June 2011 Forecast
By David Mumpower
June 2, 2011
Of course, this conversation is a splitting of hairs anyway. I believe both of these projects reach $300 million domestically. The debate is how much Cars has grown the brand and how much Transformers has damaged the brand since the prior releases. The clever decision to turn Cars into an espionage thriller makes it more desirable to mainstream consumers. Conversely, the decision to introduce a new villain to Transformers allows the trailer to distract potential viewers from their visceral hatred from the prior movie’s leg humping extravaganza. I envision a close race wherein Transformers starts stronger but Cars fittingly comes from behind to take the checkered flag.
Effectively, I view the choice between Cars 2 and Transformers 3 as deciding between good and evil. I choose to align myself on the side of the angels.
3) X-Men: First Class
There are two comic book adaptations this month. One of them is a reboot of an established franchise that has cleaned up historically at the box office. The other involves green and yellow jewelry. As such, the choice regarding which one finishes ahead isn’t much of a choice. I mentioned some of the X-Men numbers above, but let’s go ahead and summarize. The four X-Men features to date have earned roughly $786 million domestically. That’s an average of about $196 million per title. Wolverine did show signs of slippage, becoming the first title to fall short of $200 million since the original. It inflation adjusts as the worst performance of the series thus far. Ergo, there is cause for concern.
The decision to reboot X-Men as a means to explore the complicated relationship between Magneto and Charles Xavier looks to be the right call. I was skeptical at first, but the early reviews are unexpectedly positive. In fact, they remind me that if I were to debate the best comic book adaptations to date, X2: X-Men United would be on the shortlist alongside Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins (yes, I prefer it to The Dark Knight) and Iron Man. When Bryan Singer jumped ship in favor of the ill-fated Superman Returns reboot, the X-Men franchise fell apart with two titles that are ugh and ugh-er.
Starting from scratch means that the long in the tooth cast members from the prior iteration can be replaced with younger actors whose stars are on the rise. Also, the new players are much cheaper. People working in their fourth or fifth film expect pay equivalent to their longevity. Starting from scratch nicely tidies the budget. It helps that a couple of the roles were cast perfectly. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy headline as Magneto and Professor X, but the masterstroke is the inclusion of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. The Kentucky actress leveraged a sublime performance in Winter’s Bone into the biggest acting coup since Twilight when she gained the role of Katniss in The Hunger Games. She went from virtual unknown to the hottest young actress in the industry in about eight months. X-Men: First Class benefits from this just as it benefits from the first (true) implementation of nerd goddess Emma Frost (as played by Mad Men’s January Jones). The current co-leader of the X-Men is much beloved for her lusty fashion sensibility and…well, that’s plenty enough for under-sexed hormonally driven boys/men.
X-Men: First Class is well cast, well timed, well established and apparently quite good. That means it’s going to make a lot of money.