Attack of the Blockbusters
Ken Branagh’s Thor is good enough to put a spring in anybody’s step, and if one swallow doesn’t make a summer, the year’s first Marvel movie surely signals the onslaught of the blockbuster season.
Scanning the horizon with the benefit of our Jack Sparrow plastic telescope, and fortified with our Hangover II copyright Hair of the Dog elixir, LOVEFiLM is emboldened to chance a few predictions and prognostications. As yet, nobody has seen any of these movies, so we’re operating purely on gut instinct, form and prejudice, but that’s never stopped us before and it won’t stop us now: we’re going to pick the summer season’s financial winners and losers (running from $$$$ to $), and throw in a few thoughts on the movies’ probable critical standing as well (using our tried and true star rating system). Just don’t put any money where our mouth is…
Our Summer Blockbuster Predictions
This should be merry fun and one of the summer’s slam-dunks… The franchise has generated billions over the first three films and Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow even earned an Oscar nomination. On the other hand it’s been four years since the series wrapped, there is a new director on board (Rob Marshall, coming off the flop Nine), and producer Jerry Bruckheimer seems to be losing his touch too (witness Prince of Persia). Even Depp is licking his wounds after The Tourist. Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom missed the boat, but Penelope Cruz seems like a fair swap.
The Hangover Part II (May 26)
Can lightning knockout the same four guys twice? The original felt, well, original, and that was a large part of the reason it was such a hit despite a relatively unfamiliar cast. Director Todd Phillips will be hoping that the exotic new terrain (Bangkok instead of Vegas) will make up for what sounds like a suspiciously similar storyline about a bachelor party run amok. A screenplay by the guys who gave us Scary Movie 4 and The Heartbreak Kid doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Maybe Mel Gibson caught a break when his cameo was nixed.
X-Men: First Class (June 1)
This prequel makes sense: the origins of the argument between Magneto and Professor X should interest anyone who enjoyed the previous films. Kickass director Matthew Vaughn has yet to score a US hit; his edgy humour doen’t seem to translate over there. First Class also has to overcome the absence of the stars associated with the franchise: James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, respectively. The cool supporting cast likewise skews young: Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone), Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) and January Jones (Mad Men). Still, we think this will click: Fox will put all its weight behind it, and it’s early June date looks like a great launching pad.
The Beaver (June 17)
Critics who caught this at SXSW a little while ago were bemused but mostly won over by this drama about a family guy who starts taking advice from a sock puppet. But it would be a tough sell at any time, and on the back of star Mel Gibson’s multiple troubles it’s probably asking too much of the audience to put aside their misgivings. Jodie Foster directs.
The Green Lantern (June 17)
While Marvel keep churning out the hits, DC Comics has struggled to reboot the career of its biggest movie star, Superman, and continues to rely on the returns from Batman. The Green Lantern ¬– the story of a test pilot inducted into an intergalactic peace keeping force - could change that, but only if Ryan Reynolds draws in more than the geeks. Director Martin Campbell is more than capable of handling action, but this is a CGI extravaganza, and like all CGI movies, the script had better stand up to the spectacle.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (July 1)
Even Michael Bay now admits the second film was pants. But is he right when he claims this one will be better? Well, it surely won’t be worse. The space race wasn’t ignited by the Cold War, but by the discovery of Decepticons on the moon: a refreshingly outrageous idea, and judging by the latest trailer we can expect an even greater onslaught of CGI mayhem – in 3D, no less. Bay has no class, no sensitivity, but his maximization approach seems to pull them in.
We are, as Churchill didn’t say, at the end of the end, and it will be a colossal surprise if this final chapter doesn’t emerge as the summer’s box office champ. Director David Yeats has had plenty of time to fine tune this one, and for once we can expect dramatic story advances and a genuine climax.
Cars 2 (July 22)
We bow to no one in our admiration of Pixar, and Cars has proved an enduring favourite in my household. But the trailer for this one sends up a few red flags. For a start, a film about the virtues of a life more ordinary and slowing down to appreciate it seems to have turned into an international jet-setting espionage spoof. The visual do look dazzling, but the gags are oh so lame: “Is the pope-mobile Catholic?”, that’s the best you can do? I have a bad feeling about this one.
Captain America: The First Avenger (July 29)
This summer, the blockbusters are rewriting history. Transformers puts a new spin on the moon landing. X-Men take part in the Cuban Missile Crisis. And Captain America is the Allies’ secret weapon in the fight against Hitler. Chris Evans (formerly Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four) is weedy GI reject Steve Rogers, the perfect candidate for a new super-strength serum designed to give the American soldier a battlefield edge. Hard to tell how this will play internationally… Does the subtitle give away studio anxiety about its prospects? The script is by Markus and McFeely, who handled the Narnia movies with more efficiency than inspiration. Joe Johnston has some entertaining family films to his name (The Rocketeer; Jumanji) but didn’t deliver with The Wolfman.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Aug 12)
The trailer transforms this a dark horse to a must-see. Where Tim Burton went camp, The Escapist director Rupert Wyatt looks to have gone for a hard-edged horror thriller. James Franco is the scientist who unwittingly gives the apes some ideas about world domination. But the real stars are the Weta special effects team who gave us Avatar and who would seem to have given us an animal species of uncanny intelligence. Granted, trailers can be misleading, but the mixture of contemporary San Francisco and armies of marauding apes looks like a winner.
Cowboys & Aliens (Aug 19)
More historical revisionism: the West just got wilder with the incursion of beings from another planet. When audiences tittered at the first teaser the studio started to sweat: despite the outlandish premise, this isn’t a comedy. The more recent trailer does emphasise action, but will audiences be willing to swallow it – and are Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford an attractive couple to younger filmgoers? Director Jon Favreau has a strong track record including Elf and Iron Man, so we’re reasonably confident he will make an entertaining barnstormer of a movie, but not so sure that the crowds will flock.