Blockbuster Preview 2012: Handicapping the Season’s Biggest Box-office Contenders
Who would be a studio executive? The stakes are higher than ever: movies only seem to get more expensive (to make and to see in the cinemas), and on those rare occasions when the Hollywood machine malfunctions, as we’ve seen recently with Disney’s handling of John Carter, the results can be staggeringly expensive (the studio wrote off $200 million in its latest quarterly report).
Romantics may dream of the demise of the blockbuster, but it will take more than one turkey to remake a summer dominated by one-size-fits-all franchise attractions. Which isn’t to say that it’s impossible to imagine the bottom dropping out, but a slow, steady decline is more likely than a precipitous revolution. Some would argue it’s already happening: higher ticket prices for 3D have disguised the year on year drop in audience numbers, but inflationary ticket prices could easily prove counter-effective in a market where home viewing is already a significantly cheaper option.
Meanwhile, this season’s harvest of box office heavyweights underlines the impression that studio bosses are looking over their shoulders at least as much as they are looking to the future. For several years now the upstart Marvel studio has been building to the Avengers tag-team special, now known as “Marvel Avengers Assemble”, and that movie will be first to bust out of the blocks come April 26. It is sure to be one of the season’s biggest money-spinners, and with Joss Whedon at the helm hopes are high that it will also be a creative success, even if you have to wonder where they can take it from here: once you’ve pulled out your all-star team, doesn’t that devalue the next solo super hero? I guess that word “assemble” suggests more group outings are in the pipeline.
If the Avengers movie is both a culmination of sorts and a new beginning, several others have a whiff of desperation about them. The Bourne franchise was clearly self-contained at three movies, but that hasn’t stopped them from making another one (this time with Jeremy Renner).
I don’t think anyone was holding his breath for a third Men in Black escapade either, ten years after J&K, alias Smith and Jones, pulled down the shades. But the imaginatively titled Men In Black 3 will be released May 25, so here’s hoping Josh Brolin’s Tommy Lee Jones impression can salvage it.
In a further display of creative bankruptcy, Sony couldn’t say no to more Spidey dollars either, so we’re getting a franchise reboot a mere five years after Tobey Maguire hung up his webslinger. That said, the critics don’t slam the RSC for producing Hamlet on a regular cycle, and we’re as anxious as the next nerd to see Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone step up to the plate. We’re even more tickled that the screenplay is credited to Steve Kloves (or Harry Potter fame) and 85 year old veteran Alvin Sargent, whose previous screenplays include the original Gambit (1966), the original I Walk the Line (1970), Paper Moon (1973), Julia (1977), Straight Time (1978) and Ordinary People (1980), as well as the last two Sam Raimi Spidey flicks. The Amazing Spider-Man debuts July 4.
If you crave remakes, look no further than August 22, when Colin Farrell will lose all memory of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s excellent Total Recall. Len Wiseman is no Paul Verhoeven, but at least Philip K Dick’s story presents endless possibilities.
Tim Burton probably wouldn’t call Dark Shadows a remake, more of a goofy tribute to the cult 1960s horror show. If the trailer is anything to go by he’s playing to his strengths here, and while we’re happy to see Johnny Depp in ghoulish form, we’re even more taken with a supporting cast that ranges from Michelle Pfeiffer to Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, and Chloe Grace Moretz (not forgetting Alice Cooper as himself). Look for this one May 11.
Also not a remake, nor a sequel (so he says), Ridley Scott’s Prometheus takes place in the same universe as Alien, but in a different mindset. We shall see. Cowriter Damon Lindelof comes from Lost, as well as the Star Trek remake and (ahem) Cowboys And Aliens, so it seems fair to say this one could go either way. At least it’s not based on a board game.
There are a few spots of originality, if you look hard enough. I’m not optimistic about Pixar’s latest, Brave (Aug 17) judging by the unfunny and clichéd trailer, but this Celtic fable might yet turn out to be a worthy response to How to Train Your Dragon and The Secret Of Kells.
The 70s headbanger musical Rock Of Ages is the great unknown of the season… It’s aiming at a more populist Cameron Crowe or even Paul Thomas Anderson vibe; we’ll have to wait til June 15 to see if former choreographer Adam Shankman can pull it off. Mary J Blige as Justice Charlier, anyone? Or Malin Ackerman as Constance Sack? On the other hand, Bryan Cranston, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand do give reason for hope, and who doesn’t want to see Tom Cruise as one Stacee Jaxx?
Neither Snow White and The Huntsman (June 1) nor Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Aug 2) seem likely contenders for the box office crown, but at least they’re curios and for that we wish them well.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest, The Dictator (May 18) boasts the funniest trailer of the year to date, and the most outrageous premise. But my own prediction for the biggest box office of the summer has to be Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), aka Batman 3, and as close to a foregone conclusion as you can get. There’s every reason to expect the climax to the series to match the excellence of the preceding entries, and while I have no doubt that Warner Bros will soon be searching for a new angle on the caped crusader, we can also anticipate that Nolan will move on to something new and equally exciting, which is what the blockbuster season really needs.
Marvel Avengers Assemble - April 26
Dark Shadows - May 11
The Dictator - May 18
Men in Black 3 - May 25
Prometheus - June 1
Snow White and the Huntsman - June 1
Rock of Ages - June 15
The Amazing Spider-Man - July 4
The Dark Knight Rises - July 20
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Aug 2
Brave - Aug 17
Total Recall - Aug 22
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