Ant-Man and the Wasp Movie Review

Size matters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the decade old multi-billion franchise reached its most epic heights in Avengers: Infinity War. The only superhero who’s had their own stand-alone pic not to appear in that gargantuan production was Ant-Man, the character brought to life by Paul Rudd in the summer of 2015. Sequel AntMan and the Wasp follows a traditional Avengers tale like the original did. To say it feels smaller in scope is an understatement. Part one often failed to strike a satisfying mix and surprisingly struggled to make Rudd’s title character a memorable one. Whereas Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord were instantly iconic heroes, it didn’t work that way in AntMan. That’s despite its star’s well-known ability to mix comedy and drama and some nifty visuals that made the third act a treat.

Rarely do we find an MCU effort without parental issues involved and they’re here. Scott Lang/Ant-Man is nearing the end of a two-year house arrest bid based on the events from Captain America: Civil War. His former love interest Hope/heroine Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and science wiz dad Hank (Michael Douglas) are hiding out as well while conducting experiments to find their mom and wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). She’s been stuck for three decades in the quantum realm that Ant-Man briefly visited in the original. His experience there leads Hope and Hank to believe she’s alive and the search is on. The technology that leads to that mystical place is sought by a low life criminal (Walton Goggins) and his crew. The FBI is curious about it, including the main agent (Randall Park in amusing turn) tasked with monitoring Scott. And then there’s Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a molecular challenged young lady who has her own reasons to gain powers. She teams up with a former colleague of Hank’s played by Laurence Fishburne.

If you’re thinking that’s a lot of characters to follow, I haven’t even mentioned Scott’s returning daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson), ex-wife (Judy Greer), and current husband (Bobby Cannavale). There’s also his business partners and occasional fellow crime fighters including Michael Pena and T.I. So while there’s plenty of action to follow, the MCU knows how to make it easy to follow. Compared to Infinity War, the amount of subplots seems practically minuscule.

Wasp finds Rudd settling more comfortably in the role and more humorously. That’s an aspect that was oddly not around much in 2015. Finding Scott with Pfeiffer’s character in his head in one scene provides some genuine laughs. Like in the original, Mr. Douglas appears to be having a ball. He gets his own chance to save the day at one point while his counterparts are engaged in a visually impressive car chase in the streets of San Francisco. Lilly doesn’t just share title credit here. She does have more to do.

AntMan and the Wasp is an improvement over the first. That’s a trait shared by other MCU sequels, especially in the Captain America and Thor series. Peyton Reed returns as director and the whole production feels more confident. It also doesn’t have the burden of being an origin story… something we go through a lot with this constantly growing genre. Like many of its subjects, the importance of what happens in these two hours feels small compared to the grand scale of other stories in this universe. More so than in 2015, however, Ant-Man’s existence in it feels welcome.

*** (out of four)

Avengers: Infinity War Box Office Prediction

It may feel like winter in many parts of the country even though it’s spring, but next weekend is essentially the start of the summer box office in 2018 when Avengers: Infinity War invades theaters. This is the 19th picture in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that began a decade ago with 2008’s Iron Man and the third installment of the Avengers franchise that kicked off in 2012 (an untitled fourth installment is out next summer).

After 10 years of these superheroes populating our screens in one form or another, Infinity War is the picture that brings them all together. That means we have the Avengers we’re used to seeing together: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). They’ve got a whole lot of company this time around, including Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Bucky (Sebastian Stan), and the whole Guardians of the Galaxy gang (Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the vocal work of Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel). Josh Brolin is main villain Thanos. Other actors from the MCU returning include Gwyneth Paltrow, Idris Elba, Paul Bettany, Letitia Wright, Danai Gurira, Benicio del Toro, Cobie Smulders, Angela Bassett, Tessa Thompson, and Jon Favreau. Brothers Anthony and Joe Russo (who directed 2016’s Captain America: Civil War) are behind the camera. Whew…

The gathering of the entire MCU is one impressive selling point and there’s been developments that have even increased the anticipation for Infinity‘s release. Last summer’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was well-received, as were Guardians and Thor sequels. Yet perhaps more than anything else, this February’s Black Panther turned into a phenomenon – becoming the third highest grossing domestic earner of all time.

Projections have steadily increased in the past few weeks. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Infinity War could have the largest stateside opening of all time. In order to do so, it would need to surpass the $247 million achieved by 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. To accomplish the 2nd biggest debut, it would need to exceed the $220 million of last year’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It will almost certainly achieve the record for an MCU premiere, which is currently held by the original Avengers at $207 million.

I believe this will pass Jedi and rather easily. Getting to the Awakens number is doable, but I’ll project it falls a bit under that milestone.

Avengers: Infinity War opening weekend prediction: $240.2 million

 

Box Office Predictions: May 27-30

It’s Memorial Day weekend coming up at the summer box office with two high-profile sequels debuting – X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/18/x-men-apocalypse-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/18/alice-through-the-looking-glass-box-office-prediction/

I expect the Mutants to fairly easily top The Mad Hatter, with Apocalypse just edging the century mark for its four-day holiday frame with Looking Glass getting to the mid-60s. That would mean both entries would come in below what their predecessors managed in 2014 and 2010, respectively.

As for holdovers, The Angry Birds Movie should slide to third after a robust 1st place debut (more on that below) with Captain America: Civil War and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (which struggled this last weekend) rounding out the top five.

And with that, my top 5 predictions for the Memorial Day frame which encapsulates my three and four-day forecasts:

  1. X-Men: Apocalypse

Predicted Gross: $82.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $100.4 million (Friday to Monday)

2. Alice Through the Looking Glass

Predicted Gross: $53.6 million (Friday to Sunday), $67.7 million (Friday to Monday)

3. The Angry Birds Movie

Predicted Gross: $20.4 million (Friday to Sunday), $24.5 million (Friday to Monday)

4. Captain America: Civil War

Predicted Gross: $18.1 million (Friday to Sunday), $22.2 million (Friday to Monday)

5. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Predicted Gross: $10.4 million (Friday to Sunday), $12.2 million (Friday to Monday)

Box Office Results (May 20-22)

The first feature film based on an app nabbed the #1 spot as The Angry Birds Movie soared to a $38.1 million opening, a bit above my $34.5M projection. This was on the higher end of expectations for the animated pic.

After two weeks on top, Captain America: Civil War slipped to second with $32.9 million, just under my $35.1M forecast for a three-week total of $347M.

The news was not good for Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and company as Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising grossed an unimpressive $21.7 million for third. I went way over with $38.2M, which I should predicted for those ill-tempered birds. Considering the original made $49M out of the gate, we can safely assume Neighbors 3 won’t happen. This continues a recent trend of comedy sequels (think: Horrible Bosses, Zoolander) under performing.

Despite mostly glowing reviews, The Nice Guys with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling finished fourth with $11.2 million in its opening, under my $14.4M prediction.

The Jungle Book rounded out the top five with $10.9 million and I predicted… $10.9M! Yay! Almost makes up for the Neighbors thing, but not really…

And there you have it, folks! Until next time…

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand in often thrilling and impressive ways in Captain America: Civil War, which is by all intents and purposes a third Avengers pic where Hulk and Thor are apparently on a well-deserved vacation. It walks the tightrope of introducing new characters and finding new dynamics for the old ones without seeming gimmicky or overloading the audience with all its activity. To that end, director Joel and Anthony Russo are to be commended for mostly succeeding in this latest effort where our heroes are often unmasked and sometimes emasculated.

Civil War presents a chasm in the MCU that centers on Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) aka The Winter Solider from this trilogy’s slightly better second movie. His history with Captain America (Chris Evans) garners understandable sympathy from our title character. That isn’t the case with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) when it appears Bucky may be responsible for an attack on the United Nations.

There’s also the question of whether The Avengers actions across the globe are worth the collateral damage that sometimes comes with it. The U.S. government proposes to put some serious checks on their powers. Tony agrees. Cap does not. And the rest of the crew (minus Hulk/Thor sipping Mai tai’s somewhere) must choose which side to join. This include Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (who comes out retirement from his boring home life Age of Ultron subplot), Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, Don Cheadle’s War Machine, and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch. We also have Paul Rudd in the mix less than a year after his debut in Ant-Man, which was the other underwhelming MCU summer 2015 experience (along with Ultron). And then there’s the two newbies introduced who will soon have their own stand-alone features: Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Spidey is good for some solid one-liners and I enjoyed Holland’s take on Peter Parker. This budding franchise should hopefully eclipse what we saw the last time around with Andrew Garfield and company. That said, I actually found Black Panther’s plot line to be a bit more interesting here and I equally anticipate that solo pic.

Civil War also continues the tradition of rather forgettable central villains, with the exception of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Here it’s Daniel Bruhl as Zemo, whose motives are murky for most of the running time and who stands as just another baddie in a world where the heroes are the focal point. This entry isn’t really about a main villain, however. Rather it’s about deciding if you’re on Team Cap or Team Iron Man and the screenplay is smartly written enough that the answer isn’t automatic.

The MCU continues to build on itself and this one does so in the most entertaining way since Winter Soldier. By the time we get to the final Avengers pictures, Hulk and Thor will return. Guardians of Galaxies will be in the mix. And with the Mouse Factory behind this with their extensive array of characters, who knows who else we shall see? Will Rey and Finn cross star systems to appear? Which team will Mowgli align with? Will Kermit and Miss Piggy agree to follow Cap or Tony or split? As long as it’s satisfying like Civil War, I’m still curious to find out.

*** (out of four)

Captain America: Civil War Box Office Prediction

Summer 2016 kicks off in grand Disney/Marvel fashion when Captain America: Civil War debuts next Friday. It is the first weekend of May’s only wide release, as no other studio would dare try counter programming against this surefire juggernaut. This is the third entry in the Captain America franchise, but it is essentially a third Avengers feature as Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Don Cheadle’s War Machine, Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch, and the debuts of Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man all join Chris Evans’ Cap for this extravaganza. Sebastian Shaw, William Hurt, and Daniel Bruhl also appear. Essentially, only Thor and Hulk are missing here.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a multi-billion dollar bonanza for Disney and Marvel Studios. This 13th picture in the MCU has been greeted with terrific buzz and trailers and its critical response stands at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics have gone as far to call it the best MCU movie thus far and this has led to expectations for its opening being understandably sky-high.

How high are we talking? Civil War seems primed to have at least the fifth largest domestic debut of all time. To do so, it would need to top Iron Man 3 and its $174 million opening and $175M seems to be on the lower end of expectations. The current #4 record belongs to summer 2015’s first flick, Avengers: Age of Ultron, which made $191 million. #3 is the original Avengers at $207 million with last summer’s Jurassic World second at $208 million.

The only record I don’t see this competing for is the big daddy – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which earned $247 million in December. I believe Civil War, with buzz hotter than Ultron, will manage have a larger start and I really wouldn’t be surprised if it does indeed top $200 million. I’m going to peg it at just below what 2012’s Avengers accomplished to make it the second largest MCU debut and fourth highest all-time opening.

Captain America: Civil War opening weekend prediction: $205.6 million

 

The Superhero Movie Onslaught

From the release of Guardians of the Galaxy in August until the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron in May 2015, there will be nine months that pass between superhero/comic book based pictures. Starting next year and especially in 2016 and beyond, that’s going to change.

It’s almost hard to believe, but there are currently 30 – yes, 30 – superhero pics scheduled to debut between 2015 and 2020. Some – though likely not many at all – could fall to the wayside. And certainly more could be added to the calendar over the next six years.

Today, Marvel Studios announced “Phase 3” of their slate of films scheduled to be released until 2019 – culminating with the third and fourth Avengers pictures. Besides the Disney/Marvel releases, Warner Bros. and Fox have their own ambitious slates.

The 21st century has been absolutely dominated by the comic book adaptation in movie world. It started in 2000 with X-Men and has continued with the Dark Knight franchise, The Avengers, Guardians, two Superman reboots, two Spider-Man franchises, and various stand-alone features and their sequels and reboots focused on Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Daredevil, Hellboy, and others. And it’s only accelerating.

This is going to be tough to keep all these Iron Men, Guardians, Caped Crusaders, and newbies like Ant-Man, Wonder Woman, and Doctor Strange straight, so this movie blogger is providing you a handy guide for all of them coming out over the next few years – in order of currently scheduled release.

Here we go:

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Release Date: May 1, 2015

Joss Whedon returns to direct as Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Black Widow all return in the sequel to the #3 highest grossing film of all time. This will almost surely set a new record for all-time opening weekend, therefore defeating its predecessor.

Ant-Man

Release Date: July 17, 2015

Paul Rudd takes on the role of the title character with Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly costarring. Expect Ant-Man to find his way into later Disney/Marvel projects, possibly including later Avengers sequels.

The Fantastic Four

Released Date: August 7, 2015

After two successful but critically panned Fantastic Four pics earlier this century, director Josh Trank (Chronicle) takes over the reins of a budding new franchise for 20th Century Fox. The cast includes Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic, Kate Mara as the Invisible Woman, Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch, and Jamie Bell as The Thing.

Deadpool

Release Date: February 12, 2016

A spinoff of the X-Men series, Ryan Reynolds is likely to play the character (he played him in the poorly received original 2009 Wolverine stand-alone flick).

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Released Date: March 25, 2016

Man of Steel director Zack Snyder returns with Henry Cavill’s Superman battling Ben Affleck’s Batman. Gal Gadot will make her debut as Wonder Woman before a later stand-alone pic and Jesse Eisenberg joins the mix as Lex Luthor.

Captain America: Civil War

Release Date: May 6, 2016

The third America flick will feature a prominent role for Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man with The Winter Soldier‘s Anthony and Joe Russo returning to direct.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Release Date: May 27, 2016

Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer is back (he also directed the first two installments of the original trilogy) as is the cast from 2011’s First Class, including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence.

Suicide Squad

Release Date: August 5, 2016

This team of DC villains will be incorporated in the Warner Bros. movie universe that will eventually lead to the Justice League pics. Jesse Eisenberg is rumored to appear in this as well in his Lex Luthor role. David Ayer, director of Fury, is behind the camera.

Doctor Strange

Release Date: November 4, 2016

Sinister director Scott Derickson helms the adaptation of the Marvel comic with Benedict Cumberbatch just having signed to play the title character after negotiations with Joaquin Phoenix stalled.

Sinister Six

Release Date: November 11, 2016

A spin-off of the current Spider-Man franchise, this will focus on supervillains in the Spidey universe, reportedly including Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Rhino. Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard is on board.

Venom

Release Date: 2017

A stand-alone pic for the Spidey villain, it’s uncertain at this point whether Sony Pictures ends up going forward with this one.

Untitled Wolverine Picture

Release Date: March 3, 2017

The third stand-alone Wolverine flick will have Hugh Jackman clawing his way on screen and James Mangold, who directed 2013’s The Wolverine, returning.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Release Date: May 5, 2017

Star Lord and company are back with James Gunn back in the director’s chair. The original from this summer grossed an astonishing $752 million worldwide (at press time).

Wonder Woman

Release Date: June 23, 2017

It’s about time a woman headlined one of these things! Gal Gadot will star after appearing as the title character in Batman v. Superman. No director attached at press time.

The Fantastic Four 2

Release Date: July 14, 2017

Fox is confident as they’ve scheduled this to follow-up summer 2015’s release.

Thor: Ragnorak

Release Date: July 28, 2017

The third entry in the franchise, Chris Hemsworth will reprise his role in between Avengers filming duties. No director attached yet.

Black Panther

Release Date: November 3, 2017

Disney/Marvel gives their first headlining feature to an African-American superhero. 42 and Get On Up star Chadwick Boseman was cast as the Panther today. The character will reportedly first appear in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

Justice League Part One

Release Date: November 17, 2017

Essentially Warner Bros. version of Avengers, expect to see Cavill’s Superman, Affleck’s Batman, Gadot’s Wonder Woman, and likely Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg in the mix. Zack Snyder will direct.

The Amazing Spider-Man 3

Release Date: 2018

No specific release date yet, other than sometime in 2018 and you have to wonder. Each Spidey flick has grossed less than its predecessor and this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a commercial and critical letdown. It’s not known for sure yet, but Andrew Garfield is likely to return as the title character.

The Flash

Release Date: March 23, 2018

After a probable debut in Justice League, The Flash gets his own stand-alone pic with Ezra Miller in the title role.

Avengers: Infinity War, Part 1

Release Date: May 4, 2018

This is where the Marvel universe is likely to go bananas – with rumors of your typical Avengers (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk) possibly mixing it up with Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, among others. This is gonna be huge.

Captain Marvel

Release Date: July 6, 2018

Details are scarce, but this will be Disney/Marvel Studios first stand-alone featuring a title character who is a female. Expect an A list actress to join at some point.

Untitled Fox Marvel Movie

Release Date: July 13, 2018

Once again – details are very scarce. However, there are rumors that this could be Fox’s “Avengers” type pic, incorporating the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and Deadpool.

Aquaman

Release Date: July 27, 2018

After an expected debut in Justice League, “Games of Thrones” star Jason Momoa will portray the title character.

Inhumans

Release Date: November 2, 2018

Marvel/Disney will attempt and almost assuredly succeed with this development of a new Guardians/Avengers type franchise. Director/actor announcements will come later.

Shazam

Release Date: April 5, 2019

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will play the title character in this DC Comic adaptation.

Avengers: Infinity Wars, Part 2

Release Date: May 3, 2019

The continuation of the previous summer’s Marvel blowout – don’t be surprised if this marks the final appearances of Downey Jr’s Iron Man, Chris Evans’s Captain America, and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. This will be the end of Phase 3 for Disney/Marvel and we’ll have to wait and see what Phase 4 brings.

Justice League, Part 2

Release Date: June 13, 2019

The Batman/Superman/Green Lantern/Flash/Wonder Woman/Aquaman saga rolls on…

Cyborg

Release Date: April 3, 2020

Originating from DC, Warner Bros. will adapt this character with Ray Fisher in the title role. It’s rumored he’ll begin his appearances beginning with 2016’s Batman v. Superman and later Justice League flicks.

Green Lantern

Release Date: June 19, 2020

There was a badly received version starring Ryan Reynolds in 2011. Expect Warner Bros. to ignore that flick while reintroducing the character in Justice League prior to this stand-alone.

And there you have it – that’s a whole lotta superhero action scheduled to come your way over the rest of this decade.

Box Office Predictions: May 2-4

This weekend the summer 2014 movie season officially gets underway and it’s mega-sequel The Amazing Spider-Man 2 leading the charge. You can read my detailed prediction post on its prospects here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/04/27/the-amazing-spider-man-2-box-office-prediction/

Week after week, we will see huge profile releases after another. As for weekend #1, Spidey should easily out gross the rest of the top five combined and then some. As for spring holdovers, I look for last weekend’s 1-4 (The Other Woman, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Heaven Is for Real, Rio 2) to all drop in the high 30s-mid 40s range.

And with that, my estimates for the weekend’s top five:

1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Predicted Gross: $90.1 million

2. The Other Woman

Predicted Gross: $14.3 million (representing a drop of 42%)

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Predicted Gross: $9 million (representing a drop of 44%)

4. Heaven Is for Real

Predicted Gross: $8.5 million (representing a drop of 41%)

5. Rio 2

Predicted Gross: $8.3 million (representing a drop of 39%)

Box Office Results (April 25-27)

As for the final weekend of spring, The Other Woman with Cameron Diaz debuted very solidly with $24.7 million, outshining my $18.1M estimate. The rom com clearly hit with its female target audience.

Holdovers occupied slots 2-4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier took second with $16.2 in its fourth weekend, above my $14.3M prediction. Heaven Is for Real held up well in its second weekend for third with $14.3 million, topping my $13M projection. Rio 2 was fourth with $13.8 million, just below my $14.5M prediction.

The Paul Walker action pic Brick Mansions opened in fifth with a weak $9.5 million – not reaching my $12.3M estimate. And the horror flick The Quiet Ones absolutely tanked with only $3.8 million for a seventh place showing, well below my generous $9.4M guess.

That’s all for now! I’ll be back soon as we see just how well Spidey does!

Box Office Predictions: April 25-27

This is the final weekend of the movie calendar before the May onslaught of potential summer blockbusters arrive, including The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Maleficent. On Friday, we’ll see a trio of new titles debut: the rom com The Other Woman, action thriller Brick Mansions, and horror flick The Quiet Ones. You can find my detailed prediction posts on each here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/04/21/the-other-woman-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/04/21/brick-mansions-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/04/21/the-quiet-ones-box-office-prediction/

As for holdovers, I’m expecting drops in the mid 30s-40s for last weekend’s champ Captain America: The Winter Soldier and runners-up Heaven Is for Real and Rio 2. If that is indeed the case, it could mean fifth and sixth place debuts for Brick Mansions and The Quiet Ones, unless they perform better than expected. I believe The Other Woman should generate enough business to be #1, though if it disappoints it could open the door for a fourth weekend at the top spot for Captain America or possibly a rise to #1 for Rio 2. And with that, my top six predictions for the weekend:

1. The Other Woman

Predicted Gross: $18.1 million

2. Rio 2

Predicted Gross: $14.5 million (representing a drop of 34%)

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Predicted Gross: $14.3 million (representing a drop of 44%)

4. Heaven Is for Real

Predicted Gross: $13 million (representing a drop of 42%)

5. Brick Mansions

Predicted Gross: $12.3 million

6. The Quiet Ones

Predicted Gross: $9.4 million

Box Office Results (April 18-20)

Well… when you mess up, I guess do it big time and, boy, did I ever with Transcendence, the Johnny Depp sci fi thriller. It absolutely tanked at the box office with a terrible $10.8 million fourth place opening. My prediction? $30.8 million. Ouch. This is yet another flop for Depp after disappointments like Dark Shadows and The Lone Ranger. Poor reviews and a weak marketing campaign hurt it and I mistakenly believed Depp’s name would lead it to a respectable opening. Far from it.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier managed a three-peat at #1 over Easter Weekend with $25.5 million, holding better than my $18.9 million. Another surprise besides the Transcendence disaster was the fantastic start for the faith-based Heaven Is for Real. The pic grossed $22.5 million for the three day weekend and $29.5 million from its five day Wednesday start, trumping my respective predictions of $17.5M and $24.8M. This spring has been a great one for Christian themed pictures, including Son of God, God’s Not Dead, and Noah. #3 went to Rio 2 in its sophomore frame with $22.1 million, a bit under my $25.9M projection.

Two more weak debuts marked the weekend – the horror sequel A Haunted House 2 flopped with $8.8 million for fifth place, below my $10.6M projection. Disney’s nature doc Bears failed to bring in an audience with a meager $4.7 million for tenth place. I predicted $8.8 million.

I’ll try to do better next time, my blog reading friends!

The Superhero Sequel: A History

Currently at the multiplex, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is reigning supreme with its record-setting April debut of $95 million. This Marvel production is the just the latest example of an interesting and rare phenomenon – sequels that are considered superior to their predecessors.

However, if you take a close look at the superhero genre – it really isn’t a rare thing. In fact, one could argue it’s the only film genre in which sequels are very often considered improvements on the original. This doesn’t hold true for comedies or horror pics or action flicks. The explosion of comic book related titles (especially in the 21st century) has produced multiple examples of this.

Before we get there, let’s take a look back. In the late 70s, Superman was a massive hit and its 1980 sequel was generally considered a worthy follow-up that wasn’t quite its equal. The same holds true for the big comic book film character of the late 80s with Batman and its 1992 sequel Batman Returns. With both of those franchises – their third and fourth entries were considered highly disappointing.

This dynamic would shift in the 21st century. When X-Men jumpstarted the genre once again in 2000, it was well-received by critics and audiences and yet its follow-up X2: X-Men United earned even greater acclaim.

We would see this happen yet again when Spider-Man 2 improved upon Spider-Man.

And yet again when The Dark Knight became a beloved global hit with most believing it reached greater heights than Batman Begins.

Marvel Studios has seen this happen with both the current Captain America sequel and Thor: The Dark World from last year. And we’ll see if their trend continues with next year’s Avengers follow-up.

As you can see, it’s usually more the rule than exception that superhero sequels are thought of as bettering film #1. You could put Blade II and Hellboy: The Golden Army in there as well, according to many moviegoers.

Having said that, it doesn’t always hold true. You would be hard pressed to find many people who believe Iron Man 2 was a better experience than the 2008 original. And while second pictures have had lots of luck, third installments in the 21st century are a different story. Spider-Man 3, X-Men: The Last Stand, and (to a lesser degree) The Dark Knight Rises were all considered letdowns. The exception is Iron Man 3, considered an upgrade over #2.

Of course, there are sequels in film history outside of the superhero genre that this applies to with The Empire Strikes Back being an obvious example. Others that come up in the conversation: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (though I would disagree), The Road Warrior, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

As far this blog post’s focus, we’ll be seeing more examples of superhero sequels within weeks with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the buzz of which already indicates it’s more solid than the original. And there’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which will try to top X-Men: First Class. We will see if the usual third entry letdown occurs with Captain America and Thor follow-ups in the next couple of years.

One thing is clear – when it comes to comic book pics – the first issue isn’t always the most memorable.

Box Office Predictions: April 11-13

A trio of new films open this weekend against the second weekend of the massive Marvel hit Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They are the animated sequel Rio 2, horror pic Oculus, and sports themed comedy/drama Draft Day. You can find my detailed individual prediction posts on each of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/04/06/rio-2-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/04/06/draft-day-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2014/04/06/oculus-box-office-prediction/

There is no question that Rio 2 stands the greatest chance at taking the top spot over Captain. However, while I believe it should be a close race, I think Steve Rogers and company will maintain their #1 ranking. As for Draft Day and Oculus, there are some box office prognosticators who have each opening higher than my estimates, but I’m predicting they’ll both post lackluster results. Darren Aronofksy’s Noah should round out the top five in weekend #3.

And with that, my predictions for the weekend’s top five:

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Predicted Gross: $45.3 million (representing a drop of 52%)

2. Rio 2

Predicted Gross: $41.7 million

3. Draft Day

Predicted Gross: $13.2 million

4. Oculus

Predicted Gross: $11 million

5. Noah

Predicted Gross: $7.4 million (representing a drop of 56%)

Box Office Results (April 4-6)

As mentioned, Captain America: The Winter Soldier got off to a fantastic debut with $95 million, surpassing my $86.3M projection. This represents the best April opening of all time, beating out Fast Five from three years back. The opening continues the trend of Marvel Studios entries opening higher than their predecessors post Avengers.

In weekend number two, Noah fell a bit further than I figured with $17 million, below my $19.6M estimate. With a precipitous 61% fall, the mediocre word of mouth clearly affected the epic in its sophomore frame. Taking third in weekend #3 was Divergent with $12.9 million, right on track with my $12.8M prediction. I incorrectly had the Christian themed hit God’s Not Dead out of the top six, but it dipped only 12% for a fourth place showing at $7.7 million. Muppets Most Wanted was fifth with $6.2 million, slightly below my $7.1M estimate. Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel was sixth with $6.1 million. My prediction? $6.1 million! Gold star! Finally, Mr. Peabody and Sherman was seventh with $5.1 million, under my $6.3M projection.

That’s all for now, readers! Be sure to check back Monday to see how smart or not smart I am!