Hit or Bomb? March 2020 movie predictions
We’re past the dump months of January and February, which means it’s time for studios to roll out their second-tier blockbusters to take advantage of spring break audiences. Here to predict whether some of the biggest March releases will be HITs or BOMBs based solely on watching the trailers are Thomas Stockel, Tyler Peterson, Julie Kushner, and Jordon Davis.
Onward (March 6)
Pixar’s latest takes place in a fantasy world that strangely looks a lot like the suburbs, where two teenage elf brothers (voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt) set off on a journey to find a gem that will temporarily resurrect their father who died when they were young, while also having to drag along their dad’s disembodied legs for some reason.
Thomas S: Well, on the one hand, you’ve got two popular actors in Tom Holland and Chris Pratt and that’s a plus. On the minus side, they aren’t playing the characters that made them popular and frankly the premise just looks dumb, and not in a good way. I don’t see this movie catching fire and I predict a rare BOMB for Pixar this time out.
Tyler: Pretty inoffensive, as far as it goes. Pretty stock Disney/Pixar story and character design with some cool moments and some cringe moments. It’s intended as a holiday movie for kids on spring break, and it’ll do for that purpose. HIT.
Julie: To me, Onward seems like the movie version of that kid in your elementary school gym class who always got picked last for the kickball team, but then one day he gets picked first, and is all excited! Except, the only reason he got picked first is that he’s ten years old and all the other players are six years old. What I mean to say is that despite the Tom Holland/Chris Pratt of it all, this movie doesn’t look… well… very good. And yet, the trailer features two sassy kid unicorns and a family of “body positive”, social-media friendly emo-elves. Meanwhile, the only other “kid movie” offering this month (see below) features less than one wise-cracking dragon. Based on this, I’m going to move onward and predict a minor HIT for this film, but based only on a technicality.
Jordon: Welcome back, March, with all of your movies that aren’t super tentpole material but are, you know, good enough. And Onward looks like exactly that. It isn’t going to be Wall-E or Toy Story or even Cars 3: The Cars Do Something or Other. But it does look good enough. Early word-of-mouth has been pretty positive and Disney has increased its first weekend expectations. I say hooray for this. Hooray, I say. HIT.
Bloodshot (March 13)
The very ‘90s Valiant Comics character makes his motion picture debut when a marine (Vin Diesel) is assassinated but gets brought back by to life through the power of nanotechnology, which also turns him into a superhuman killing machine who joins forces with other super-soldiers to get revenge on the man who murdered him.
Thomas S: Vin’s been riding the Fast and Furious train for some time now, and except for a few rare exceptions, he hasn’t had a lot of hits under his belt. But this time out I think maybe the premise might have some legs to it. It looks action-packed with an interesting premise. I see it as a minor HIT.
Tyler: Diesel isn’t very mobile for an action star, and these are the kinds of roles he excels in, where he doesn’t really have to do anything except be big, take damage, grunt, turn slightly, and unleash death in the direction of the attack. This looks to be the kind of grimy sci-fi schlock they don’t make much of anymore, like Upgrade with a higher budget, which may be a gamble, but ol’ Vinny still has enough star power left in his bag to sprinkle around and propel this to HIT status.
Julie: You can thank Liam Neeson and Keanu Reeves for the current media notion that buff, late middle-aged men make the best action heroes/romantic leads, because they’re old enough to know better (and scout out the Big Bads before they blow up our continent) but still young and virile enough to “perform” when needed, if you catch my drift. Kudos to Vin Diesel for still looking scarily intimidating (but in a kind of sexy way [?]) after all these years. Unfortunately, no amount of heavily CGI-ed Hot Dad fight scenes can save this wet blanket of a film from straight-to-streaming-in-a-month obscurity. BOMB!
Jordon: Oh, March. Why must you tease me so? You tease me! First there was a good enough movie, but now you give me Ghost in the Shell with the wrong damn Avenger! How hard would it have been to just make a Ronin movie or Ghost in the Shell II: More Whitewashing of Japanese Culture? I can’t see this being any good. And what’s worse, it’s clearly made for the Asian market and those guys I don’t think are allowed out of their houses right now. BOMB.
The Hunt (March 13)
Originally set for release last fall but delayed due to a couple of mass shootings, this politically charged take on The Most Dangerous Game (which has already garnered a couple of angry presidential tweets) features a band of rural red-state hicks (including Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, and Emma Roberts) being hunted by the liberal elite 1% for sport.
Thomas S: I was wondering what the hell had happened to this movie. Mired in controversy, I’m guessing it’s probably been blown a bit out of proportion, seeing as most people have a generally low opinion of the rich to begin with. With an estimated budget of $14 million, the film doesn’t have to work too hard to make its money back. I predict a modest HIT.
Tyler: This is the movie that made Trump have a meltdown? I don’t know who’s stupider: Trump, who apparently thought this movie cast “the elites” in a positive light, or the liberals who are calling this a fundamentally “right-wing” movie just because the protagonists are southern and working-class. Unless there’s some sort of twist that the trailer didn’t show, it appears to be a very broad and not very subtle satire about how large swaths of the human population are written off as unworthy of empathy or human rights for failing to exhibit the correct class signifiers. The political brouhaha reminds me of the hype surrounding Joker, which obviously worked gangbusters, so I see no reason why The Hunt shouldn’t also be a HIT.
Julie: I guess we have Get Out to thank for making it okay to have a Hollywood movie where the bad guys are presumably blue-state Democrats. (Remember when Bradley Whitford’s character in that film said he would’ve voted for Obama a third time?) Weird political messages aside, films that were kept out of theaters for an extended time due to “it’s too soon for a movie about gun violence” sentiments generally don’t fare well at the box office when they eventually get released. Plus, with coronavirus fears on high around the world, gun violence actually seems like a really inefficient manner of neutralizing folks you don’t like, doesn’t it? Just send them to a market in China where live snakes are being served as a delicacy… or the Louvre? BOMB.
Jordon: Alright, Blumhouse, I’m onboard. You gave us a horrible movie in early February and a good movie in late February. Now we’re up to a pretty good movie in March. At this rate, you’ll be sweeping the Oscars in under a year. Cheap movie, made well. HIT.
A Quiet Place Part II (March 20)
The sequel to the 2018 hit finds the Abbott family (led by Emily Blunt sans John Krasinski, though he’s back as director) venturing out into the unknown to continue their fight for survival against the creatures that hunt by sound, encountering other survivors (Cillian Murphy, Djimon Honsou) and having plenty of flashbacks to how the invasion started in the first place.
Thomas S: The first film turned a tidy profit. But will lightning strike twice? I doubt it. BOMB.
Tyler: The whole appeal of A Quiet Place was that it was a new yet simple premise, with an intimate setting not encumbered by backstory. Now they’ve picked it up and run in the complete opposite direction. BOMB.
Julie: Seems like someone went and took all the “quiet” out of A Quiet Place, huh? But they made up for it by turning back time to give us just a little bit more of Jim from The Office. So… even trade? People liked the first film, and it doesn’t have much competition this month, so this one will do just fine… even though all the novelty of its original concept seems to have been replaced with scenes from Every Alien Invasion Disaster Film You’ve Ever Seen. HIT!
Jordon: I didn’t see the first movie. It looked really, really scary. This movie looks less scary, but I’m worried it might be too scary. The only way I would see this is if the twist ending is that they save the receptionist. Because I can only see John Krasinski as one thing. I’m not a good movie reviewer. HIT.
Mulan (March 27)
It’s another live-action adaptation of a Disney animated classic, but this time (in an unfortunately timed attempt to appeal to the mostly quarantined Chinese audience) the musical numbers and talking dragon have been jettisoned in favor of a more serious telling of the source folk tale of a girl (Yifei Liu) who disguises herself as a man to defend China against northern invaders.
Thomas S: Disney’s had considerable success with these live-action remakes, but this time I think they’ve gone too far. By not making it a musical and by removing Li Shang from the plot, they’ve made one change too many. I think this time out Disney has a BOMB on its hands.
Tyler: They’ve changed the look and the tone of the movie to make it more “adult”, added some new characters, taken out the goofy talking animals, taken out the songs, and poached genre elements from wuxia to K-drama to Whannell-esque hyper-action. It seems interesting. Unfortunately, the last live-action remake to try to do something actually new (Dumbo) fell like a baby elephant off a diving board. Sorry, Disney! We’re degenerates and all we crave is the comforting embrace of that sweet childhood content. BOMB.
Julie: I enjoyed the original animated Mulan as a kid. And I’m not saying that the only reasons I liked the film were the catchy songs and Eddie Murphy’s adorable dragon-pal character Mushu, but they were the only elements of the film that made it feel like a kid’s movie and not a homework assignment. Mulan being a kid’s movie was what ultimately got me into the theater back in the day. And now, I guess people who really liked the original may be curious enough to check out this dry, non-animated, dragon-free, songless, dourly serious version… but they’re probably going to leave their kids at home with the sitter. BOMB.
Jordon: Look, I’ll be honest, I just found out this isn’t a musical. And I have never been more depressed about anything since I found out John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer weren’t married in real life. This movie looks good and I think it has enough story to carry it a little bit, but adults aren’t going to flock to it and neither are children. Without an Asian market, this won’t clear its budget. BOMB.
How movies are judged:
- The Agony Booth judges a movie to be a HIT if we project that it will significantly exceed its production budget in domestic (U.S and Canada) box office earnings. Our rule of thumb is +20%, but this may slide up or down based on the marketing budget.
- The Agony Booth only considers domestic box office total, because the share of international ticket sales that ends up with the studio varies not just from studio to studio, but often from movie to movie (although this is less true than it used to be).