The summer movie silly season is almost upon us, and has there ever been a year with so many established franchises making an appearance? Of the eleven films here, only two aren’t from returning series; there’s one second part, six thirds, a fourth, and a fifth. So will it be superheroes, pirates, young wizards, or maybe an aging cop who reigns supreme this year?
US Opening: May 4
Budget: $300 million (estimated)
The Upside: This one seems like a sure-fire hit, with the other big films wisely giving Spidey a couple of week’s breathing room. With no real competition around until the 18th and with the added draw that this may be the last in the series as director Sam Raimi eyes The Hobbit and Tobey Maguire remains uncommitted to further installments, this could be the biggest Spider-Man film yet.
The Downside: They may have over-egged the pudding by cramming in one too many villains, leaving no time for the characters to breathe. Added to that they’ve messed with Spidey’s origin, which may piss off the comic book geek contingent.
On the Money: I think this will be one of the top four films at the box office this summer, coming in somewhere between the first film's $822 million and Spider-Man 2’s $784 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $800 million.
Personal perspective: I’ve been a Spider-Man fan for almost as long as I’ve been able to read and the first two films captured the spirit of the comic almost perfectly. While I think it was a mistake to introduce Venom (they should have stuck with the classic villains) this is still top of my must see list this summer.
Shrek the Third
US Opening: May 18
The Upside: This would seem to be another winner, with Shrek 2 having banked almost twice as much as the first film worldwide but it faces stiff competition with the final part of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy opening the following week. Still it has more appeal for the younger end of the market than any of the other films here, and with the voice cast all back for more, plus the addition of Justin Timberlake, it’s hard to see this failing.
The Downside: We’ve seen everything from dancing penguins to a sabre-toothed squirrel in recent computer animated features and Shrek may be too familiar to get audiences excited anymore. Plus with Pirates opening hot on its heals this needs a big opening weekend.
On the Money: Shrek grossed $485 million, Shrek 2 grossed $921 million, so if the third film follows the same trend it should come it at about $1.5 billion. Somehow I can’t see that happening and while I think this will do well, I think it will fall well short of Shrek 2’s figure and finish behind Spider-Man 3. Predicted worldwide gross: 750 million.
Personal perspective: I’m looking forward to this, although I do think they are pushing it a little with a third film.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End
US Opening: May 25
Budget: $200 million (estimated)
The Upside: Arriving with the second film still fresh in everyone’s minds, this will definitely be the film to beat this summer. While the first two films left this viewer cold, there is no denying that the film struck a chord with audiences worldwide and with this third chapter bringing the story to a close I can see no way that Captain Jack won’t get the lion’s share of the spoils at the box office.
The Downside: Negative publicity about father-snorting rocker Keith Richards? No, I can’t really see anything stopping this one from box office supremacy.
On the Money: Curse of the Black Pearl $654 million, Dead Man’s Chest $1.07 billion, At World's End? Predicted worldwide gross: $950 million.
Personal perspective: I really don’t see what all the fuss is about. Bloom and Knightly are totally vapid and while Depp is great, it’s hard to imagine his performance alone accounting for the huge success of Dead Man’s Chest. I know this is going to be big, it’s the "why" that escapes me.
US Opening: June 8
The Upside: Clooney! Pitt! Damon! Three of Hollywood’s biggest stars are all back for this third entry and Al Pacino’s on hand as well to provide a little extra star power.
The Downside: No Julia Roberts (although for this writer that’s actually a plus) or Catherine Zeta-Jones this time round, with the female lead going to Ellen Barkin, who’s not exactly a box office draw. Add that to the generally held opinion that Ocean’s Twelve was, to put it bluntly, a bit crap, with takings down almost $90 million on the first film and you’ve got a recipe for one of the year's biggest disappointments.
On the Money: Eleven = $450 million, Twelve = $362 million Thirteen? Predicted worldwide gross: $430 million.
Personal perspective: I like the stars. I like the director. Yet I have absolutely no interest in seeing this film.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
US Opening: June 15
Budget: $130 million (estimated)
The Upside: Jessica Alba is hot. Not so much at the box office, with the first FF movie her biggest hit to date, but she is certainly easy on the eyes and her star is definitely on the rise, as is Chris Evans’. With a (slightly) bigger budget this promises to outdo the first film in the action stakes. It also features the Silver Surfer and Galactus and that should guarantee the fanboys turn out for it, although the latter is rumoured to only appear at the end of the film.
The Downside: Will audiences want to see another comic book inspired film so soon after Spider-Man 3? The first film did decent business ($330 million) but met with widespread critical disdain (although I rather enjoyed it).
On the Money: This could go either way depending on whether audiences are superheroed-out or thirsty for more. Predicted worldwide gross: $450 million.
Personal perspective: As you’ll have guessed from my Spider-Man comment, I’m a comic book junkie and even though the first film wasn’t perfect, it did capture the essence of the source material. Hopefully they'll build on that and we’ll get to see a third film.
Live Free or Die Hard
US Opening: June 27
The Upside: It’s Bruce Willis as John McClane; what more do you need?
The Downside: Will audiences want to see the fourth entry in a franchise that started before many of them were born? It’s been over ten years since we last saw John McClane, can Willis still cut it as an action hero? Is Underworld’s Len Wiseman up to the task of helming one of the year’s biggest films? So many questions.
On the Money: Previous installments in the series don’t really have much bearing on this as it’s been so long since we had a new Die Hard film, but for the record; Die Hard = $138 million, Die Hard 2: Die Harder = $239 million, Die Hard With a Vengeance = $361 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $350 million.
Personal perspective: I’m a little excited about this one, but only a little. The trailer has its moments but it also shows far too much CGI. Wiseman is definitely no McTiernan, but then neither is McTiernan these days.
US Opening: July 6
The Upside: Robots in disguise! Michael Bay making the kind of big dumb movie he was born for. Shia LaBeouf, currently as hot as Angelina Jolie in Tabasco-flavoured edible underwear after Disturbia, headlines. Plus it’s based on a much-loved animated series.
The Downside: It won’t stimulate your mind (but then who expects that from a summer blockbuster?) and audiences may have had their fill of big special effects extravaganzas. It also doesn’t have an established star with proven pulling power.
On the Money: If audiences have had enough of comic book heroes and the Fantastic Four flounder, this could pick up the slack On the other hand, if FF does well, this could pay the price. Predicted worldwide gross: $270 million.
Personal perspective: I’m not a Michael Bay fan, I’ve yet to see a film he’s directed that I can say wholeheartedly I’ve enjoyed. The trailer looks good, but you can say that about any of Bay’s films. But… BIG ROBOTS! The kid in me can’t wait for this one.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
US Opening: July 13
Budget: $150 million
The Upside: The most established franchise in the summer release schedule this would seem like another guaranteed hit.
The Downside: An untried director in David Yates, whose background is in British TV, a far cry from mega-budget Hollywood epics. Was the failure of Eragon last year a sign that audiences are tired of the epic fantasy genre? And is opening so late in the summer a wise move?
On the Money: Harry tends to do better as a Christmas movie; only Prisoner of Azkaban has been released in the summer months and it had the weakest showing at the box office of any of the Potter films. Sorcerer’s Stone = $976 million, Chamber of Secrets = $877 million, Prisoner of Azkaban = $790 million, Goblet of Fire = $892 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $730 million.
Personal perspective: I’m not a Harry Potter fan, not the books and not the films, so this isn’t high on my must-see list.
US Opening: July 27
Budget: $65 million
The Upside: Plenty of familiar faces (De Niro, Pfeiffer, O’Toole) and it’s based on another well-regarded fantasy novel, this time from the pen of Neil Gaiman.
The Downside: There may be plenty of familiar faces but no established bankable star. Director Matthew Vaughn’s only previous directorial experience was the British crime film Layer Cake, can he handle a special effects heavy film like Stardust?
On the Money: Coming so soon on the heals of Master Potter, it’s hard to see this doing the business. Predicted worldwide gross: $250 million.
Personal perspective: I hated Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake but I am a fan of Neil Gaiman so I’m willing to give him another chance. I also love The Princess Bride and the trailer suggests this will mine a similar vein which can’t be bad.
The Bourne Ultimatum
US Opening: August 3
The Upside: The third entry in the saga that pointed James Bond in the right direction. Matt Damon showed he had what it takes to be an action star in the first two films and this should offer more of the same with Supremacy director Paul Greengrass back as well. A less special effects heavy action movie may be just what movie-goers want after a summer full of explosions.
The Downside: Bourne may have shown Bond that gritty action was what audiences wanted, not silly gadgets, but last year Bond showed he’d learned his lesson in spades with Casino Royale ending up the fourth biggest film of the year. Will audiences still hunger for Bourne now that the granddaddy of spy movie franchises is back on track?
On the Money: Identity = $214 million, Supremacy = $288 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $300 million.
Personal perspective: Bourne turned me into a Matt Damon fan so I’m eager to see this although I thought the first film was the best so far, with Greengrass’ direction a little intrusive in Supremacy.
The Also-ran: Rush Hour 3
US Opening: August 10
Budget: $120 million (estimated)
The Upside:There isn't one.
The Downside: The biggest flop of the summer as audiences finally realise that Chris Tucker really is annoying, and even that nice Mr Chan can't compensate for his incessant squealing.
On the Money: Rush Hour – $244 million, Rush Hour 2 = $347 million. Predicted worldwide gross: $200 million.
So my predictions in order:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End $950 million
- Spider-Man 3 $800 million
- Shrek the Third $750 million
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix $730 million
- Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer $450 million
- Live Free or Die Hard $350 million
- The Bourne Ultimatum $300 million
- Transformers $270 million
- Stardust $250 million
- Ocean’s Thirteen $230 million
- Rush Hour 3 $200 million
Budget figures (where available) from IMDb.
Previous worldwide grosses are provided by Box Office Mojo and have been rounded up to the nearest million.