Weekend Forecast for May 25-27, 2012
By Reagen Sulewski
May 25, 2012
After two weeks of what could charitably be called disappointing box office for new films, here's Memorial Day Weekend, which should finally bring the film that will dethrone The Avengers. Even if that does happen, it's more out of a sense of inevitability rather than the new champ being something we're all excited about. June can't get here fast enough.
Once upon a time, Will Smith was the unquestioned ruler of the summer season, although this period was shorter than everyone remembers. We also know it was quite a while ago, since it also overlapped with the period when Jeff Goldblum was considered a big box office draw. But with Independence Day and Men in Black, Smith launched from being “the Fresh Prince guy” to a legitimate movie star. That success bred a little bit of arrogance, and led to things like Wild Wild West and Men in Black II – awful, unfunny, unpleasant films that sent him scurrying a little. After regrouping with some dramatic roles, one that earned him an Oscar nomination, and a couple of moody action films (I Am Legend and Hancock), he's actually been absent from the big screen for almost four years, from the release of Seven Pounds until now, with Men in Black III.
The “ten years later” sequel is usually a bit of a desperation move for someone in the cast, and in this case it looks like more of one for Barry Sonnenfeld than anyone else. Although he's worked consistently in TV over the last decade, Men in Black II was sort of the final straw for him as a big budget director (he had a bit of a hiccup with RV, which one imagines was already in the works before the MIB II flop). This third film once again undoes all the closure of all the rest of the series by having Smith's Agent J travel back in time to stop a plot to kill Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones in the present, Josh Brolin in a seemingly dead-on impersonation back in the 1960s), which would be a prelude to an alien takeover of Earth somehow.
The usual gooey special effects and slightly warped sense of humor that is this series' trademark seems to be back in full force, but it remains to be seen if those jokes hit this time, or merely seem repetitive and forced, like in the second outing. Perhaps there's been enough time for separation for those same jokes to feel fresh again. The exercise feels a bit hollow, though, and there's almost no question that this isn't a sequel anyone was particularly clamoring for.
So this likely comes down to how much we still like Will Smith. That's a difficult thing to gauge right now, given his four year hiatus. I think there's some lessons to be taken from the fourth Die Hard movie, which came 12 years after the previous entry, and managed a respectable $48 million over five days (compared to mid 20s for the second and third films). Smith is a bit more vital of a action star than Bruce Willis, and the hook for Men in Black III is a little better than for Die Hard 4, so it's fair to expect this film to capture a decent portion of the original Men in Black audience. Thanks to inflation, that should lead to a little bit of an increase in opening weekend, but not a substantial one. This should mean about $58 million over three days, and $72 million over the four-day weekend.