Weekend Forecast for June 14-16, 2013
By Reagen Sulewski
June 13, 2013
While other films this summer might have more direct dollars at stake, this weekend's biggest new film may have the most to say about a studio's long term strategy than any other this season. It's a bit of a “follow the leader” strategy, but one that could lead to billions in revenue and the resurrection of number of beloved characters.
Man of Steel is Warner Bros' latest attempt to bring back the Superman brand, which if you go back, has really never recovered as a film franchise from Superman III, let alone the all-world badness of Quest for Peace. In 2006, Superman Returns tried to pretend those films never existed, and the thought was that a semi-reboot with a capable comic book director (in Bryan Singer) could bring people back to the franchise. All they had to do was make a good film and people would come. In some respects, that's still an untested theory, since Singer's Superman turned him into a peeping-tom deadbeat dad and the plot remains entirely unmemorable to this day (something about real estate?).
So, WB has turned to the man who saved their other big comic franchise, Christopher Nolan – albeit by proxy, as he's writing and producing this one, with directing duties going to Zach Snyder, he of Dawn of the Dead (that's good) and Sucker Punch (that's bad). The notion seems here to be that dark is the way to go, a la the ultra-gritty Batman reboot, with Man of Steel focusing on the outcast nature of the character. As well, the action and consequences seem to be ramped up to 11, with General Zod being brought in as the villain and threatening to destroy the planet in his quest to bring Superman back to Krypton.
One wonders if dark is really the way to go with Superman, who is, after all, a character that traditionally represents justice and light (the trailers go a little heavy on this, turning him into Superman-Jesus for a while). It's a franchise that's been represented by bright colors, and it's being turned drab. Nolan's ear for story is well regarded, but is this a one-size-fits-all process being applied too thickly? At least the super-fight scenes look appropriate epic and clash of gods-like.
We haven't even gotten into the casting yet, which is arguably the least important part of this project. Did anyone care that Christian Bale was Batman? I didn't think so. But anyway, Henry Cavill, of no particularly great previous roles, steps into the blue outfit (sans underoos), with Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Michael Shannon as Zod (perhaps the best casting move of this entire project), and Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne in other iconic roles. It's enough to establish credibility for the film, but no one's really coming to this because of who plays Perry White.
They might have legitimate reasons to be confused about why they're coming to it, as WB has decided to carpet blanket the media with several different types of trailers, each trying to sell a different angle on the film. This is often a huge, huge problem, as audiences like clear notions of what a film is about (“it's about Superman!” doesn't count). Superman Returns had a similar problem, and got just a $52 million opening as its reward. Now, the Nolan name means a lot to comic movies at this point, and the trailers that work really work, but some of the exuberant expectations here remind me a lot of 2006, with Superman fans just assuming that they belong in the top tier. That fandom still has to earn its way back. With an ultra-wide opening in 4,200-plus venues, Man of Steel should slot itself in between some of the mega comic openings and the second-tier Phase 1 Marvel movies, with around $92 million.