xerxes...or like Isaiah Thomas treats his female employees...or like the women on that strange island treat Nicholas Cage after they see him wearing the bear suit. It wouldn't be pretty. Make a fictitious story about it that is not quite legally actionable for Dan Brown and suddenly we have ourselves a ballgame.
I found National Treasure to be the most overblown, creatively empty action blockbuster since Con Air (hmm, what could be the commonality here?). That in no way prevents me from recognizing that this sequel is damn near invincible at the box office. The only real question to be determined is whether mainstream audiences are more enticed by this sequel or the much more creative entry listed directly below.
2) I Am Legend
I have been covering movies for so long now that this has become the third "It will never happen" project of the 1990s to get made. The first was A.I., a movie I was certain died with Stanley Kubrick. The second was the project that Jim Cameron could never get off the ground no matter how hard he tried, Spider-Man. I Am Legend is almost as surprising to me as A.I. Budget escalation over the years had led me to believe that a third major re-make of the Richard Matheson novel would not be forthcoming. But here we are. And it looks huuuuuge.
A nice combination of post-apocalyptic dystopian horror and vampire mythos, the premise of I Am Legend is timeless. A virus wipes out the human race save for one man. Not all of the species is eradicated, though. Some evolve (or devolve?) into a nocturnal race that fears the light and also fears the only remaining daywalker. Two prior adaptations of the novel have featured Vincent Price and Charlton Heston and each one is a masterpiece. That is a hard road for I Am Legend to follow, but this discussion is not about the film's quality but instead its box office. If you have seen the marketing campaign for this title, you have no doubt on the matter of its financial success. I Am Legend is a juggernaut waiting to happen. It will continue Will Smith's hot streak as one of the few consistent draws in the industry.