By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com February 2, 2012 at 4:09PM
Who's In It And What's It About? The sequel to the 2009 surprise hit, this sees the father of one of Liam Neeson's victims from the first film seeking revenge by kidnapping him, forcing his daughter (Maggie Grace) to embark on a rescue attempt. The brilliantly named Olivier Megaton directs.
What's The Risk Factor? "Taken" was a shock smash a few years back, opening to $25 million on Super Bowl weekend before riding to a domestic total of $150 million. Fox and Luc Besson have fought hard to get a sequel made, but can lightning strike twice? Neeson has proved his box office mettle again recently with "The Grey," and the original's well-liked, but is it likely to be a case of diminishing returns, particularly with an odd premise without the same instant appeal as the first film? Furthermore, can it hold its own in October, with competition from Judge Dredd, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis and Jason Statham either side of its release?
What's The Cost? Not a lot, but Neeson's sure to have had landed a killer paycheck, probably pushing the film to twice the original $25 million budget, so $50 million or so.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? We can't see the film matching the $250 million gross of the original, although maybe that's just because we think the sequel sounds so terrible. There's no denying that Neeson's got a fanbase, so it won't be far off.
When? October 5th
Who's In It And What's It About? Len Wiseman ("Live Free and Die Hard") remakes Paul Verhoeven's Philip K Dick adaptation, with Colin Farrell taking over from Arnie, and Eva Mendes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke and, as the villain Cohaagen, Bryan Cranston.
What's The Risk Factor? Our pick for the diciest prospect of the summer, this is a redundant remake of a film only twenty years old, which, from the Comic-Con footage we saw, has nothing new to add. Furthermore, it has as its lead Colin Farrell, who was never a big draw even in his heyday (his biggest hit was "S.W.A.T." in 2003, at $116 million), and who had a big flop last summer in "Fright Night." Most importantly, it's opening side-by-side with "The Bourne Legacy," which is aiming for the exact same audience, and is almost certain to trample all over it. It's not cheap either, and we just can't see it hitting a number that makes it profitable, short of Sony releasing some really killer footage. Don't be surprised if this ends up getting moved to a quieter 2013 slot -- it might at least manage "Underworld" or "Resident Evil" numbers with a January or September release date.
What's The Cost? Quotes have it as high as $200 million. We hope for Sony's sake that's off by at least half.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? Best case scenario, the 3D helps it to do "Resident Evil: Afterlife" numbers internationally, but bear in mind that film hit in a quiet September at the height of 3D mania, so don't be surprised if this falls well short of that film's $300 mil total.
When? August 3rd
"World War Z"
Who's In It And What's It About? Brad Pitt stars in the Marc Forster-directed adaptation of Max Brooks' faux-oral history of a zombie plague. Mireille Enos, David Morse, Matthew Fox and James Badge Dale are in support.
What's The Risk Factor? Brad Pitt is about a solid box-office prospect as you could ask for, in commercial fare at least. But "World War Z" feels particularly risky in terms of his studio fare: a sweeping, epic horror flick aimed at the Christmas market, but one that's almost certain to carry a PG-13 rating. Paramount are probably hoping that the mega-grossing "I Am Legend" (nearly $600 million worldwide) leads the way, but that didn't have the high-falutin' socio-political aspirations that Pitt has talked about, and was also virtually unchallenged on release, whereas "World War Z" has to face off against "The Hobbit," "Kill Bin Laden" and "Django Unchained," among others.
What's The Cost? The film was nearly scrapped when Paramount got uneasy about the $125 million budget; it's unclear if that got trimmed down, or if partners Skydance helped make that more palatable.
What's The Estimated Return On Investment? We'd be very surprised if this did anything close to "I Am Legend" numbers; Pitt's biggest hit remains the $500 million "Troy," a more commercial prospect than this. That being said, Pitt rarely misses with a non-arthouse film, so no one's going to lose their job on this one.
When? December 21st
"Wrath of the Titans"
Who's In It And What's It About? In the sequel to the 2010 hit, Sam Worthington returns as Perseus to face off a rebellion by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez) that aims to unleash the Titans. Liam Neeson returns as Zeus, God of Exposition, while Rosamund Pike, Toby Kebbell and Bill Nighy are among the new additions, and "Battle: Los Angeles" director Jonathan Liebesman takes over from Louis Leterrier.
What's The Risk Factor? "Clash of the Titans" proved a healthy hit two years ago, riding the post "Avatar" 3D wave to $500 million worldwide, so surely a sequel is something of a home run. But then, sequels tend to work best when people like the original, and you have to look pretty hard to find people who are professed fans of 'Clash.' All involved have promised a film that steps up from the original, but the filmmakers are once again going down the same 3D post-conversion that plagued the original. The process may have improved, but communicating that to audience isn't easy. Plus, the film now has stiff competition in March, when it once had that time to itself; "Mirror Mirror" opens on the same date, and "John Carter" and "The Hunger Games" will still be in theaters.
What's The Cost? The original was around the $125 million mark, and we can't imagine this being significantly more.
What's The Expected Return On Investment? We're not saying this'll tank, but we can easily see the grosses dropping below the first one, enough so that Warners start to rethink a third installment.