Box Office - Decade at a Glance: May - August 2008
By Michael Lynderey
December 16, 2009
June 13th pitted two sci-fi extravaganzas against one another - bash-and-trash sequel The Incredible Hulk and M. Night Shyamalan's latest, plants-will-get-ya thriller The Happening. With the 2003 Hulk movie criticized as too talky and cerebral, this follow-up (all right, "reboot", if you want to toe the party line) played out like the first movie's missing action scenes, piling on repetitive if occasionally entertaining moments of violent destruction, peppered with good performances by re-cast stars Edward Norton, Liv Tyler (as part of her apparent summer comeback), William Hurt and Tim Roth. Fans and critics alike took well to this one (especially enjoying the gratuitous Downey Jr. cameo, in character as you-know-who), but hey, the box office wasn't really any better than the first time around - $55 million opening, $134 million total, to the first film's $62 million start and $132 million finish. Not much of a net gain there.
As for that movie The Happening, it seems to have developed quite a cult of hatred around it - understandable, perhaps, considering the film's veering between laughable pretension and occasionally effective terror (the brief video clip of some zoo misadventures stands out in memory). To its credit, the film did better than Shyamalan's previous, Lady in the Water, opening to a fair $30 million before dropping down to a more moderate $64 million, after word-of-mouth had its way with it. Next, June 20th dished out yet another $100 million film (only two of the month's wide releases didn't make it to that mark) - Get Smart, a belated adaptation of the old TV show and a film that played out like a standard summer package: big stars (Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, The Rock), generally agreeable concept, and decent reviews. And Get Smart did as such packages do - $38 million opening, $130 million total - just like the film, the numbers were unexceptional but not disappointing. That fact seems especially true compared to the weekend's other title, Mike Myers' The Love Guru, a film that may actually be remembered better than Get Smart years from now simply because of its well-earned reputation as being unbearably awful. What a bizarre supporting cast, too - Myers' old co-star Verne Troyer, Justin Timberlake as an oddly-accented caricature, and a cross-eyed Ben Kingsley presiding over the proceedings. This was Myers' first live-action film since The Cat In the Hat just made it to $100 million in 2003, and even the high box office status of his Shrek roles couldn't lift Guru up past the inevitable - $13 million opening, $32 million total. Shrek 4 is well on the way, and indeed Guru may have been Myers' last live-action lead role for a while.
June 27th basically remade the openers of June 6th, upping the ante on quality and box office. Instead of Kung Fu Panda, we got Pixar's universally ultra-praised WALL-E, which played out as all Pixar films do - $63 million open, $223 million total, Best Animated Picture win, etc. Boring, isn't it? Next, Zohan's comic action was replaced by the not particularly less ridiculous shootouts in Wanted, a knowingly ludicrous action film that utilized Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman's screen personas to punch up a cheesy story, and gave drama star James McAvoy - usually seen in movies set back before anyone reading this was born - a rare big blockbuster role. $50 million opening, $134 million total - a solid old-school summer take, and one of Jolie's many June hits (not to be outdone, she also voiced some critter or other in Kung Fu Panda). There's a sequel brewing for Wanted, too, even if a few of its stars obviously won't be able to make a return appearance (barring the introduction of their characters' twin siblings, something I wouldn't put past this series).