The summer movie season is generally reserved for mindless popcorn flicks filled with explosions and accidents. This year should not be an exception, but there are a number of intriguing films that are sure to attract audiences. Here are a few notes on some of the projected box office winners.
“Stars War Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (May 19) Director George Lucas finally reveals how Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christenen) turned to the dark side and became Darth Vader. The film will feature the long awaited duel between Anakin and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Rmors have circulated that Chewbacca will make an appearance. The eagerly anticipated sixth film and third prequel of the “Star Wars” series, the film promises to have a darker tone. The previous prequels, the “Phantom Menace” and “Attack of the Clones,” were considered letdowns. However, hopes are high for episode three.
Box Office Potential: Millions love “Star Wars,” but each successive film is earning less and less revenue. Lucas needs to deliver this time around for the film to reach the heights of the original films.
“Batman Begins” (June 17) “Memento” director Chris Nolan tries to resuscitate the Batman franchise with this latest take on the Dark Knight. The last film in the series, 1997’s “Batman and Robin,” was panned by critics and ignored by audiences. Unlike previous films in the series, the film will focus on the adolescence and maturation of Batman and how he became a crime fighter. The all-star cast features the Christian Bale in the role of the Caped Crusader, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, “The Last Samurai[‘s]” Ken Watanabe and Morgan Freeman.
Box Office Potential: “Batman” equals big bucks but no name star and new look will not attract as many people as expected unless the director succeeds.
“Kingdom of Heaven” (May 6) This expensive Crusade era period piece features “The Lord of the Rings[‘s]” Orlando Bloom in his first leading role and marks director Ridley Scott’s return to epic filmmaking. The veteran Scott, director of such science fiction classics as “Blade Runner” and the recent Oscar winning sword-and-sandals epic “Gladiator,” returns to blockbuster filmmaking after going small time with his last picture, the heist comedy “Matchstick Men.” Bloom stars as a blacksmith from Jerusalem attempting to protect his people from the British who are invading his land attempting to Christianize the Islamic people. The film also stars Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, and Edward Norton in a rare turn.
Box Office Potential: Scott is battle-tested at epic filmmaking but boring action epics (see “Troy”) often sink fast.
“Cinderella Man” (June 3) Director Ron Howard and actor Russell Crowe reunite for this Depression-era boxing drama about former World Heavyweight boxing champion James J. Braddock. Crowe plays Braddock, a boxer who became a folk hero and inspiration to millions of downtrodden Americans. Howard and Crowe, who previously worked together on 2001’s Oscar-winning “A Beautiful Mind,” originally were contracted to work on a version of “The Alamo” but passed on the script to do this film. The film co-stars Renee Zellwegger as Braddock’s wife and is an early front-runner for the 2005 Oscars. The film is a rare serious summer movie in line with “Road to Perdition” and “Seabiscuit.”
Box Office Potential: The film sounds like a crowd pleaser and Howard and Crowe usually deliver. It should stay in theaters for months.
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (July 15) More in line with his re-imagining of “Planet of the Apes,” director Tim Burton’s latest film is not a remake of the 1971 children’s classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The film is not a musical and retains the title of Roald Dahl’s book which served as the source material for both films. Burton’s favorite leading man, Johnny Depp, takes over for Gene Wilder and stars as the reclusive Willy Wonka, a candy maker who gives five lucky children a tour of his factory.