If the summer movie season is a storm, we’re in a definite lull right now, picking up after the onslaught of Iron Man and Star Trek and Furious 6, and battening down the hatches for Man of Steel. Not that the studious behind the films debuting over the next few weeks don’t have high hopes for them, but let’s face it: the releases for this week and next week are in a real battle of shrugs.
Take for instance After Earth. It’s Will Smith in a summer movie. People should be salivating for this one. But it’s only tracking for something like $35 million for the weekend, which isn’t good compared to the blazing starts we’ve seen already this year. Part of the tepid anticipation for this one is likely due to knowledge of it being directed by M. Night Shyamalan, despite Sony’s best efforts to keep that to themselves. I don’t think there’s any director who has damaged his brand as badly as Shyamalan has, and it hasn’t been a descent filled with peaks and valleys either. It’s been a steep, steady decline that’s seen him not only fail when telling his own stories, but when adapting what seemed like a sure-fire property in The Last Airbender. For a man who was a brand name thirteen years ago, having his name all but buried in the After Earth promos has got to be blow. Word that the film isn’t all that good probably won’t help matters either. I have to admit, the trailers for this have me intrigued, but mostly on the level of something like History’s Life After People, where I’m interested in seeing what they do with the futuristic fauna. Too bad Smith and his spawn will likely keep getting in the way.
So it’s the smaller, less-hyped film that’s got me more interested this weekend. Now You See Me has what seems like a sure-fire premise — Las Vegas magicians performing elaborate robberies — and a pretty killer cast, from Morgan Freeman to Mark Ruffalo to Woody Harrelson. The minuses crop up behind the camera, where the writers have such films as Imagine That, The In-Laws, and Prince of Persia on their résumés, and director Louis Leterrier has such gems as Transporter 2 and Clash of the Titans to his credit. So the question becomes can the cleverness of the concept be sustained throughout the film, and can the likeable cast overcome any other deficiencies the film might have. Early reviews are pointing to no on both those counts, but I’m holding out hope that this can be a Sneakers-like surprise.
But chances are both these films are going to get rolled by the holdovers. Furious 6 should hold over well, Star Trek seems to be clicking with the regular, non-Trekkie audiences, and Epic is not doing too badly for itself. It’s probably going to take some magic and a Shyamalan twist ending for the new guys to make much of a dent.