It might not look like it, but this week’s two wide releases have a lot in common. Each is the latest installment in a long-running franchise that can arguably be said to have reached its pop culture zenith years ago. Both will be subject to the intense scrutiny of their respective fan bases. Both their studios have a lot riding on their releases, neither blinking as both films are rolling out on a near equal number of screens. They’re clearly aiming for different markets, and one is following up a massive worldwide success while the other is trying to reinvigorate its brand, but at their cores, both are banking on recognizable names getting your butt in a seat this weekend.
Of the two, I’m more worried about The Peanuts Movie. Not because of its animation style; I’m not one of the purists who howled in rage at the thought of a computer animated Charlie Brown and crew. No, it’s the advertising that has me scratching my head. Using “Baba O’Reilly” and “O Fortuna” in its ads strikes me as just a bit tone-deaf; I don’t immediately associate Charlie Brown with teenage wastelands and German cantatas. And beyond Snoopy, are any of these characters particularly beloved anymore? It seems like they get remembered around the holidays when their specials roll out — which makes slotting it between Halloween and Thanksgiving a smart move — but for the rest of the year, nothing. Still, the kiddies have all seen Hotel Transylvania 2 and Goosebumps by now, and they’re probably not interested in super spies, so there’s definitely a market for this. Middling advance reviews make me think this isn’t something that’s going to get revisited every year though.
I wrote yesterday about where I’d like to see James Bond go. Today, we get to see where he is. Although since Spectre opened in the U.K. last week, we kind of have an idea already, and reactions are all over the place. I’ve seen from “everything you want a Bond movie to be” to “a betrayal of what Bond is.” Well, that should make expectations nice and easy to manage. What I’m hoping for is a Bond free from all the soul-searching and revisionism present in Daniel Craig’s first three outings, and that the end of Skyfall seemed to promise. Reinvention is all well and good, but it doesn’t hurt to remember the invention every now and then. Good or bad, it’s Bond, so it’s going to open like crazy. And it’s got the landscape pretty much to itself until Katniss launches her final arrow into the Hunger Games series just before Thanksgiving. So it’ll do fine financially. But that was never really that tough a mission to begin with. Pleasing the faithful will be its real challenge.