Jan 3, 2019
Hit or Bomb? March 2018 movie predictions
It may be March, but it’s looking more like summer at the cineplex, due to several big budget sci-fi/fantasy releases this month. Once again, it’s time for us here at the Agony Booth to play armchair box office prognosticators and decide which of these films will be domestic HITs or BOMBs, based solely on the trailers.
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Red Sparrow (March 2)
Jennifer Lawrence is Dominika, a Russian ballerina who gets recruited into the Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service where young men and women are trained to use both their minds and bodies as weapons—though apparently mostly their bodies. Dominika eventually gets involved with a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who turns out to be the only person she can trust.
Susan: Maybe if Jennifer Lawrence were still Hollywood’s favorite It Girl, this would be more successful. On the press tour for this movie, she’s getting criticized for wearing a dress on the red carpet, and not earning praise for adorably tripping or admitting she eats French fries. Audiences seem to be over Jennifer Lawrence, which indicates this bland-looking thriller will be a BOMB. Sorry, Jennifer. Maybe if you take that break from acting, we’ll remember why we love you.
Jordon: Wait a minute, I’m confused. Fox can’t make a Black Widow movie, but they can make this? Maybe this movie is a fine spy thriller with a deeper-than-usual message about the objectification and lack of agency of women. Maybe J-Law is an actress with more depth and credibility than ScarJo. Maybe movies need to run two and a half hours without even a moment of levity. But this will always be remembered as [Color][Animal]: The Motion Picture. And nobody is going to want to see it. BOMB.
Tyler: Hmm… a young, pretty Russian girl… played by a 21st century sex symbol… who becomes a master spy/assassin… undergoing trauma and brainwashing in the process… who turns against her masters… named after an animal of a certain color. Well then. As an elaborate troll on Marvel Studios intended to shame them into making a Black Widow movie, it’s masterful. As an actual movie you can enjoy, not so much. BOMB.
Marion: So do they open with a song in Russian, and then an announcement that for the sake of clarity and sanity the rest will be in English? Because I’m not sure you can have an international cast of accents anymore and get away with it, even with Jennifer Lawrence being appealing, and Jeremy Irons hamming it up. The story sounds like an average episode of The Americans, and nobody even watches that show on the small screen for free. BOMB.
A Wrinkle in Time (March 9)
Ava DuVernay directs this adaptation of the classic Madeleine L’Engle fantasy novel, in which high school girl Meg (Storm Reid) and friends are transported to another planet by three supernatural beings (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling), where they must rescue Meg’s father (Chris Pine) from an evil force that threatens the universe.
Susan: If Oprah won’t be president, I’ll settle for her being a mega movie star. With an all-star cast and stunning visuals, this will be definitely be a major HIT.
Jordon: Wait a minute, I’m confused. The studios are releasing an intelligent, high-budget children’s movie with a built-in fanbase in the same month as both Sherlock Gnome and Gnome Alone? Sure, sometimes smart movies don’t do well, like The BFG. But come on. This is the movie that finally unites Oprah Winfrey and Zach Galifianakis. How can that not make money? HIT.
Tyler: One afternoon I Netflixed the 2003 made-for-TV version of A Wrinkle in Time because I both love the book and hate myself. Ever since then, I’ve yearned for Wrinkle to get a proper screen treatment, and this looks like it. I’m not sure why Oprah needs to be in it, but I don’t know that Oprah’s doings are subject to the same kinds of causal relationships as those of us mortals. It’s entirely possible she just inserted herself into the movie through force of will. Regardless, this movie should easily find a niche. It feels fresh. Its sunny tone and relatively nonviolent content creates a stark contrast against the overwhelming majority of both recent fantasy movies and YA novel adaptations. It’ll clean up over spring break; just you watch. HIT.
Marion: Sure, it’s a whimsical film for children, lacking in cynicism and smirk, but so was E.T. Sure, some people will hate it. Some people hate everything. But parents will take their kids, and kids may even take their parents, and people are going to want to see it on a big screen. HIT.
Tomb Raider (March 16)
Taking a cue from the 2013 game of the same name, Tomb Raider brings us a younger, rebooted Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) who’s traumatized by the unexplained disappearance of her father (Dominic West) years earlier. To solve the mystery, she journeys to his last known location: a mysterious island off the coast of Japan which contains a fabled tomb that Lara presumably must raid.
Susan: No one asked for this and no one is going to see this. BOMB.
Jordon: Wait a minute, I’m confused. When did Angelina Jolie die? Frankly, I’m glad. I think all Best Supporting Actresses should play Lara Croft. I can’t wait to see the next reboot with Octavia Spencer. All that aside, this movie looks like a lot of fun and Tomb Raider is still a popular enough brand. HIT.
Tyler: You know one reason people hate reboots? Because somehow Hollywood got it into its head that “rebooting” a protagonist invariably means making them younger, skinnier, and duller. Alicia Vikander looks about fourteen here. She may lack Angelina Jolie’s exotic beauty and imposing Amazonian athleticism, but most of all she lacks her screen presence. The trailer drops hints that this is supposed to be Lara Croft’s “origin story”, but does it slyly, because it knows that people hate origin stories. SO DON’T MAKE ONE, HOW ‘BOUT THAT? Why does every character need an “origin”, anyway? I don’t think anyone was watching the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and wondering, “Man, how did she get so into tomb raiding?” BOMB.
Marion: Middle of the road based-on-a-video game adventure film. It might have done better as a summer release and not opening just after Black Panther and Wrinkle in Time. Suddenly, a white woman heroine playing young Indiana Jones seems very conventional, and this has a been there/done that quality. BOMB.
Pacific Rim Uprising (March 23)
Ten years after Stacker Pentecost and the Jaegers defeated the Kaijus once and for all, Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) is a Jaeger pilot who can’t live up to his heroic father’s legacy and so turns to a life of crime. But when the portal to the Kaiju dimension is reopened, Jake is given one last chance by his estranged sister Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to redeem himself and save humanity against new and more evolved Kaijus.
Susan: When I first heard there was going to be a Pacific Rim sequel, I was so excited. This trailer kills every bit of that excitement. It looks more like a generic Transformers “robots fighting monsters” movie, and seems to be missing the heart that made the first Pacific Rim so good. Unfortunately, it looks like a BOMB.
Jordon: Wait a minute, I’m confused. Were there that many unanswered questions left over from Pacific Rim? In truth, I hated that movie. It rarely made sense. It was loud and confusing and the only female character in it could easily have been replaced by a lamp of almost any shape or size. My opinion doesn’t matter, though. The only way this movie could make more money is if Chadwick Boseman showed up in a Jaeger built out of vibranium. MEGA-HIT.
Tyler: I’ve never seen Pacific Rim, but I have binged Neon Genesis Evangelion while high off my ass, so I feel like I’ve basically seen Pacific Rim. I do know that Pacific Rim made not very many dollars but essentially uncountable yuan. But the rules of Agony Booth Box Office Predictions clearly state that predictions deal with North American grosses only, so if I’m being a stickler, I have to say that Pacific Rim Uprising will follow suit and BOMB domestically.
Marion: As a spectacle, this looks like it could be fun in 3-D, but mostly it’s all about the big, and not so much the story. Without Idris Elba, what’s the point? And how did “girl hacker/supertech genius” go from being something different to standard issue so quickly? BOMB.
Ready Player One (March 29)
Directed by Steven Spielberg from the bestselling novel of the same name. In 2045, the world is on the brink of ecological ruin, causing the populace to seek comfort in the OASIS, a giant virtual reality world. When its creator dies, he leaves clues to acquiring his vast fortune somewhere in the OASIS, and a teenager named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) joins the hunt while running into all sorts of licensed characters from other franchises, including the Iron Giant, Gandalf, Duke Nukem, Lara Croft (yes, again), and Freddy Krueger.
Susan: It’s one of the most anticipated book to film adaptations of the year, but this trailer makes the world of the OASIS seem rather dull and lifeless. Still, Steven Spielberg helming a futuristic sci-fi movie stuffed with ’80s nostalgia can’t go wrong. I predict a modest HIT.
Jordon: Wait a minute, I’m confused. This is a blockbuster that isn’t a sequel or based on a comic book? That just doesn’t even seem appropriate anymore. I’d be offended if it weren’t Steven Goddamned Spielberg being his Steven Goddamned Spielbergian Spielbergiest! I’m already camped out for tickets to this movie. HIT.
Tyler: It’s sometimes difficult for me, while writing these predictions, to make a dispassionate assessment of how well a movie will do and keep my personal feelings separate, and I’m having that problem now. Rarely has a novel disappointed me like Ready Player One did. I read it expecting a clever send-up of geek culture, and what I got was po-faced nerd trash that justified and celebrated all of geek culture’s worst aspects: its clannishness, its entitlement, its obsessiveness, its crapulent nostalgia, its infantile escapism, its treatment of women as a mysterious and potentially hostile species; and on a meta level, its love of hacky, unchallenging adventure stories. By far the worst thing about Ready Player One, the novel, is its breathless yen to recite every bit of nerd trivia and ‘Memberberry callback its author could think of, even (or especially!) when apropos of nothing in the story itself. I really hate that marketers think geeks are such mush-brained lemmings that you can sell them anything if you cover it with pictures of things they already love. But if I’m being fair, they use this cynical strategy because geeks are often that dumb and it totally works. Which is why I’m forced to admit that I think Gamergate: The Movie will be a massive HIT.
Marion: It feels like a Frankenstein monster assembled from bits of things I might love: an “unlikely” young hero (who references Spider-Man), a virtual reality (like The Matrix, Tron, Dark City, and many more), terrible forces trying to do very bad things, and many familiar characters just to hit us in our brains’ nostalgia centers. As a series, in the hands of someone good at TV with a big budget and the time to make this his or her own, maybe it would work, but as a film it cheapens everything. BOMB.
How’d we do on last month’s predictions?
Budget: $200M | Earnings to date: ALL THE MONEY | Projected total earnings: $640-680M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (3 of 3)
Reality: RECORD-SHATTERING HIT
Fifty Shades Freed
Budget: $55M | Earnings to date: $98M | Projected total earnings: $100M
Prediction: 100% said HIT (3 of 3)
Reality: HIT (me with a leather thong)
The 15:17 to Paris
Budget: $30M | Earnings to date: $35M | Projected total earnings: $38M
Prediction: 66% said HIT (2 of 3)
Reality: Eh, HIT-ish
Budget: $40M | Earnings to date: $26M | Projected total earnings: $30-32M
Prediction: 66% said HIT (2 of 3)
Budget: $50M | Earnings to date: $94M | Projected total earnings: $110-120M
Prediction: 0% said HIT (0 of 3)
And one January prediction that was too early to officially call a flop last month…
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Budget: $62M | Earnings to date: $57M | Projected total earnings: $57M
Prediction: 20% said HIT (1 of 5)
Final Score: 4 Right (including MR3), 2 Wrong