June 2017 Box Office Forecast
By Michael Lynderey
June 1, 2017
3. Transformers: The Last Knight (June 23rd)
Here's a fifth Transformers film for your buck, just in time for the ten-year anniversary of that cool July 2007 afternoon when gigantic robots first started punching each other in the face on our willing screens.
I was going to inscribe a history of the Transformers films here, but every time I tried, my mind went into a haze of metallic robot parts banging up into each other in the air, slang English being shouted at odd corners of the screen, and, from all sides, explosions, bullets, cars being kicked off highways, and screaming dots running away from the clanking machinery and into the foreground (the screaming dots would be us).
Like the Pirates of the Caribbean films, this franchise's $400 million (plus!) days are behind it, and, aside from the usual urgent business of alien robots resolving their differences by inflicting violence upon each other (hey, it's always worked for me), Transformers 5 has decided to add a few scenes retroactively placing its autobots in the middle of historical settings, like World War II Europe or Arthurian England, where they would presumably have been a little hard to miss (was that a Transformer sitting at the far left at the Round Table? I can never tell). I like the subtitle ("The Last Knight"), which has a certain noble sheen often absent from this franchise, and which presumably connects itself to King Arthur's supporting role (Charlie Hunnam does not reprise the character).
Michael Bay directs for the fifth and last (kidding) time, Mark Wahlberg is back in the Shia LaBeouf role, and the very young female lead is taken over by Isabela Moner (hey, whatever happened to Wahlberg's character's daughter and her boyfriend? Dead or in jail? Bonnie and Clyde?). Anthony Hopkins is the latest character actor to award himself the pleasure of acting opposite Optimus Prime, Stanley Tucci returns as the clueless technocrat who somehow survived the last film (... did he?), and Josh Duhamel reprises his role from the original trilogy, to reward those of us who are suckers for continuity ("no, we have not been rebooted").
The bots are again led by Galvatron (né Megatron) and Optimus Prime, respectively, though the latter is apparently no longer friendly, at least until roughly two hours into the running time. Some of these giant automatons have a winning personality and unlimited charisma, but my favorite cranky fictional (?) robot is still King Mondo from Power Rangers (in his opening appearance, in 1996, he announced that he’d been winning so much all across the galaxy he’s gotten bored. Does this sound familiar to anyone else?).
It may be hard to tell, but unlike many film prophets and writers who criticize with their pen, I have a certain admiration for the disagreeable audacity of the Transformers films and their complete disregard for decorum, restraint, plot linearity, and finesse. No country club would have them as a member. And the first Transformers is still pretty cool. Part 4 made less than part 3, which made less than part 2 (a series high of $402 million, if you must), and much like many of the summer's other sequels, the trend only has one way to go. Internationally, Transformers: The Last Knight might drag another cool billion dollars kicking and screaming its way, which assures us that a part six is indeed on the way. Just find a way to add King Mondo.
Opening weekend: $56 million / Total gross: $143 million
4. Cars 3 (June 16th)
The new Cars film brings back the Pixar franchise that has evidently produced them their biggest and most overwhelming collection of wildly successful merchandising and toys (don't know, haven't played with them), with its film sequels now seen as a kind of perk or bonus quirk to every other purchasable thing called "Cars." Cars 3 arrives exactly 11 years and a week after the first film (now who else is celebrating?), which took in $244 million, a heftier bounty than Cars 2, which was a bit underrated (well, a bit, I said!), and finished with $191 million. Cars 2 also remains, alas, the only Pixar release to be stamped out "Rotten" on Rotten Tomatoes, and no, it wasn't close (take note, Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is possible to make a film that critics don't like! I assure you).
The original Cars was the last film credit for Paul Newman (who, interestingly, is credited again on this entry, definitely proving life after death), while the leads are present and accounted for: Owen Wilson returns as ornery red stock car Lightning McQueen, Larry the Cable Guy is tow truck Mater, and additions to this roster are led by one of my favorites, Armie Hammer, who has a great voice for voice over, and who is continuing a prolific year that is looking to end in an Oscar nomination (more on that in November; and no, not for this film... obviously).
Cars 3 may be a quality product, or it may be anything but. We'll see soon enough. Putting aside the history of both Pixar in general and this sometimes-maligned franchise in particular, the equation for Cars 3's summer voyage through the box office freeway is simple: if it gets bad reviews, it'll go the way of many of the sequels of summers 2016 and 2017; that is not a good thing. If it's fresher than, say, 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, I think it can sneak above $200 million, even with all the other cartoons out in force this month trying to lure children away from this one.
Opening weekend: $57 million / Total gross: $141 million