In part two of our list of films in 2014 we hope don’t suck, we get into the meaty part of the year, May through July, which includes the first wave of summer blockbuster films. Traditionally the summer film season ends in August, and even September sees the odd release that costs more money than the combined GDC of some countries. But the early part of the summer months is when Hollywood opens its collective wallet and really begins to let the money flow in an awesomely sickening way.
Seriously, the first five films in this list have a combined budget of close to a billion dollars, and that isn’t counting the marketing. If you pooled the advertising money and gave it all to a scientific research group like DARPA, we’d have a jetpack in every garage by tomorrow.
Expect to hear a whole lot about the movies on this list in the coming months thanks to ads, trailers, fast food tie-ins, subliminal messaging, and possibly even logos carved into the moon.
What? It’s just sitting there. Do you think Michael Bay and Paramount wouldn’t scratch the Transformers 4 logo onto the lunar surface if they could?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The first Amazing Spider-Man rebooted the franchise successfully, but it had to drag itself through yet another Spidey origin story to do so. Now that we’ve put that behind us – again – the series can rise again like Phoenix. Not a phoenix, but the city of Phoenix, which Sony could conceivably buy the naming rights to with the profits from these films, and rename it Spideyopolis, or Sonyburgh.
Following the release of Amazing Spidey 2, a third and fourth film have already been discussed, along with at least two spinoffs; one starring Venom and the other starring The Sinister Six. There have also been rumors of superhero spinoffs taken from the Spidey universe. While Fox has the rights to all the Marvel Comics mutant characters (as well as Fantastic Four), and Marvel Studios controls the rest, Sony can make as many Spidey-related films as it wants. Fans of the films will probably find that to be an interesting prospect. Longtime Spidey comics fans, on the other hand, should be justifiably afraid it will mean a feature film based on Cloak and Dagger. And Nobody wants that.
It could even lead to the introduction of the Scarlet Spider, a chilling prospect. The Scarlet Spider was a clone of Peter Parker with all his memories, created by Peter and Gwen Stacy’s professor, because he fell in love with her and blamed Spidey after she died in the comics. It was even dumber than it sounds, and it all led to a ridiculous story known in comic circles as the dreaded Clone Saga. If any single film can end the avalanche of comic book movies, it would be one based on the Clone Saga.
The flipside is a few cool possibilities though, like a Black Cat and/or Silver Sable spinoff along with many others. Regardless of how the film is received by critics and fans, the Spidey brand alone will likely make it a box office success. So unless Amazing Spidey 2 is so bad it literally kills people in theater seats, odds are there is no stopping more films. With that in mind we hope it doesn’t suck, because there is no escaping it. If you thought a dancing emo Tobey McSpidey was bad, just know it could get so, so much worse.
Watching the recently released trailer on the big screen, you get a sense of the epic scale the filmmakers are going for. This is not a cheap monster movie. Matthew Broderick will not fight off baby Godzillas while Puff Daddy raps about lizards over a viciously abused Led Zeppelin classic. We hope.
The original Godzilla was a markedly different creation from what the series became. In the years following the original 1954 film, the once-horrifying monster battled space monsters and romped with his adorable monster son. It became a B-movie series. The shift in tone produced a lot of fun films, but the original was a Japanese allegory about the dangers of radiation and man meddling with primal forces of nature, produced less than a decade after the country experienced nuclear devastation firsthand. Somewhere along the way, that idea yielded to a guy in a rubber suit punching space lobsters in the face … or whatever space lobsters have in place of faces.
Director Gareth Edwards’ reboot looks to rekindle that original idea. Godzilla is not cute. It is a force of nature that destroys everything in its path. It is man versus a malevolent force of nature that wants nothing more than to ruin everyone on Earth’s day. The film’s potential is huge, but so is the possibility of it horribly sucking. There is precedent. If you’ve forgotten the 1998 American version, count yourself lucky.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
This is another one of those films that, if it sucks, it could directly impact other films in the future. In that sense, X-Men: Days of Future Past has a responsibility to future to not suck. An amazing film would be great of course, but the previous X-Men films have taught us to manage our expectations. It’s been years, but the pain of X-Men: The Last Stand never goes away.
It’s a testament to the series – and possibly the casts (at least Hugh Jackman) – that these films continue to attract such a huge following. X-Men: First Class was a solid entry and so was X2, but The Wolverine had problems, and both X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Stand were god awful. managed to seriously slow the franchise, but Days of Future Past is part of a bigger plan.
This film is the culmination of all the previous X-Men films, and it features both characters and actors from past X-Movies. Director Bryan Singer has also already announced he is thinking of a follow-up featuring the villain Apocalypse. For fans, that is amazing, but frightening news.
Like Apocalypse, Days of Future Past is taken deep from the X-Men comics lore. The other films were original stories starring the X-Men, but this story is taken from a fan favorite and will need to be better than most of the previous offerings to satiate a rabid fanbase. At the very least it needs to not suck, as some of the previous X-Men films have. If it does, it may finally, and maybe even mercifully, kill the franchise. At least until Fox decides to reboot it and try again.
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Not everyone is in love with Seth MacFarlane and his unique brand of humor, but his first foray into live-action filmmaking, 2012’s Ted, was a breakout hit, earning over half a billion dollars. It was made for a mature audience and it reaffirmed to studios that – like many other similarly successful summer comedies – you don’t need to blow up a planet in order to compete in the summer movie landscape. Sure, everybody loves seeing things explode real purdy, but films like Ted help remind us that it’s not always necessary and that original films can also succeed too.
This film also has the benefit of having a ridiculous amount of famous people appear in it. Along with MacFarlane, who stars, are: Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, and probably a lot of others in cameos where they will do something hilarious and undignified. Fingers crossed.
Whether you love MacFarlane or not, this western comedy about a coward who finds his courage is an original light in a sea of summer sequels, reboots, and spin-offs. It continues a fine tradition of original summer comedies, and hopefully it won’t suck so studios will continue to try out more originals.
Edge of Tomorrow
There are two ways to look at this Tom Cruise vehicle. The first is that it’s laudable to see Hollywood cast its Sauron-like gaze in a new direction by deciding to adapt an original Japanese novel about a Special Forces soldier that keeps fighting, improving, and ultimately dying in the same battle. The second is that Hollywood took an original idea, slapped on a more generic title, then had an alarming eight screenwriters hack it to bits before moving forward.
The film is based on the 2004 Japanese novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and focuses on a soldier as he lives and continually dies throughout the worst Groundhog’s Day ever. It was first adapted by screenwriter Dante Harper and quickly had several A-listers wanting a piece, including Brad Pitt. Sounds great, right? But that was in 2010. Since then the film has changed stars, titles, and probably made some literary agents very rich. You know the expression “too many cooks spoil the broth?” That phrase isn’t just about cooks, you know.
And poor Tom Cruise. Sure he’s a little … crazy at times, but you have to give him props for again and again trying to work on original big-budget films like Oblivion and Jack Reacher. Both turned a profit, but not much more. Still, you have to admire Cruise’s gumption. If nothing else, he is a champion of original movies (original by Hollywood standards at least). Cruise for all his nuttery is still a huge international star. If he can’t get people interested in original films, we may all be in trouble.
Compared to the last few years we’ve actually seen a decent number of non-sequel/reboot big budget release, but eight of the ten highest grossing films in 2013 have been sequels. If All You Need is Kill – sorry, Edge of Tomorrow – sucks, Hollywood may go even deeper down the sequel/reboot rabbit hole. And damn, eight screenwriters is a lot.
22 Jump Street
Channing Tatum is a rising Hollywood star thanks to a combination of well-chosen movies, and because Hollywood seems to really like the guy. He comes across as a bit of a meathead now and then, which earned him the apt nickname of “Charming Potato,” but he has also shown a remarkable ability to make fun of himself and his image. The reboot of 21 Jump Street is a good example of this.
21 Jump Street was one of the highest-grossing and best-received comedies of 2012, and Tatum deserves a lot of the credit for that. His casting fit perfectly with what directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller wanted to do. They took all the tropes that made the original TV series work – things like the popular kids doing drugs, the guy with the muscle car being popular, and the jock as king in high school – and did the exact opposite. It was a refreshingly self-aware parody, and the sequel will hopefully continue that.
With films like 21 Jump Street though, there is the fear that part of what made it work was that it was unexpected, and the sequel doesn’t have that same advantage. Sequels to comedies frequently try to build on the jokes that worked rather than trying new ones. That can still work of course, but there’s only so much awkward Jonah Hill to go around. Hopefully 22 Jump Street can avoid that trap.
So far the plot description isn’t exactly encouraging on that front though. Tatum and Jonah Hill return to the role of undercover students, but this time in college. Their friendship is tested as they each begin to grow in different directions while investigating drugs in a fraternity. It sounds very similar to the original, almost to a fault. Charming Potato deserves better.
Transformers 4: Age of Extinction
Again and again critics hate the Transformer movies, and again and again Paramount and director Michael Bay react with a thoughtful “pfft.” Possibly while high-fiving each other as they drink bottled water carried down from the Alps by blind monks that cost more than the value of the city of Toledo. Financially, the films do very well, which means there is very little reason to change the formula. But we can hope.
The third film was a big step up over the second, with nary a racist caricature or metallic testicle to be seen, and the fourth film is the start of a new story with a new cast. Shia “the Beef” and his apparently interchangeable eye candy girlfriend have been replaced, and the starring honors now fall to Mark Wahlberg, who is rumored to have signed on for three films. This is still a Michael Bay movie though, so there will be plenty of beautiful women standing majestically as wind sweeps through their hair and the camera pans around them, and plenty of people will likely heroically get out of cars and look around. But otherwise it is said to be a completely new story, with only a handful of previously seen Transformers appearing.
If you grew up with the cartoons, toys, comics, etc., it’s hard not to want to root for the films, mind-numbingly dumb plot holes and all. The third film wasn’t exactly memorable, but at least it didn’t suck, and hopefully this one won’t ether. After all, it has Dinobots in it. If you are a fan from way back and that doesn’t get you at least a little excited, nothing will.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
As far as reboots go, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of the best received in recent years. It offered a smart take on a story that had already failed to be rebooted once, taking a wild concept and turning it into a deeply thoughtful film. Strong performances, excellent CGI, and a well thought out story gave life to the series once again, and a franchise was reborn.
For those reasons alone, we should all hope that the sequel doesn’t suck, and so far it’s looking solid. The story is set eight years after the end of the previous film. A virus has wiped out the majority of the human race and the survivors band together, resulting in a short-lived peace with the apes that doesn’t last. With the new story and setting also comes a whole new cast, including Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) and Gary Oldman (if you’ve never heard of Oldman, we can’t help you).
It all sounds like 20th Century Fox, is taking great pains to ensure the quality of the franchise, but there are a few causes for concern. Rupert Wyatt, the director of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, was excited for more sequels – right before he left the project. He even mad sure to add a few nods to the original 1968 film, including the launch of the spacecraft Icarus, the ship Charlton Heston’s character was on. Rise could very well be a prequel to Planet of the Apes, and Wyatt had a long-term plan. He just didn’t like the timetable.
Following issues with the studio over an accelerated schedule, Wyatt walked off the project. The studio then brought in Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, which bumped the release date a few months, but there is still the possibility that Wyatt was right to run. If so, all those big plans about future films could come crumbling down when Dawn falls flat.
Hercules: The Thracian Wars
There are two Hercules films due out in 2014, but one of these things is not like the other. One stars Dwayne Johnson, Rufus Sewell, John Hurt, Ian McShane, and has a budget of well over $100 million. The other stars the big vampire bro from the Twilight films.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules: The Thracian Wars follows the titular character after years spent fighting and raging against the gods. He and his band of brothers are hired to train an army, and in the process they realize how far they have fallen. But probably not before they kill a whole lot of people. It’s directed by Brett Ratner, so you can safely assume it won’t be a deep character study on man’s inhumanity towards man. No, it will be about one man sword fighting against five other men, and possibly an elephant, in slow motion. Maybe even a cameo from Chris Tucker.
There are lots of movies coming out in 2014 that will have deep and thought provoking stories, but this probably won’t be one of them. And that’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing wrong with a good old action movie, and July is a good time for them. It has a good cast, a well-known hero in a unique situation, and … um, Brett Ratner. Who directed X-Men: The Last Stand. Well, hopefully this one won’t suck.
The Wachowskis return once more with an original science fiction project, with an emphasis on “original.” Unassuming janitor Jupiter Jones (played by Mila Kunis) is marked for death by the Queen of the Universe, because a prophecy claimed that the lowly toilet cleaner could be the universe’s next leader. Jones then meets a mercenary coming for her, Caine (played by Channing Tatum), a soldier with wolf DNA. They go on the run with Stinger (played by Sean Bean), who is described as a “Han Solo-type character.” That is either going to be awesome, or very stupid. Hard to tell at this point.
Jupiter Rising is a completely original story from a team that tends to split fans down the middle. Some love their work, others think it’s a mess. Wherever you fall, you have to at least give the Wachowskis some credit for trying new things.
Kunis and Tatum are both stars, and hopefully Bean can make it through a movie without dying for a change. It’s probably not fair to say that this is the Wachowski’s “last chance,” but it may be the last time they can operate on this scale. Their $100 million passion project, Cloud Atlas, failed to win over audiences, and their film before that, Speed Racer, was a box office bomb. Both earned something of a cult following though.
Love them or hate them, Hollywood needs filmmakers like the Wachowskis trying new things. Hopefully Jupiter Ascending will help to reaffirm them as Hollywood elite by not sucking.