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

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by Oliver Lyttelton
February 2, 2012 4:09 PM
24 Comments
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"Men In Black 3"
Who's In It And What's It About? The original trio of Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld return for a time-traveling adventure that sees Josh Brolin play the younger version of Jones' character, with Jemaine Clement as the evil alien killer they face off against. Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg and Bill Hader are also among the cast.
What's The Risk Factor? The return of Will Smith to his biggest franchise after being absent from screens altogether for four years seems like a home run on paper, but it's riskier than it looks. Smith's having a bit of a Tom Cruise-in-2005 moment, with plenty of negative publicity for the previously untouchable star. And the film's had well-publicized production problems, with the budget heading north of $215 million. Perhaps most importantly, the disliked second installment a decade ago took $441 million -- strong, but not when your film costs not far off that, once you add in P&A. We suspect that there's enough residual love for the original, and for Smith, for this to do OK, but OK doesn't necessarily bring you out of the red when a film's this expensive.
What's It Cost? Last we heard, $215 million, but that's got to be close to $350 million with P&A.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Worst case scenario: the film's a trainwreck, teens don't care about a franchise that started when they were toddlers, and it does "Wild Wild West" numbers. Best case scenario, 3D add-ons sees it top the original, which made nearly $500 million, the franchise is reborn, and Smith is safely the world's favorite movie star again. But it's such a big global brand, you can almost guarantee that even if it's a huge piece of shit, it's going to make at least $200 million worldwide and Sony knows this.
When? May 25th

"Mirror Mirror"
Who's In It And What's It About? Tarsem ("Immortals") gives a comic spin to the Snow White tale, with Julia Roberts as the wicked queen, Armie Hammer as the prince, and Lily Collins as the heroine.
What's The Risk Factor? Have you seen that trailer? Looking like some kind of dreadful ABC Family TV movie, with severely misjudged comic timing, it's arguably our least anticipated film of the year. But that aside, it's got other problems: Julia Roberts is no longer the box-office behemoth she once was (see: "Larry Crowne" last year), and that goes double when she's out of her comfort zone, as she is here. Hammer and Collins aren't yet box office draws, and there's no evidence as yet to suggest that anyone wants to see any of these fairy tale movies, especially as it's got "Snow White and the Huntsman" hot on its heels. Plus, the film was moved back a couple of weeks recently, meaning it's opening head-to-head with "Wrath of the Titans" and "The Pirates!," cannibalizing its own audience. That being said, it seems to skew very young, which may be a genius stroke -- after all, that's the audience that should be watching fairy tale movies.
What's It Cost? Well, it looks cheap as hell, but there are plenty of effects, and Roberts still commands a hefty paycheck. Somewhere in the region of $70-90 million, most likely (conservatively of course).
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? "Red Riding Hood" didn't even make it to $100 million worldwide, but this being less edgy, it may be able to bring in the kids over spring break, although any hope of it being a four quadrant monster is pretty much dead on the vine.
When? March 30th

"Prometheus"
Who's In It And What's It About? Ridley Scott reboots/prequelizes/does something vaguely connected to the "Alien" franchise he made his name on, with Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green and Idris Elba leading the cast.
What's The Risk Factor? It might be one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year among the geek set, but does it have the same appeal to the general public? They're not necessarily aware of the "Alien" link, and even if they are, that brand was tarnished by weak later installments. They've likely not heard of much of the cast, and the film looks prohibitively dark, even if it ends up with a PG-13 rating. While some will point to "Inception" as evidence that original sci-fi can pay off in a big way, that film had Christopher Nolan coming off "The Dark Knight," and an A-lister in the lead role. We're not saying it doesn't look great, but it's a less-than-concrete commercial proposition, particularly with "Men In Black 3" and "Snow White and the Huntsman" in theaters ahead of it.
What's It Cost? H.R. Giger was quoted as saying the film cost 230 million Swiss francs, which is something like $250 million, but our guess is it's probably closer to $200 mil; still a hefty sum.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Very hard to say. We can absolutely see a world in which the film doesn't clear $100 million in the U.S, like "Robin Hood" (although international should be strong, like that film). We can also see it taking off in a big way, as (relatively) original fare in a sequel- and reboot-happy summer.
When? June 8th

"Savages"
Who's In It And What's It About? Oliver Stone returns to studio fare for a crime thriller, based on Don Winslow's novel, about a pair of Californian pot growers (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch) who do battle with a Mexican cartel. Blake Lively, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Demian Bichir, Benicio Del Toro, Salma Hayek and Emile Hirsch co-star.
What's The Risk Factor? Universal raised eyebrows this week when they moved the film from September to the very heart of summer. Presumably putting the film head-to-head with "The Amazing Spider-Man" suggests a certain confidence in the project, and we can certainly see it working as good counter programming; there are almost no grown-up adult thrillers between May and September, and clearly the studio saw a gap. That being said, it's a cast led by untested young stars, and opening directly against 'Spider-Man,' on the July 4th weekend, no less, could see it trampled on completely. Plus, Stone hasn't had a film that's topped $100 million since "Platoon."
What's It Cost? It's unclear, but our guess would be no more than $55 million, and possibly less.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? We're in almost uncharted waters here, it having been a long, long time since someone tried to release this kind of (presumably) R-rated crime fare at the height of the summer months. We can see it falling flat with domestic audiences, but we could see the gamble paying off unexpectedly.
When? July 6th

"Snow White and the Huntsman"
Who's In It And What's It About? The second of the two Snow White movies this year, this is a harder-edged, "Lord of the Rings" style version, from commercials helmer Rupert Sanders, with Charlize Theron as the wicked queen, Kristen Stewart as Ms. White and Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman, plus a who's-who of British character actors as the dwarves.
What's The Risk Factor? As we said above, Hollywood have pinned their hopes on fairy tale reboots as big box office hits, but "Alice in Wonderland" aside, none has landed to date, This film, originally set for a release later in the year before being moved up to unsuccessfully try to beat its rival to the punch, has the added problem of being the second in the marketplace; will it be the "Infamous" to "Mirror Mirror"'s "Capote"? Furthermore, neither Stewart, Hemsworth nor Theron have ever been major draws outside their franchises. That being said, the cracking teaser trailer seems to have made people genuinely excited about the project; if Universal can keep that up, they shouldn't have too much of a problem.
What's The Cost? At least $150 million, probably higher.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? The billion dollar toll of "Alice in Wonderland" is likely well out of reach, but this feels like one of the more solid prospects on the list at present, although it's in more trouble if "Mirror Mirror" is a hit.
When? June 1st
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24 Comments

  • 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 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQTyOeRdhxo

  • 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

    TRUTH BOMB.

  • 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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