In light of the Super Bowl ads signaling the beginning of the studio marketing machines, here's the major releases for summer 2011!
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (20)
The Hangover 2 (26)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (27)
Tree of Life (27)
X Men: First Class (3)
Super Eight (10)
Green Lantern (17)
Mr. Popper's Penguins (17)
Cars 2 (24)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (1)
Larry Crowne (1)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 (15)
Captain America: The First Avenger (22)
Cowboys and Aliens (29)
The Smurfs (3)
The Change Up (5)
30 Minutes or Less (12)
Fright Night (19)
Goddamn, August looks desolate.
I personally don't see a lot of really promising stuff there. On paper, most of them have potential. There's some kind of hook for most of them that sets it apart slightly, whether it's a new genre mash-up (Thor, GL, and Cap America all have some new wrinkles for superhero movies, Cowboys and Aliens sounds like a hoot), or a creative bit of casting (Ian McShane, Harrison Ford), or a director worth paying some attention to (Abrams, Malick,Vaughn, Favreau). But I can't really say I'm too optimistic for any of them, other than Captain America, and that could still go south pretty quick.
So I'll do some guessing. I think the overall winner, box office-wise, is gonna be Harry Potter. It's going to make like 400 million dollars or something. I'd say after that will be Transformers and Cars, and then quite possibly Thor, based on that great unopposed first week of May slot and no competition until Pirates comes out. Cap could slip in by being awesome (it's got a highly marketable premise, I think, though time will tell). Super Eight could really go just about any way. I see X Men, Green Lantern, Hangover and Kung Fu Panda being solid but not huge (200ish for each?). I think Pirates gets it in the ass, as far as it goes, and probably ends the franchise. Also DOA: Cowboys and Aliens, unless it moves a couple weeks back into August, which I think will totally happen.
As far as quality goes, I'm hoping for Captain America to be the best of the summer. It has the chance to be really damn good, and every choice they're making seems to be working out. That super bowl trailer really added some nice elements to the mix; the Red Skull and Dum Dum look great, but so does the 98lb weakling plotline. That was something that didn't sound so hot conceptually, but they did a good job selling it in 30 seconds, so fingers crossed. Also, the cast is stacked on this thing. Evans and Weaving should be a lot of fun, but you've also got Tucci, Toby Jones, Neil McDonough, and Tommy Lee Jones. It's my most anticipated, so far.
After that, I think Cowboys Vs Aliens might be the most promising, actually. Again, great cast, and a director that I generally have a lot of faith in to handle this kind of material. It just looks like a good idea, and I'd like to see it done well. JJ Abrams seems to be a really good director, especially with handling tone, so there's a chance Super Eight will be just the right kind of nostalgia mixed with story and make for a lot of fun. But who really knows what it is yet?
I'm trying to be optimistic about Thor and Harry Potter. I like Branagh, and vikings, so I'm quite content to let that one play out with an open mind. The last Potter didn't do a whole bunch for me, but it seems like it would be pretty hard to fuck up the end of that book, given the competence they've demonstrated with this series. We haven't seen near enough of X Men to even really guess at it, but I'm not very enthusiastic about it. And Green Lantern is more of a 'why not?' kind of deal for me than something to get very up for. Cars 2 will probably be way better than it has any right being, but there's got a be a ceiling on how good it can reasonably get. Larry the Cable Guy, and such. Probably not looking at another Wall-E.
I'm betting Pirates is terrible. I wanted for them to pull it off here, what with McShane and all (plus, it's got pirates!), but this does have a bit of a blase stink on it. It might just not have much to show yet, but seeing the ads, and remembering they slashed the budget on this, the whole thing does feel like they might just be trying to pull a fast one here. Due Date convinced me that Hangover 2 will likely be terrible and contrived, like a Vince Vaughn film. And Transformers will probably be better than the last one, maybe a lot better, but I expect it will still be an overwhelming and exhaustive ordeal without much to really care about. I hope it doesn't have Grimlock in it, because then I might have to check it out.
That's some gut instincts. Should be fun to see how it plays out.