Weekend Forecast for July 25-27, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
July 25, 2014
The last weekend in July takes a particular bent towards action, with both a conventional and an unconventional lead headlining two very different movies in the genre. In some ways it's a bit of a referendum on action, as ailing as the genre has been this past decade.
It's the unconventional film that will likely triumph, based more on quality than anything. Lucy is the latest bonkers action film out of the Luc Besson film factory, starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman kidnapped into being a mule for a new synthetic drug. When the drug package bursts inside her, it starts to boost her brain power (relying on the stupid myth that people use only 10% of their brains), somehow leading her to develop superhuman powers, like learning Chinese in a day, reading electromagnetic waves out of the air, and telekinesis. I mean, okay, if you're going to go insane with your premise, might as well go all the way.
This being a Luc Besson movie, it somehow involves the newly hyper-powered Johansson battling Asian gangs of some sort, first with unnatural speed, then by simply swatting them like bugs, it would appear. Really, it feels like nothing so much as a hybrid of The Matrix and Limitless, another film about chemical brain enhancement. Morgan Freeman also appears to lend some credibility, as a neurological researcher who really ought to know better about the whole brain usage thing.
Lucy has caused a significant amount of buzz from the premiere of its trailer, thanks to its stylish effects and outlandish premise. Johansson doesn't have a ton of experience as an action lead, though she has built up some credibility in this department in the Marvel films as Black Widow. This is a slight departure from the heightened-reality spy that she plays there, but ultimately plays off the same image. That Luc Besson is actually directing this film might make some difference, instead of the usual farm-out job he does on these films, but really, it's more a matter of an effective-looking and epically-scaled action film with a lead people want to see. Not so hard, is it?
Female-centered action is a bit of a mixed bag, with positives like some of the Resident Evil movies, the Alien franchise, and recently Salt which come to mind, but it's rare to see a big time breakout a la the Bourne series. Johansson herself is riding an interesting streak of quality films (and this would fit nicely into a "Scarlett Johansson is inhuman" trilogy with Her and Under the Skin), and the more commercial nature of this could be just what's needed after a little priming of the pump. With a quality premise, heavy support and attractive marketing, this should open to around $31 million.
While unquestionably the more action-y action star of the two leads this week, Dwayne Johnson's Hercules is the film in more trouble at the box office. Why? It's the quality, stupid, as the Greek-myth themed and graphic novel based film about the life of Hercules after his 12 labors appears shoddily made and laughable in most respects, including the fact that it's directed by Brett Ratner, a name synonymous with douchebaggery in film.