March 2017 Box Office Forecast

By Michael Lynderey

March 2, 2017

Tale as old as time.

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2. Kong: Skull Island (March 10th)

The month's other tale of beauty and the beast comes headlined by Brie Larson, here starring in the kind of blockbuster role actresses often attach to after an Oscar nomination or win (the latter, in her case, for 2015's still-under-seen Room). Here she's a photographer thrust into a 1970s expedition to a far-off land lost to time and maps; there, corporate henchmen are picked off by an increasingly-creative roster of fantastic beasts, while Larson attracts the attentions of both of the film's male leads: a Vietnam veteran and British military captain (Tom Hiddleston), and a giant, snarling, if still fairly handsome, gorilla who will again inspire upon himself the nickname King Kong, although the film's title only gives him half the attention.

This reboot or redo cost a lot of money ($190 million, which is a good thing, by the way! don't knock it). It benefits from arriving divorced from the kind of high expectations that perhaps plagued previous remakes, like the 1976 Jessica Lange/Jeff Bridges version, or Peter Jackson's excellent 2005 reiteration, which was released just two years after his Lord of the Rings triumph. The setting has 1970s references (civil unrest) and metaphors (war), if you're still into that kind of thing, and there are some neat character actor turns from John C. Reilly, John Goodman, the ever-cool Samuel L. Jackson, and another of my favorite millennial actors, the effervescent Thomas Mann. The director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, is the kind of Sundance veteran now often plucked from their annual meet at the snowy mountains of Utah to direct high-price blockbuster films; his only previous feature, The Kings of Summer (2013), was entertaining if light-headed, but Kong's trailer indicates an aptitude for monster action. Larson is vaguely a Lange lookalike, while Hiddleston will help carry what will presumably be his first blockbuster role since persistently playing the villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for three years straight.

In a month a little less crowded with blockbuster hordes, I could have seen Kong climb even higher on this chart, but he should still come in somewhere along the lines of the 2014 Godzilla. In fact, Kong and 'zilla may fight again, with Legendary Pictures planning to unleash many more big creature features, engaging the world's most beloved giant monsters in various combinations of battle (and when it comes to fighting oversized beasts, where are the Power Rangers when you need them? Oh, at #7 on this list).

Opening weekend: $74 million / Total gross: $210 million


3. Logan (March 3rd)

Perhaps the most popular X-Man returns for his third solo film (and, uh, his 56th overall big-screen appearance), bringing with him the Wolverine hallmarks of go-it-alone, don't-mess-with-me, angry violence, all set in a desolate desert landscape. The plot seems simple enough, a reprise of the old saw about the gruff, silent, child-hating man of action forced into killing lots and lots of anonymous henchmen to protect the life of a young girl accidentally set into his care (Jason Statham carried out that story very effectively in Safe, 2012, and of course Natalie Portman got her start on the waif-end of this equation in 1994). Jackman is back for what may or may not (therefore, may not) be the last time as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart's resurrected (or never dead) Professor X has the humanizing mentor/task-master role ("please kill fewer people", etc.), and Boyd Holbrook is the pouty leader of the opposition, a man who despite his lanky frame will nevertheless be the last villain standing. This is all workmanlike, but the direction is by James Mangold (of Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, and the second Wolverine film), the plot digs deep into themes (regrets, of which Wolverine has few, and aging, which he avoids), and the reviews are ratcheting up a luminous Rotten Tomatoes score. In short, this is the kind of highly-anticipated, critically-approved genre film that should easily land on the high end of expectations (including mine), and probably have no trouble becoming the month's third $200 million grosser. The almost comically oversized box office from Wolverine's old drinking buddy Deadpool may help dish out some coattails.

In terms of tone, Logan aims to be even more of a manly, take-no-prisoners entry than his Japan-based The Wolverine (2013), which was possibly the best X-Men film, and which itself attempted to out-man the less fortunate X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). Not that Wolverine hasn't always been kind of a shady character: I've long been confused by what the character is allowed to get away with - this is a man who fatally clawed his way through what appeared to be U.S. government soldiers, with no moral or legal consequences, in at least two X-Men films (X2 and X-Men: Apocalypse).

This, Logan's most nihilistic-seeming outing yet, has indeed received an R rating, which if anything will help its numbers, especially given the merciless pounding that the hard-R Deadpool gave the box office last year (and he didn't even call the next morning!). On a personal note, the film's running time clocks in at an unholy two hours and 20 minutes, part of a disturbing and very scary recent trend for length amongst genre films, which have historically been pretty short (A Cure for Wellness, which I enjoyed, had even more running time than Logan; one of the longest horror films I've seen!).

Opening weekend: $77 million / Total gross: $210 million

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