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Bloodbath: Which Films Risk Being The Blockbuster Casualties Of 2012?

by Oliver Lyttelton
February 2, 2012 4:09 PM
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Who's In It And What's It About? Peter Berg ("The Kingdom," "Hancock") directs this summer's mostly randomly-assembled cast, with TV stars Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgard leading, Liam Neeson lending gravitas, and Rihanna and Brooklyn Decker lending...well, boobs, if we're being honest.
What's The Risk Factor? Let's not beat around the bush here: it's an action movie based on the board game, and it's been a punchline ever since it was announced. It looks dumber than a rock and bar Neeson (who's likely stuck behind a desk for the movie, rather than playing to his strengths by punching foreign people or animals), is entirely absent of names (it's possible that that could change when it comes to Taylor Kitsch, but we'll discuss him more below). It seems to be the kind of thing where something's been greenlit without anyone wondering if anyone actually wants to see a "Battleship" movie, and it faces a tough line-up of competition in May. That being said, something being too stupid has never exactly been a downside to the general public, and Universal's plan to make the film look like "Transformers 4: At Sea" in the trailer could be a genius stroke.
What's It Cost? $200 million, give or take.  
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Universal knows where its bread is buttered here; they're rolling out internationally up to five weeks earlier than the U.S., with a U.K. release set for April 11th, and we're expecting the film to do well there. Whether the film can crack $100 million in the States is another question.
When? May 18th

"Django Unchained"
Who's In It And What's It About? It's a potentially explosive revenge slavery Western from Quentin Tarantino, with the auteur's starriest ever cast, featuring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, Kurt Russell, Sacha Baron Cohen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, among others.
What's The Risk Factor? "Inglourious Basterds" was by far Tarantino's biggest-ever hit, taking over $300 million worldwide, and he's clearly stuck with the formula, making sure that there's at least one Brad Pitt-style A-lister there to carry the can for the film: in this case, DiCaprio. But Westerns are unpredictable (see "Cowboys & Aliens"), and the film is likely his most expensive to date, and the subject matter is likely to turn off as many as it turns on. As depressing as it is, black actors who aren't Will Smith (who turned the film down) aren't box office draws overseas, and black subject matter doubly so ("The Help" took a mere $35 million internationally). And that's even without mentioning a particularly crowded Christmas season, with the film opening on the same day as another DiCaprio picture, "The Great Gatsby." Which one do you think his female fans will be drawn to more?
What's It Cost? "Inglourious Basterds" was about $70 million, we're going to assume that this one crests closer to $90 mil, given the wealth of star names.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Hard to say. 'Basterds' made over $300 million worldwide, but the politically-charged nature of this, plus the fact that Westerns don't do well overseas (even "True Grit" wasn't a smash abroad) makes it a question mark for being a huge 'Basterds' sized blockbuster. Plus that film had Brad Pitt in the lead. Watch for the studio to put supporting character and villain Leonardo DiCaprio is the marketing as much as possible.
When? Christmas Day

Who's In It And What's It About? Classic British comic character, the near-fascist supercop Judge Dredd, returns to the screen, with Karl Urban donning the helmet and Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey in support. "Vantage Point" helmer Pete Travis directs a script from "28 Days Later" and "Never Let Me Go" scribe Alex Garland.
What's The Risk Factor? In a year full of better-known comic book characters, Lionsgate are hoping to make a minor killing with the revival of the much-loved 2000AD character. But the bastardized version starring Sylvester Stallone didn't have much success a couple of decades back, and that at least had star power; this has the guy from "Red" and "Star Trek" continually behind a helmet. On top of that, reports flew of behind-the-scenes clashes, with Travis supposedly being locked out of the editing room by Garland. The rumors were swiftly denied (less than convincingly) by the creatives, but it can't help but feel like damaged goods. It's likely to get an R-rating too, and has some tough competition in September too, with "Looper" and "Resident Evil: Retribution."
What's It Cost? All that being said, the film's probably the cheapest one on this list, independently financed to the tune of about $45 million.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Lionsgate and DNA Films are likely hoping for something around "District 9" numbers ($200 mil worldwide), but they'll be lucky to get to half that, unless it turns out to be a real surprise hit. A film like this is probably close to being in profit from international pre-sales before it hits theaters, but it won't necessarily birth a franchise.
When? September 21st

"Gangster Squad"
Who's In It And What's It About? Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick and Giovanni Ribisi star as a crack team of 1940s LA cops assembled to take down legendary mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). Emma Stone is the woman playing both sides, and her "Zombieland" director Ruben Fleischer is at the helm.
What's The Risk Factor? Studios continue to outside the summer calendar for places to unleash potential blockbusters, and the latest month to attract their attention in October. The trouble is, it hasn't worked out so well so far: none of last year's candidates, like "Real Steel," "In Time" or "The Three Musketeers," really connected. Unbowed, Warners are trying again in 2012, setting their big hope "Gangster Squad" in October. We're excited about the film, to be sure, but neither Gosling, Brolin nor Penn has proven himself to be a big box office draw, and Fleischer's last film "30 Minutes Or Less" died on release. And it's got a fair amount of competition, with "Taken 2" and "Parker" landing in the weeks before, plus it's going head-to-head with horror behemoth "Paranormal Activity 4." Will they be able to do blockbuster numbers in one of the quieter months of the year?
What's It Cost? Given the cast and period setting, it won't be cheap, but might not be a bank-breaker either; let's call it $65 million for now, conservatively.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? In genre terms, there's no real recent precedent, bar Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," which could only manage $214 million worldwide, despite megastar Johnny Depp. Then again, this is less experimental in style, so should do fine unless it gets dreadful reviews. Expect it to be a solid "The Town"-style hit, rather than a juggernaut, though.
When? October 18th

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  • Damien | February 9, 2012 1:05 AMReply

    What does it matter whether The Help only took $35 million internationally? It still reigned in just over $200 million with a budget of $25 million. That's huge dollars.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 10:17 AMReply

    8. Love Will Smith. Like Sonnenfeld. Love the Men In Black movies. However, I'm strangely not feeling this sequel. The franchise just feels empty and "done" now. Maybe I'll get hyped for it later? Don't know. The whole thing feels off kilter. Smith seems like he is running scared back to this franchise, when there is no reason to be. He had a couple of flicks that mildly underperformed and he seems to have freaked out. There was no huge backlash against him, nor did any film of his truly bomb. But nevertheless, Smith seemed to be unnerved and avoided doing another movie for 4 years and then came back fleeing to a tired franchise. It makes no sense. 9. Even though she was cruelly snubbed this awards season, superstar and goddess Charlize Theron is set to have a VERY good year with the one-two punch of Prometheus and Snow White.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 9:46 AMReply

    4. Why is Judge Dredd even being made? Karl Urban deserves so much better than this. Hollywood has squandered his potential as the next Go To action star. 5. Gangster Squad looks tired and tiresome. And also in desperate need of a tailor since all the suits are hanging off the actors like potato sacks. Young Hercules is the real deal, potential superstar in waiting, but only if he quits clinging to this marginal indie stuff and embraces some mainstream, crowd pleasing movies. 6. GI Joe 2 looks more entertaining than it has any right to be and Channing Tatum seems to die early on. Bonus! 7. Are you trying to tell me that someone spent more than $125 million on The Great Gatsby?! LIES. That doesn't even make any sense. It's a dusty old book that puts all its readers to sleep, that is if anybody still bothers to read it anymore. There is nothing in that story that should cost more to film than Leo's lunch money.

  • padre | February 6, 2012 9:21 AMReply

    2. Nobody asked for a Spider-Man reboot. However, given that the beloved former franchise was pulling in near a billion dollars, they could show a blank screen, title it "Spider-Man" and still garner half a billion easy. 3. By the end of summer, Taylor Kitsch will either be the biggest superstar in the world or a pariah suffering a backlash the size of which not seen since the public rebelled against Jude Law being shoved down their throat in everything. (Note: I like Jude Law). Law's career never really recovered, nor similarly has Colin Farrell's.

  • Padre | February 6, 2012 8:58 AMReply

    Going to have to break this into parts, since 10 pages of text was stuffed into this article. Firstly: 47 RONIN is my MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIE OF THE YEAR!!! Your weak slights against SUPERSTAR Keanu Reeves leave you in ill favor with me and out of touch with current culture of worldwide Keanu lovefest. Even now he is in China conquering hearts and minds, plastered all over their local press and forging the One Ring: "All shall love me and despair!" If 47 Ronin, my most anticipated movie of the year, is anything less than thrilling and superlative, I shall be DEVASTATED! The entire year shall have been rendered null and meaningless! There would be no purpose or point to this year of cinema if 47 Ronin fails to live up to my hopes and desires. Don't let me down Carl Rinsch!

  • Olli | February 3, 2012 5:27 AMReply

    Funny that after changing the title from "John Carter of Mars" to "John Carter", they still use the JCM-Logo on every one-sheet and in every trailer.
    To me the JCM-trailers don`t look bad but they look kind of "been there - done that" which isn't the best way to lure me into my local multiplex.
    And for "Battleship" I don't have the slightest bit of hope that movie might be better than any "Transformers" film. Why? Because in the trailers it looks and sounds exactly like Tranformers. Only Peter Berg at the helm may surprise me as he did with "Hancock" and especially with "The kingdom".

  • brou | February 3, 2012 5:21 AMReply

    The new featurette for "John Carter" makes it look much more interesting :

  • Glass | February 3, 2012 3:06 AMReply

    If Transformers taught me anything about blockbusters with a laughable origin (toys/board games), it's that the whole thing is one killer trailer away from being a guaranteed smash. All it takes is one big trailer to give the word-of-mouth a 180°.

  • jimmiescoffee | February 3, 2012 1:52 AMReply

    'john carter' should be renamed 'bad investment from the company that brought you the sorcerer's apprentice, mars needs moms and prince of persia.'

  • Oogle monster | February 3, 2012 2:12 AM


  • Mony | February 2, 2012 10:43 PMReply

    Loved this, some parts were funny to read. Some of the films I agree are taking a huge risk, like John Carter - 300 million budget or more? that's crazy for a movie that looks weird. Mirror Mirror looks like crap, however, if they get the audience they are targeting for, it might do ok.

    Should be interesting to see what happens with these movies you have on the list.

  • Marko | February 2, 2012 10:32 PMReply

    So no possibility of Cloud Atlas bombing?

  • ter | February 2, 2012 6:13 PMReply

    The Great Gatsby will be a disaster critically, that's for sure. And I can't imagine the crowds coming out for a movie about the first world problems of the 1% either.

  • Nolan | February 3, 2012 2:51 PM

    I love the Great Gatsby, and would thoroughly enjoy a new, terrific film version, but the decision to film in 3D really leaves me questioning the integrity of the thing. What part of that book would need to be in 3D? What could possibly be enhanced by 3D? The opulence of Gatsby's mansion? Jordan's bad driving? It's just silly.

  • Oogle monster | February 2, 2012 10:40 PM

    Why are you so sure? When Baz is on point he really delivers... I think he will do a splendid job and prove all you haters wrong. And if all you got from The Great Gatsby is "first world problems of the 1%" then you should befriend Sparknotes or go back to high school- which ever is easier.

  • joshb | February 2, 2012 6:07 PMReply

    did you really just say, "let's not beat around the bush" right after commenting on Rhianna and Mrs. Andy Roddick's boobs?

  • Cde. | February 2, 2012 5:44 PMReply

    The article says that John Carter's budget was pushed by reshoots to a number closer to $300 million than the initial $200 million budget. As I understand it, they went above and beyond $300 million and it's closer to 400. Thus, the $700 million figure to make the studio consider a sequel.

  • Bryan | February 2, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    Jessica Biel's the other lead in Total Recall, not Eva Mendes.

  • Kendrick | February 2, 2012 10:41 PM

    Aren't they the same person? Talentless, boring, semi-hot, robots?

  • YOYOMA | February 2, 2012 5:45 PM

    Interchangeable, Bryan. 'TIS THE POINT.

  • sal | February 2, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    don't see why you have to be so hard on Battleship. Peter Berg always makes movies with dark humor.

  • Kert | February 2, 2012 4:57 PMReply

    "Furthermore, neither Stewart, Hemsworth nor Theron have ever been major draws outside their franchises." What franchises has Theron been a part of? Hancock was sold on Will Smith and Aeon Flux... well... lets not talk about that. Out of the three, Theron is the only A-list movie star who has managed to pull pretty good numbers for Monster and Young Adult, both of which capitalized on her name (she was the lead) and awards season. Young Adult will hit 20 mil soon and has already earned back its budget and hasn't even expanded overseas. I think it's only playing in 2 markets overseas.

  • Russell | February 2, 2012 4:32 PMReply

    Expecting Battleship to do well in the UK - Why? You think so little of us, as a nation of film goers, that we're all going to run off to pay to see that steaming pile - why playlist? WHY?!?

    ok, you're probably right

  • sp | February 2, 2012 4:25 PMReply

    I hope Benjamin Walker will have a huge hit with " Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. "
    He is very talented.

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