Summer 2013: The Franchise Hopefuls

In part three of the summer movie extravaganza I will be discussing the films coming out in the next four months that likely hope to be gifts that keep on giving. Some of these will boldly admit that and others will likely make their best effort to conceal the fact they have no bigger aspirations than to entertain just in case they don't fare to well when it comes down to the box office numbers and cinemascore grades that show a mainstream movie-going audience that was less than satisfied. Once again, the films included in today's category could just have well fit the bill for those classic examples of summer popcorn entertainment, but they have that something extra going for them, they have that aspiration for something more and that is what qualifies them to be in the Franchise Hopefuls category. Each of these, if given the opportunity will likely expand on these initial films. None of them are sequels and only one is based on a comic book, but a fairly obscure one at that, while the others consist of two based on popular books, one on a radio show from the 30's that became a television show and comic books, while the final is a completely original piece of work that, from what I've seen of it, looks like a mash up of several other would-be summer hits. And once again, like yesterdays list there is at least one film on here that I'm not particularly excited to see, but more intrigued by how bad it might turn out to be. There is a rather plain looking actioner coming out in August that I almost included on this list that has the star power to be a hit and if it does so turn out to be, there will very likely be a sequel as even the title lends itself well to that sort of thing, but I'll discuss that later. For now,if you've missed the first two parts of this series definitely go back and catch up as what I'm doing this year instead of delivering a simple top ten list is to divide the summer of 2013 into eight categories and will be posting one each day for eight consecutive days. I hope you find a certain category that suits your motion picture tastes the best and discover five exciting films you'll be especially ecstatic about.

The Franchise Hopefuls

Clockwise from top: R.I.P.D., World War Z, Pacific Rim, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Lone Ranger
There are two films within this category that certainly stood a chance of making my top 10 list for the movies I'm most excited to see this summer and one of them even made my top 10 most anticipated list of the year, so we will start there. In what may be the biggest gamble of the summer we have Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger. Gamble because as much as people like to believe Johnny Depp is a bankable movie star, the truth is that he just isn't. That doesn't mean he isn't a great actor, I think he certainly has proven his worth, but that doesn't make him a movie star. When he turned in the role of Jack Sparrow he turned a corner in his career and was given a pedastal he'd never had before and though he's had hits since (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland) but he's never been able to duplicate the intrigue that surrounded Captain Jack nor the massive success of that franchise. This summer Depp hopes to change his losing streak (Public Enemies, The Rum Diary, Dark Shadows) by teaming up with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Disney, and the director of the original Pirates trilogy Gore Verbinski who he also made Rango with, one of my favorite films of 2011. Due to the fact this is Verbinski behind the camera and Depp has taken the supporting role here with what looks like ample opportunity to create another character in the vein of Sparrow with his memorable look and accent. There was some controversy over a white man playing this iconic Indian role, but Depp seems to have done it justice and Armie Hammer looks to have out in an earnest performance as the titular character. I don't know how well this might turn out in quality or in box office receipts, but I'm rooting for it and if nothing else it will look gorgeous.

Next on the list is a film that has been through so many delays and production issues it is a wonder we will finally get to see it on the big screen and hopefully in what is one of the more thrilling adventures of the summer. Brad Pitt has said he wanted to make a movie that his boys could see and that they would love and they always love a good zombie thus the reason he settled on Max Brooks' novel, World War Z. Though there has been an outcry from fans who claim the book would never make a movie in the conventional terms of Hollywood productions as it the novel is a collection of recollections from survivors of the war the title references and thus not a linear plot centered around one character. These issues don't compare to the production issues this film has seemed to face though as there were numerous reports from the set that Pitt and director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace) had several arguments over many aspects of the film, there were script re-writes and even re-shoots as late as December of last year. How all this will affect the outcome of the final product is unclear but the trailers look to deliver a massive movie with a new interpretation of the zombie race that we have yet to see. And one thing that both Forster and Pitt can agree on is that there is definitely more story to tell with the director even going so far as to say that he pictures this initial film as the first in a trilogy. Only the box office success will tell if that planned trilogy actually happens, but despite all the issues dragging this film down there is one shining beacon of hope and that is Pitt. He needs a redemption after the cold reception to his last film, Killing Them Softly which I really enjoyed, but if you look at the mans track record prior he is on fire: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Inglorious Basterds, The Tree of Life, and Moneyball each have a grandiose pedigree to them and let's hope this one carries that same weight with a little more mainstream.  

While the remainder of the films on this list don't necessarily peak my interest the way the first two do I am still relatively interested to see what kind of outcome the story of Pacific Rim comes to be. I said earlier that The Lone Ranger was likely the biggest risk of the summer and that is true as it has a reported budget of around $250 million and who knows if that includes all the marketing costs, but that film stands a good chance of making back its profit as it has several well known actors, a huge marquee name, and a built in fan base from the earlier incarnations of the characters that will draw interest. Pacific Rim really has none of that going for it other than the name of its director, Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro has done great work (see Pan's Labyrinth) and he has done solid big budget work (see the Hellboy movies) and that bodes well for the quality of Pacific Rim, but upon first seeing the trailers I couldn't help but feel that it looked like a big money mash-up of Godzilla and Transformers. Still, I'm intrigued by the players here despite it lacking a big name it still has a few well known people in it with the most recognizable likely being that of Idris Elba. Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy seems to have a leading role here as well, with Ron Perlman and Charlie Day (yes, that Charlie Day) in supporting roles. I don't know much about the plot and I don't think there has been much released about the film besides the first trailer. And while there are plenty of big name sequels and super hero movies coming out this summer there is still room for that one relatively unknown original to make a splash. That is kind of the point of this category, but as the two films above have fairly good shots at making a good amount of money and more movies and the other two have bigger weights on their shoulders; if I were to pick a film that I thought had the most to gain with the least going in, I'd put my money on Pacific Rim.

When I say that these final two films have bigger weights on their shoulders I mean they have more to prove before anyone will likely consider them successful. The one with the biggest burden? The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Based on another young adult best selling series of novels by Cassandra Clare this series has to prove it can do more than Beautiful Creatures (a solid fantasy film that unfortunately no one saw) and even Stephanie Meyer's The Host which failed to conjure up any of the excitement her Twilight adaptations did. While I haven't read any of Clare's novels the film does have a few things going for it and the trailer looks intriguing if not somewhat typical of this genre of books adapted to films. Harold Zwart (The Karate Kid) directs and Lily Collins (The Blind Side, Mirror Mirror) heads up a rather eclectic cast that look to bring a good amount of energy to what could easily be taken as silly. Still, nothing about this film looks as silly as the last film on the list, R.I.P.D. While the trailer only premiered a week ago there is reason enough to see why. Many have already called this Men In Black with dead people and I wouldn't disagree with that. It also has the burden of starring Ryan Reynolds whose last summer special effects extravaganza was The Green Lantern and turned out to be one of the biggest flops in recent memory. The bright side? If there is one it has to be that Jeff Bridges saw something in this that made him want to commit his time to it and if it is in fact successful, a few more of them. Still, it could be that all Bridges saw was a big fat paycheck and nothing more. I have strong doubts about this film and almost chose to replace it with the Mark Wahlberg/Denzel Washington vehicle 2 Guns that looks like an updated Lethal Weapon and will probably be ten times better than R.I.P.D. while likely standing more of a chance of getting a sequel greenlit than this inevitable flop, but I'll go with the underdog and hope for the best on this one.

Check back tomorrow for The Funny People...

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