I kind of miss the days when this weekend was the start of the summer movie season. Memorial Day is such a harbinger of summer anyway, and it felt even more so when some huge blockbuster dropped that same weekend. It used to be the weekend of Star Wars, both old and new, a somewhat hallowed cinematic date. Now they start rolling the big films out in April, and Memorial Day just doesn’t have the same oomph. In the past, Age of Ultron probably would have opened this past Wednesday. Now, we get two films that, while bearing high expectations, aren’t nearly the big contenders we used to see vying for this weekend.
I’m both shocked and not the least bit surprised we’re getting a Poltergeist remake. Shocked because one would think anything Steven Spielberg had a hand in would pretty much be a sacred cow, especially a film he was so heavily involved with. And not the least bit surprised because, well, it’s an enduring film with name recognition. Of course someone was going to at the very least suggest remaking it. Besides, the original was 33 years ago, long enough ago that there’s a generation who knows the name and nothing else and might be receptive to this. So name recognition and the fact that it’s a PG-13 horror film will likely let this open well. Any legs it has will greatly depend on how much it establishes its own identity while still evoking the original, which looks to be pretty heavily from how much the trailers lean on big moments from the first film. As a Spielberg die-hard I’m sort of against this film on general principle though; surely there’s an original haunted house story out there that could be made into a fun film without dressing itself up in the trappings of classic.
So far, Brad Bird has done no wrong. The Iron Giant is fantastic, The Incredibles is still the best Fantastic Four movie we’re likely to ever get, Ratatouille is a miracle of a rescue job on his part (he joined the project after it had been in production for four years), and Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol is the one M:I film that feels like anyone involved actually saw the original series. So I had very high hopes for Tomorrowland, even if it did begin its life as a section of Disneyland. The trailers have had a nice mix of mystery and wonder, managing to entice without giving the entire plot away, and the glimpses of the actual Tomorrowland have scratched that pulp future itch rather nicely. But then some early reviews were mixed to outright negative, and now it seems possible Bird may have made his first directorial misstep. Not that I’m not going to see this anyway. I have too much faith in Bird to think this is a complete disaster. But my sky-high anticipation has, perhaps healthily, been tempered a bit. I still have a feeling this film will have the most ideas in it of any of the big summer films, so it’ll have that going for it.
And if you have time between barbecues and memorial services, go see Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a film that deserves to be seen on a big screen with booming sound. Even though it’s lagging behind Pitch Perfect 2 at the box office, it feels like Fury Road has sunk deeper into the pop culture consciousness, which bodes well for its long-term reputation. But it would be nice to see it get over the $100 million mark. It certainly deserves it more than some films that will cruise past that number this year.