As the summer movie season draws to a close, we take a look at who did well and who didn’t, who will have sequels and who will get cut off (if not sent to movie jail for a spell), which were the sleeper hits and which were the megabombs.
If we the people continue to see these things at the rate we seem to be seeing them, we will be watching superhero movies until the sun cools.
The big news was, of course, “Wonder Woman.”
Easily the highest grossing film directed by a woman, ever, “WW”passed the $800 million mark worldwide, grossed $404 million domestically and was a commercial AND critical hit.
(The latter could not be said of other Warner Bros./DC Universe movies such as the disingenuous “Batman v Superman” and the incoherent “Suicide Squad.”)
A few studios seemed to share in the superhero bounty. Disney/Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” (a movie I probably underrated a bit) pulled $882 million worldwide and $389 million domestically; “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (which takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but was bankrolled by Sony) made $724 million worldwide and $314 million in the States.
As of a few days ago, if you looked at Boxoffice Mojo’s numbers for the summer season, the following could be found in this order
22. “The Dark Tower” Sony $41,604,378
23. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” STX $39,240,728
24. “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” WB $39,175,066
There they are, right in a row: three attempts to launch new franchises, three total bombs.
Reviews were not great for “The Dark Tower,” but there also seemed to be a misunderstanding -- the film wasn’t an adaptation of Stephen King’s famously long novel cycle but a continuation. Either way, folks stayed away in droves, and Hollywood continued to be incapable of launching Idris Elba, one of the most charismatic actors of his generation, into something with financial or critical teeth.
Luc Besson’s “Valerian” was a mess: overlong, with a staggeringly insipid script. I am ride or die for both “The Professional” and “The Fifth Element,” but the idea that this came from that guy is just rough. A case of being a little too close to the source material? Perhaps.
As for “King Arthur,” well, it has been a long while since the old man made a lot of money for anyone, and this was no exception -- so much for the five (!) more movies this was supposed to launch. That said, I know a few critics who enjoyed completely Guy Ritchie’s Guy-Ritchie-ization of the Arthur myth and recommend it highly to those devoted to a very certain type of junk.
There’s one more movie that may fit this bill, and that’s “The Mummy,” Universal’s attempt to reimagine their monsters (Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride, the Phantom of the Opera, the Invisible Man, whatever the Creature from the Black Lagoon’s mother calls him) in a so-called “Dark Universe.”
Now, $80 million is a disaster for a movie that cost $125 million, but it also grossed an additional $325 million overseas (i.e. countries that are not totally over Tom Cruise). So who knows what is going to happen with these things?
By which I mean “Dunkirk.”
Director Christopher Nolan’s decision to open his gorgeous, extremely loud Imax war picture in the middle of July rather than the autumnal awards season proved brilliant -- “Dunkirk” has clocked $166 million domestically and another $229 million overseas.
And, in a summer of white superheroes, “Girls Trip,” which starred four African-American women, ended up a legitimate smash, grossing $104 million domestically against a $19 million budget.
Also perhaps in this category: “Baby Driver,” which TriStar moved up to June after a strong premiere at South by Southwest. It’s made $101 milllion domestic against a $34 million budget.
After the “Minions” movie left audiences a little blank, “Despicable Me 3” won them back to the tune of $251 million domestic.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Zac Efron. A comedy reboot of one of the most popular TV action-dramas on the planet. And yet, it got clobbered by reviews and seemed to sink like a stone. So much for imitating the success of “21 Jump Street.”
We’ve already discussed “Guardians” and the integration of Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which will pay off in the next “Avengers” flick, shooting now).
But Disney also produced “Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” which has made $789 million worldwide, and “Cars 3,” which clocked a solid $148 million domestically.
Two movies feel on the bubble: “War for the Planet of the Apes” and “Alien: Covenant.”
At $141 million domestic, “War” did not do nearly as well as its immediate predecessor, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which made $208 million domestic. Does this mean the apes’ run is over? There are rumors of a fourth film, but only rumors. And the third one ends in a fairly definitive manner for at least one key figure.
As for “Alien: Covenant,” well, Ridley Scott’s attempt to reassert creative control over the “Alien” brand has met with mixed results. Reviews didn’t break the bank (it has a 71 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and it made only $74 million domestically against a $97 million budget (though it did make another $158 million overseas). Is it a bomb? In the States, yes.
Is it so bomb-like that the end is near? Maybe. Like “Apes,” this one sounds right on the edge of a plug-pull. But as we have seen before, you can’t keep a good xenomorph down.