Fantastic Four – good potential ruined by in-fighting and bad press


Hosted by imgur.com

Fox’s much maligned Fantastic Four reboot turned out to be better than expected when I watched it earlier this week. It had received horrible reviews (Metacritic score of only 27) and has made less at the US box office in 42 days of release than the first Fantastic Four made in its opening weekend in 2005! Even worse, its release was preceded by rumors of in-fighting between young director Josh Trank and Fox studio execs, culminating in Trank dissing his own movie on social media just before the release.

It is believed that Trank turned in a dark, character-driven film, while the studio was looking for a special effects summer blockbuster, which would kick-start a new franchise. Why this was not sorted out at the script and design stage is anyone’s guess. The studio then stepped in and reshot the 3rd act to introduce some action spectacle into the film. The last time a studio reshot a 3rd act, it was for World War Z; Paramount replaced a conventional action climax with a tense, creepy, claustrophobic ‘heist-type’ sequence – it transformed the film and they had a blockbuster on their hands. Pity Fox went the other way.

I had already decided to hate the film because of the casting. I couldn’t accept that the forty-something scientist Dr. Reed Richards was being played by 28-year-old baby-faced Miles Teller who had been playing teenagers and young adults for the past two years. I couldn’t understand why the brother-sister duo of Johnny and Sue Storm were now not biologically related, with Johnny Storm being played by African-American actor Michael B. Jordan. Both Teller and Jordan are immensely talented actors, but why bring a beloved decades-old established property to the big screen and then change everything that is familiar and beloved about it?

When I started watching the film, the opening act only served to confirm my misgivings. It is very difficult to believe that a kid (young Reed Richards), no matter how brilliant, can build a prototype teleporter in his garage, with materials scrounged from a junk yard. This opening act was cute in a Steven Spielberg coming-of-age movie type of way, but just didn’t feel technologically plausible. And real-world plausibility has always been the bedrock of the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In any case, at the end of the first act, a teenage Richards is ‘discovered’ at a high school science fair by Professor Franklin Storm and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) and invited to join the secretive government-funded Baxter Foundation for young scientific prodigies. Professor Storm is supervising is a teleportation project and he realizes that Richards has figured out the missing link in the technology to make it work. Prof. Storm convinces the brilliant but brooding originator of the project, Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbel), to rejoin the team now that they are on the path to success.

We now enter the 2nd act of the film and this is where I feel everything clicks into place, playing out like a realistic science fiction thriller. The first unmanned test of the teleporter is successful as it beams back images from a world in another dimension, named ‘Planet Zero’. The young team’s celebrations turn to disappointment when they hear that the government will run the manned mission with trained NASA astronauts (and rightly so!).

In short order, the youngsters have defied orders and have launched themselves on an unauthorized teleportation trip to Planet Zero, which needless to say ends with unexpected consequences. In the entire 106 minute runtime of the movie, these are the moments that filled me with real dread and terror. For these people to return to consciousness and find themselves strapped down in a dark room, to discover what has happened to their bodies, the sense of confusion, fear and helplessness – all of it comes through the sounds and images on the screen. None more so than poor Ben Grimm; dragged along at the last minute by his childhood friend Reed Richards on this wild ride, he wakes up unable to understand what has happened to him. His pitiful and unending cries for help wake up Richards in the next room and he sees his own elongated limbs strapped down under restraints; he realizes he can stretch his way out his bonds and then drags himself through the air-conditioner grating to the source of Ben’s cries; all of this experienced by the viewer in real-time. The dark corridors and containment facilities really add to the sense of Poe-esque horror.

Now, we enter the 3rd act and this is where it kind of falls apart. The youngsters are at the mercy of the government, who want to use them as military assets, while offering them the carrot of continued funding and research to reverse their ‘maladies’. Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm agree willingly and Sue Storm less so; Reed escapes and is in hiding. But because no superhero film is complete without a showdown of heroes vs. arch villain, the script conspires to create a battle between a transformed and deranged Victor von Doom and the Fantastic Four on Planet Zero. Von Doom has created something similar to the World Engine from Man of Steel, which threatens to destroy Earth. The Four have to stop him. Frankly, I couldn’t be bothered with the generic CGI action in the last 15 minutes and quickly fast-forwarded my VLC player.

At the end, I was left wondering what the movie would have looked like had Josh Trank had been allowed to bring his vision to the screen, unaltered. I have read stories of his strange behavior on-set and no doubt that a more socially skilled director might have convinced the powers-that-be to believe in him. After the campy versions produced by Fox in 2005, I couldn’t have imagined that someone could tell the same story so differently. But at the end of the day, the movie had a split personality and it seemed to come from two different directors. The airbrushed posters were another travesty and completely out of sync with the tone of the movie.

I imagine that the chances of a sequel are virtually nil and I am not sure where the studio will go from here, because in order to retain the rights to the characters, they have to make another movie by 2017, I think. That is unlikely. I don’t think another reboot will work, as paying audiences may not have the patience to watch a third origin story for the quartet. The other option is to go the Sony/ Spider-Man route and collaborate with Marvel to co-produce the next movie and build in a cross-over appearance with other Marvel movies; that would require Fox to swallow some humble pie, which doesn’t go down very well in Hollywood, as we know.

Safe to say that Trank will be persona-non-grata in Hollywood for a while; he has already lost his directing gig on a future Star Wars movie with Disney (the owner of Marvel). All one is left thinking at the end of the movie is of what might have been.

Advertisements

Why some film makers ‘lose it’ – Hubris or Exhaustion?


Hosted by imgur.com

This weekend I read a couple of articles related to M. Night Shyamalan and Cameron Crowe, two of my favourite film makers from the late 1990s/ early 2000s. Shyamalan has finally found some mild success with his new TV show Wayward Pines after several years in the Hollywood wilderness with a string of critical and commercial flops. Cameron Crowe I think is still in the wilderness with his latest film Aloha opening this weekend to scathing reviews and tepid box office numbers.

Shyamalan released The Sixth Sense when he was 29 and was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay Oscar. He had also written the screenplay for much beloved Stuart Little the same year. He then released the widely praised superhero origin movie Unbreakable before hitting even bigger box office heights with the alien invasion thriller Signs. Around this time, Newsweek ran a cover story referred to him as ‘the next Spielberg’. Indeed, like Spielberg and a few other celebrity directors, studios could market a film on his name alone, as they did with subsequent releases like The Village and Lady in the Water. Things went steadily downhill and for his last film After Earth in 2013, the studio famously left Shyamalan’s name off the marketing material.

At the tender age of 22, Cameron Crowe made his mark in Hollywood when his book Fast Times at Ridgemont High was adapted into a sleeper hit film that kick-started the careers of actors like Nic Cage, Sean Penn and Forest Whitaker. Ten years later, he directed his first film, the rom-com Say Anything followed by another rom com Singles, set during the Seattle grunge scene. Both were very well received and were relatively profitable given their low budgets. Crowe then hit the big time with two back-to-back studio films, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. The latter was based on his own experiences as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine in the 70s…can you imagine in today’s world a 16-year-old being officially commissioned by a respected industry magazine to go on the road with a mega rock band like Allman Brothers, surrounded by road crew, groupies and who knows what else? He was nominated for Best Screenplay for both these films and won for Almost Famous. Then what? Vanilla Sky, an adaptation of the Spanish thriller Abre los Ojos came across as nothing more than an emotion-less vehicle for Tom Cruise, probably known more for its elaborate shot featuring Cruise running through a deserted Times Square. Subsequent films Elizabethtown, We Bought a Zoo and now Aloha have brought in steadily diminishing returns.

Both these film makers are great writers and storytellers, established their credentials with original material (something that critics are constantly crying out for in Hollywood) and yet, just when they seemed to be reaching their peak, something happens and now they can do nothing right. Is it hubris? Quite likely that was the case with Shyamalan when he thought he could do no wrong after the Newsweek article and the global success of Signs. Is it creative exhaustion? Could be the case with Crowe; by the time he finished making Vanilla Sky, he had been writing, traveling and making films for 30 years and with an Oscar under his belt, he may have just run out of juice.

There are two similar cases from an earlier era – William Friedkin and George Lucas. Like Shyamalan, Friedkin was the director who could do no wrong, winning the Best Director Oscar for the French Connection and being nominated again or The Exorcist 2 years later. He then let it all go to his head and made the movie that ruined him – Sorcerer, an adaptation of the classic French thriller The Wages of Fear. His obsessiveness sent the film over budget and lost a lot of money for the studios. He became box office poison after that and was ‘reduced’ to becoming a director-for-hire, mainly for TV material. Ironically, the box office failure of Sorcerer was attributed to the unexpected success of another film released a few weeks earlier – Star Wars. We all know how George Lucas emerged as a hero of the 1970’s indie film scene, a true American auteur with two films THX 1138 and American Graffiti before changing the commercial landscape of Hollywood with Star Wars. He was double-nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Director Oscars for both American Graffiti and Star Wars. His creative streak continued with the rest of the Star Wars trilogy and the birth of Indiana Jones, but when he came back in his mid-50s to direct the new trilogy, it was clear that the creative force was spent. Who could blame him, considering the creative empire he had built in the past 30+ years.

For me, these stories highlight the two enemies of creativity – arrogance and exhaustion – and how it is so difficult to escape from both when working in the Hollywood studio system. I think about two other young film makers of today who appear to be in danger of falling into one or the other of these pits – Neill Blomkamp and Josh Trank. Blomkamp released the highly acclaimed short film Alive in Joburg at 27, which he then made into full length feature District 9 three years later for which he received an Oscar nom for Best Screenplay. His two subsequent films Elysium and Chappie have disappointed and we now wait with bated breath for his new take on the Alien franchise to see if he’s still got it. Josh Trank burst onto the scene at the age of 28 with the found footage superhero film Chronicle, but there are already disturbing rumours swirling around his upcoming 2nd film Fantastic Four and he’s been thrown out of the director’s chair of an upcoming Star Wars Anthology film. Hollywood will forgive you for making movies that no one wants to see or movies that are bad (there’s a difference between the two) but not for being a difficult person to work with; I think that’s pretty much the case in any industry, right?

It’s when reflecting on cases like these that one develops such overwhelming respect for the long-lived success stories, the ones who are able to maintain the steady level of commercially successful, critically acclaimed output year after year AND are considered desirable to work with by the movie making community. I’m talking about the likes of Steven Spielberg (first hit Jaws – 1975, latest hit Lincoln – 2012), Ron Howard (first hit Splash – 1984, latest hit Angels & Demons – 2009), Robert Zemeckis (first hit Romancing the Stone – 1984, latest hit Flight – 2012), Peter Jackson (first hit Heavenly Creatures – 1994, latest hit The Hobbit: BOTFA – 2014), Bryan Singer (first hit The Usual Suspects – 1995, latest hit X-Men: DOFP – 2014) and of course, my man James Cameron (first hit The Terminator – 1984, latest hit Avatar – 2009). All of them have survived ups and downs and continue to work on great new projects into their 3rd, 4th or even 5th decade in the business.

Summer 2015 movies to watch: 1 down, 10 to go!


Hosted by imgur.com

We kicked off the summer movie circus yesterday with Avengers: Age of Ultron which was everything the trailers promised it would be – more superheroes and more action, but also more layered, with some characters taking personal journeys down dark pathways. Bond-style, the action kicks off from the get-go with an exhilarating prologue set-piece and there were plenty of memorable moments right through the movie.

It’s a great start to the summer and there are another 10 movies in my must-watch list from now till mid-August:-

Furious 7 – Well the movie’s been out for a few weeks and is already a worldwide hit. What’s more, the reviews are pretty decent too (Metacritic average score of 67). Will have to catch this soon before it exits theatres. Hats off to horror maestro James Wan, who has directed this ‘emotional’ instalment of the long-running franchise. Eleven years ago, the Malaysian-born director created the micro-budget horror phenomenon Saw, then went on to direct one of the best-reviewed horror films in recent years, The Conjuring. Now, he has succeeded with a completely different genre and is currently rumored to be in the running to direct Warner Bros./DC Comics Aquaman!

Mad Max: Fury Road – This intense R-rated restart of the beloved post-apocalyptic franchise is at the top of my list. The first trailer was epic/ operatic and the final trailer which I caught a glimpse of as I entered the theatre today, tops the first one. From what I’ve seen, the star of this movie is director George Miller. Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult are all but unrecognizable. In terms of plot, it will be more of the same – brooding loner roams a blasted landscape and crosses paths with a bunch of loonies (see picture at the top of the article) who pay the price for not getting out of his way. Plenty of violence follows. This will not be for the weak-hearted. This is officially my most anticipated movie of the summer.

Tomorrowland – This PG-rated scifi entertainer from Disney is directed by one of my favorite directors, Brad Bird. The 58-year-old has made just 4 films before this – 3 animation classics (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille) and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the movie that gave the franchise a new lease of life and provided Tom Cruise with a rare hit in the past 10 years. The movie’s plot is a bit of a mystery, but the trailers are intriguing as is the casting combination of George Clooney and Britt Robertson (Angie McAlister from Under the Dome).

Entourage – I was a big fan of the TV series and although I skipped out after the 5th season, I remain invested in the lives and loves of the 4 friends who rose up from humble beginnings in Queens to the razzle and dazzle of Hollywood. The movie is directed by creator Doug Ellin and will see the return of all the familiar faces plus a revolving door of celebrities who will be playing themselves. It promises to be good fun and should make a nice little killing at the box office much like the Sex and the City film; I’m not so sure that this will play as well overseas as SATC though.

Jurassic World – The Mad Max franchise gets resurrected after a gap of 30 years and the same summer, the Jurassic Park franchise gets restarted after 14 years, this time helmed 29-year-old whiz kid director Colin Trevorrow. Back in 2001, Jurassic Park III suffered due to weak characters (William H. Macy, Tea Leoni and Alessandro Nivola…really?), but this time around we have Chris Pratt coming in hot off the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and Bryce Dallas Howard playing the greedy corporate maven. But the stars of the movie as usual, will be the dinosaurs – since T.Rex is now passé, we have the new genetically created Indominus Rex and a pack of Velociraptors that appear to be loyal to Chris Pratt! I am also expecting this movie to deliver the goods because the story comes from Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver who scripted the two highly acclaimed Planet of the Apes reboot movies and are currently working on James Cameron’s Avatar sequels.

Terminator: Genisys – This is clearly the summer for reviving dormant franchises. The last film in the series, Terminator Salvation was a critical and commercial disappointment (in my view, not much more could have been expected from a director like McG), in spite of having Christian Bale and then red-hot hunk Sam Worthington playing the leads. This time around, there’s a completely new team and the trailers indicate that the story is going to feature a time-travel story retcon, much in the way Star Trek Into Darkness rewrote the story of Khan. This is a risky approach, dangerously close to being a gimmick. Having said that, the trailers and the Entertainment Weekly cover story from January look very cool. I have a lot of respect for the actors – Jason Clark, Emilia Clarke (the dragon queen from Game of Thrones), Jai Courtney and of course, ‘Ahnuld’ is back! This version is directed by TV director Alan Taylor, who has previously done episodes of Game of Thrones.

Hosted by imgur.com

Ant-Man – Ah, what might have been if Edgar Wright had stayed on to direct this movie. No less than ‘His Marvelness’ Joss Whedon has said in a recent interview that “Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man was the best script that Marvel ever had’. But it was not meant to be. And now we have this version being released, directed by comedy helmer Peyton Reed, with a script co-written by lead actor and perpetual ‘on-screen loser’ Paul Rudd. I can only hope that Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige is the real man in the driver’s seat of this movie, as we all know how well he has shepherded the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) for the past few years. We’ve all been wondering when the big Marvel machine will fail. Let’s hope this isn’t the one. I actually like the trailer.

Fantastic Four – Here’s another iffy Marvel product, although this one comes from rival studio Fox, which continues to hold on to the rights to this Marvel property. I was excited that this reboot is being directed by 30-year-old Josh Trank who made the found-footage superhero film Chronicle a few years ago.  But then the cast was announced and I was felt they were either unappealing or miscast, particularly Miles Teller (one of my favourite young actors) in the role of Reed Richards. Then the trailer came out and my hopes fell further, because it doesn’t really show anything new that we have not seen in the 2005 origin story. Is Josh Trank the real thing or a flash-in-the-pan? Rival studio Disney (which owns Marvel) wants to know because Trank has been signed on to direct their 2nd Star Wars Anthology film due out in 2018.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – With writer-director Christopher McQuarrie in the hot seat this time, the M:I franchise keeps rolling on, nearly 20 years after it hit the big screen. The real driver is producer Tom Cruise, I think. McQuarrie directed Cruise in Jack Reacher which I very much enjoyed, but he is better known as the man who won an Oscar for the screenplay of The Usual Suspects. I also liked his writing on two other Tom Cruise films – Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow, although he has also written his share of flops, i.e. The Tourist and Jack the Giant Slayer. The trailer has Cruise doing his usual death-defying stunts – we’ve seen him hanging from trains and skyscrapers, now he’s holding on to a military transport plane for dear life. It certainly looks like this latest outing will continue to deliver a good mix of intrigue and thrills.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – British director Guy Ritchie went from being the darling of indie crime cinema with his debut film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels at the age of 30, to nearly becoming an also-ran who also happened to be the latest husband of Madonna, before redeeming himself with two sparkling large-screen interpretations of Sherlock Holmes, featuring that other comeback artist, Robert Downey Jr. He now turns his attention to a spy series from the ‘60s and hopes to do for it what Brian De Palma did for Mission: Impossible in 1996. On paper, the combination of Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer in suave 60’s duds sounds appealing; unfortunately, the trailer looks rather boring and the banter seems very forced. It will have been a long hot summer by the time this one rolls in and the buzz will have to be very strong to get paying audiences into the theatres.

Marvel line-up 2015-17: Part 1


With the recent announcement of new Marvel films by their head honcho Kevin Feige, I figured it was time to write an updated version of the Marvel line-up post I had published in Dec 2012 for the period 2013-15. I also figured that if Hollywood can break up a movie into 2 parts (Kill Bill Vols I and II, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2), I can go one better and break this up into 3 parts. So here’s the line-up for 2015; although this year was already covered in my original post, there are updates and minor changes, so it’s worth revisiting.

Avengers: Age of Ultron. Releases in May 2015 – Joss Whedon’s follow up to the most successful Marvel movie of all time is eagerly anticipated, to say the least. The trailer which was leaked and then formally released a couple of weeks ago and the mega-poster which was launched at Comic-Con a few months back have all stoked the flames of anticipation.

We can expect this film to have the biggest opening weekend of 2015. All the familiar characters return – Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawkeye and Thor. We have two new characters – the brother-sister duo of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (of whom we saw a brief glimpse in the post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier earlier this year), we have a crazed super-robot Ultron as the villain (voiced by James Spader) and most exciting of all for me, the introduction of Vision. Vision is an android whose origin is closely linked to that of Ultron in the comic books; I am looking forward to seeing how he fits into the story in the movie version. You can see him floating in the air in the far left upper corner of the mega-poster. Comic book fans know about his future connection to Scarlet Witch.

Ant-Man. Releases in July/ August 2015 – This film was originally slated for November but has now been moved up to the latter part of the summer. The director has also changed, with maverick Brit Edgar Wright departing due to creative differences and being replaced by 50-year-old journeyman rom-com director Peyton Reed. This is an unusual choice and I would say that Ant-Man is Disney/ Marvel’s riskiest venture, a tag that was formerly attached to Guardians of the Galaxy. In the case of Guardians, all doubts vanished when that first trailer was released and likewise we will be waiting to see Paul Rudd in action (and in costume) when the first trailer comes out. The movie will definitely have comedic elements, but with the change of directors, we can expect it to have become much lighter; Edgar Wright after all is the guy who gave black humour a new genre setting with the zombie-comedy Shaun of the Dead, whereas Peyton Reed is the guy who directed Jim Carrey in Yes Man…you get the picture. As it is, I was a bit apprehensive when Paul Rudd was announced to play the superhero; I’m not a big fan of his movies. But the concept art poster released during Comic-Con looks quite heroic and I’ve been reassured by the rest of the casting featuring Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and Corey Stoll (as the villain Yellowjacket).

The Fantastic Four. Releases in August 2015 – 30-year-old rising filmmaker Josh Trank’s reboot of this iconic Marvel property was originally slated to kick off the 2015 summer but has now been slotted in just one week after Ant-Man. Why would Marvel give its two titles so little breathing space? Because The Fantastic Four is being produced and distributed by rival studio Fox who doesn’t care one bit about what impact its release would have on Disney/Marvel’s Ant-Man. The casting also created some controversy for its divergence from existing Marvel canon; the Johnny Storm/ Human Torch character is being played by an African-American actor, Michael B. Jordan, whereas his sister Sue Storm/ Invisible Girl is played by white actress, Kate Mara. No one is really very sure why Fox would want to make such a fundamental change and what Marvel feels about that. The release date plus the poor reviews of the original Fantastic Four movies (from 2005 and 2007) mean that Josh Trank has to create an awesome product to relaunch the franchise. Fox needs to keep releasing new FF movies (they have already scheduled a sequel for July 2017) otherwise the rights will revert to Marvel. Trank is a highly regarded young filmmaker. Fox ‘discovered’ him when they released his low budget found-footage superpower-themed debut film Chronicle to healthy box office and critical acclaim in 2012. He has also recently been picked by Disney to direct a Star Wars spin-off movie due for release in 2018. So we may be pleasantly surprised by an innovative new take on Marvel’s ‘first family’. There has not been a single piece of marketing released so far, so Fox is clearly biding their time until they have something exciting to reveal, either in the form of concept art, character posters or a teaser trailer.

Previewing the ‘Super Summer of 2015’: Part 2


So, what do the other studios have lined up that can compete the Disney’s range of product? Not that much variety, I’m afraid. If there’s one thing we learned from the similarly over-crowded summer of 2013, it’s that audiences can only take so much of a ‘good thing’; in this case the ‘good thing’ is special effects and explosions and big bombastic music scores. Disney has more variety in 2015, with one fairy tale, one kids’ animated feature, 2 superhero films and one space opera. Between Fox, Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros., they have 2 superhero films, one reboot of a scifi classic, a fourth sequel to a scifi/ monster classic, a long-delayed sequel to a scifi/ alien invasion classic, an new animated  feature about a ghost and a big-screen adaptation of a very successful, but creepy children’s story. Somehow, I get the feeling that audiences will be fed up with all that rehashed scifi by the end of the summer.

Fox

20th Century Fox gets a jump-start on the summer by releasing a reboot of its Marvel property The Fantastic Four in early March. Fox’s 2 FF movies released in 2005 and 2007 did middling business, but had terrible reviews. It did introduce movie goers to a certain Chris Evans who played the Human Torch and then went on to much greater fame with what will now be a long-term role as Captain America in the Disney movies. As per the complicated rights deals between Marvel and studios which were in place before its sale to Disney, these studios have to keep making movies at fixed intervals otherwise the rights revert to Marvel (which means Disney). So, Fox still holds the rights to the X-Men franchise which is ticking along very well, thank you…and will now attempt to give this beloved and long-lived Marvel superhero group another lease of life on the big screen. I am really looking forward to this one because the film is being directed by an exciting young talent named Josh Trank, who turned heads by writing and directing a low budget superhero film called Chronicle in early 2012. This ‘found footage’ film featured 3 college students who gain superpowers after they investigate a mysterious phenomenon in the woods. What follows is a very realistic depiction of how they attempt to deal with these powers…certainly the very antithesis of the ‘responsible teenage superheroes’ in Marvel’s universe like Spider-Man and Nova. Trank is expected to bring some degree of gravity to the FF reboot and he will be using his Chronicles experience to create some emotional tension for the characters after they return from their fateful outer space mission.

On the 3rd of July, Roland Emmerich will attempt to repeat his success from 19 years earlier when he owned the box office with the alien invasion flick Independence Day. That film catapulted Will Smith to super-stardom and earned about USD 800 million globally, an unbelievable number in those days. The film featured the now-iconic sequences of the Empire State Building and the White House being destroyed and also had a raft of interesting characters played by the likes of Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, Harry Connick Jr. and Bill Pullman. Mr. Emmerich has failed to recreate that level of success since then. His films Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow and 2012 all seem to feature a rehash of the same city-destroying scenes. He has been talking about a sequel to ID4 off and on for some years and this summer Fox finally announced it officially. No word yet on whether Will Smith will return, but no doubt the studio execs and agents are hard at work; with the failure of Smith’s After Earth this summer, he may be more open to a guaranteed big pay-day. The film will definitely generate a big opening due to its heritage and the release date, but long term box office receipts will depend on thrills and big visuals…and as I said, Mr. Emmerich hasn’t been particularly original or creative on that front for several years.

Miss Peregrine's HomeAt the tail end of the summer on 31st July, Fox will release the movie adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, the debut novel by Riggs Ransom which spent 63 weeks on the NYT Best Sellers list for Children’s Chapter books in 2012. I intend to start reading this book soon; it is characterized by the creative use of spooky photographs to bring the narrative alive (the cover photo should give you some idea). News reports indicate that Tim Burton has signed on to direct the film. I feel that the appeal of the film may be limited, but given the setting of a lonely island and an abandoned orphanage, it shouldn’t be too expensive to produce and should have no problem making a profit.

In early June, Fox will release the animated film B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations. This is certainly an interesting premise, about a ghost who has to return to haunting school to upgrade his skills. While Fox also has The Penguins of Madagascar slated in late March, I haven’t listed that as a player in the 2015 summer wars, simply because these characters have plenty of exposure in the Madagascar movies and on their own TV show. Somehow i don’t think there will be that many paying customers to see the pesky avians in theatres.

It’s tough to say which of the 4 films will be the winner for Fox; frankly I have my doubts if the ID4 sequel will actually see the light of day, and Peregrine seems too niche to become a big hit. So, I guess it all rests on the shoulders of 29-year-old Josh Trank to save the summer for Fox with The Fantastic Four.

Paramount

The Terminator franchise has changed ownership over the years and consequently the movies have been released by different studios as well. Somehow, all the companies that have owned rights to Terminator have declared bankruptcy one by one – Hemdale Film Corporation, Carolco Pictures and The Halcyon Company! The rights are now owned by the Ellison siblings, Megan and David through their respective production companies Annapurna and Skydance. Larry’s kids (yes, that Ellison) have been making waves for the past couple of years, co-producing a slate of movies including Zero Dark Thirty, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Star Trek into Darkness and World War Z. Megan Ellison tends to go for the indie award-contenders while David backs the big tentpoles. With Paramount now confirmed to distribute the film (titled Terminator) and Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones and Thor: The Dark World) set to direct, they just have to sort out the small matter of having a working screenplay and casting the main parts. It is expected that 66-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger will somehow be incorporated into the storyline!

I am pretty sure that Paramount will announce some other big projects for the summer of 2015, perhaps a sequel to World War Z or G.I. Joe or the next Tintin film to be directed by Peter Jackson.

Universal

Univeral’s Jurassic Park franchise has seen declining grosses since the first film broke box office records and redefined CGI special effects in the summer of 1993. The movies have had writers of the caliber of David Koepp and Alexander Payne writing the screenplays but the thrill of seeing live dinosaurs has worn off due to an overabundance of TV shows like Walking with Dinosaurs (which is getting its own movie this Christmas) and cheap movie knock-offs.

It will be a gap of 14 years from the last film by the time Jurassic World is released in June 2015 and while the brand name is very well known due to the popularity of the original film and numerous theme park rides, the filmmakers will have to put together a really interesting screenplay and characters to squeeze any more dough out of this series. New director Colin Trevorrow has only directed one other movie, the quirky comedy Safety Not Guaranteed in 2012. He is updating an earlier draft of the screenplay, so this one is going to be a real unknown until more news filters through next year.

Warner Bros.

Warner Brothers re-launched the Superman franchise this year with Man of Steel…yet another attempt to replicate the phenomenal success of Marvel’s comic book properties. Unfortunately, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy which ran from 2005-12 is firmly set in a different universe/ continuity, so they could not hook it up with Zack Synder’s film. Therefore, the sequel to Man of Steel will now feature a new Batman, which WB hopes will lead to the expansion of the DC Universe and a Justice League movie sometime soon. I am sure that with the recent announcement of a new film franchise set in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, WB execs are breathing a bit easier and don’t need to stress so much about when Flash and Wonder Woman will hit the big screen.

Superman vs. BatmanGetting back to Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel, it created a firestorm of controversy with the recent announcement of Ben Affleck in the role of Bruce Wayne/ Batman. While Mr. Affleck has gained widespread respect as a director recently (Gone Baby Gone, The Town and his Oscar-winner Argo), comic book fanboys have still not forgiven him for his disastrous turn as Marvel superhero Daredevil in 2003. No doubt, he has the chin for playing Batman, and in movies where he directs himself (especially in Argo) he has shown that he can throw off his ‘aw shucks’ persona and play the grim, determined protagonist very convincingly. So I’m willing to give him a shot (although frankly I too would have preferred someone else in the role). Certainly in a Superman vs. Batman film, we can expect to be relieved from the kind of city-wide destruction which became so difficult for audiences to stomach in Man of Steel. Of great interest will be the choice of villain for the movie; I am desperately hoping it will not be Lex Luthor, as I have disliked both cinematic iterations played by Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey. Since there is no continuity with Chris Nolan’s films, they could bring back the Joker, but I suspect that the producers will not want to compete with Heath Ledger’s iconic performance.

Whichever the villain, it is likely that Superman vs. Batman is the only film that can give Disney a run for its money as the top grossing film of the ‘Super Summer of 2015’.