The ever amazing Alex Yi has worked up a fun sketch reminiscent of old Marvel Vs. Capcom video games. I’m looking forward to seeing this one again. Full of twists and turns and a classic Spider-Man villain ripped perfectly from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. There is no question in my mind that Tom Holland is perfect embodiment of Spider-Man/Peter Parker and here’s hoping he has as long a run as Hugh Jackman did with Wolverine in the X-Men Franchise.
The Summer Box Office is finally starting to heat up after a somewhat lackluster late Winter-Spring. There were a lot of duds in there from Life to Alien: Covenant and Baywatch, as well as King Arthur, Ghost in the Shell, The Great Wall and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. It’s clear that people want quality over quantity. Which is why Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, Get Out and Guardians 2 all scored big at the box office. Which brings us to this week’s release, Spider-Man: Homecoming. I had a chance to see the movie a bit earlier, and I’m not parsing my words here when I say - BEST SPIDER-MAN MOVIE - so far. And when I say BEST I mean, in my humble opinion, it rivals the best of Tobey McGuire’s Spidey. If you’re a Spidey fan through and through you probably agree that Tom Holland balances the best parts of Peter Parker and Spider-Man into the complete package. Now I promise to delve in on another post about the specifics about the movie, but today I want to take a crack at guessing the opening box office for Spider-Man and what I think it might make all in.
Let’s start with the tracking. In film distribution every film that gets released appears on tracking reports about two to three weeks before its release. Spider-Man, for instance, came on tracking at around a 15 or so and is hovering around a 24 currently, the week of the release. The tricky part about tracking is that it represents polling for first choice by the consumer. If you have a lot of movies in the field either already on screen or coming out in a week or two it can potentially take away points from any film. Because of high numbers for Wonder Woman and Despicable Me, and now War of the Planet of the Apes, it’s possible that the tracking doesn’t reflect for this week the true first choice. So it’s possible that Spider-Man very well could be under-inflated and actually be higher. It’s all kind of a gamble. Early predictions have Spider-Man opening to right around 100 million for the weekend. Not too bad, and if you were to solely base it on tracking it’s a fairly conservative number. But I don’t think that’s where this film is. I’m going to take it a bit higher. I think because the film is currently fresh at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and is garnering much early love from fans that I think it’s going to reach about 125-130 for the weekend. Which would be an improvement from Amazing Spider-Man 2 back in 2014 which opened to 91.6 million.
Now it is possible that some of the wind in Spidey’s sails has dwindled as this is the third incarnation of the superhero in as many years. But I would say Captain America: Civil War, which introduced this new Spidey last year is proof that Spider-Man is still a major draw. Spider-Man was considered one of the best parts of Civil War and I think, for fans, showed that Spidey would make a huge impression in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe.) This is also the perfect timing for a film of this type, a giant blockbuster, in the heart of summer after two very equally successful and well done Super Hero blockbusters in Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I think it helps Spidey that other closer big budgeted flicks like Transformers and The Mummy underperformed. With strong dramas like Apes and Dunkirk soon to follow it could also keep Spidey afloat as those two films seem fantastic, but also very bleak. Apes should be a big grosser but I think with the dark tone it will have a much more limited audience than Spidey. The same might be said about Dunkirk as well as it has already garnered mixed reviews. War movies are always tough especially in the summer but what makes this one even more difficult, at least in the states, is the very British narrative. These types of films usually do very minimal in the U.S., so it will be a testament to director Chris Nolan if Dunkirk makes Inception or Interstellar money. So to sum up, I feel confident that Spidey will have the proper legs to get it to a strong 325-340 million all in.
Art by Alex Yi
By the Eye of Agamotto I declare that Dr. Strange was...Fantastic. Big shocker I know but Marvel just continues to do everything right. Whether you love the Marvel Universe or not you cannot deny that they never just phone it in. They are meticulous and they allow the characters to breathe. They start with the fundamental aspect of film-making that makes or breaks a film despite the auteur filmmaker. It's the script stupid.
I'm going to talk a bit about the movie and there will be some SPOILERS below so be forewarned. I wanted to talk first about the relationship between the comics and the film and how Dr. Strange has evolved. Dr. Strange was created by Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Hulk, Shade: The Changing Man) pretty much on his own. This is one of the major characters that although Stan Lee did write some issues he claims absolutely no ownership of it. Ditko wrote and did the art for the character in 1963 that debuted in Strange Tales #110. Dr. Strange was never an A list hero but his creator made an art out of this very bizarre and odd form of storytelling . Despite his stories inability to capture mainstream comic fans his beautiful designs and colors stands as a testament to the art of comics and how Dr. Strange became a true reflection of the Warholian pop art community. Which is apropos to the man himself who in 1968 pulled a J.D. Salinger and retreated from Marvel and the mainstream for a small office in the concrete jungle of NYC. (You can read a geat article about his current whereabouts by Abraham Reisman) I really enjoyed the Strange Tales books from the 70's. They are trippy a bit goofy and very weird but in the best way possible. After Ditko and then Bill Everett as writer/artist (Sub-Mariner, Daredevil, Marvel Classics) in the late 60s it was artist Frank Brunner (Howard the Duck, Vampirella, Creepy) and writer Steve Engleheart's (Captain America, Avengers, Detective Comics) run that defined the series for most comic fans.
Dr. Strange was an arrogant neurosurgeon who, after a nasty car accident, loses the use of his hands and simultaneously ending his career. He seeks help in all directions but finds no cure until he comes to Kamar-Taj deep in the Himalayas and finds instruction from the Ancient One. He teaches Strange the mystical arts. He uses artifacts like the Eye of Agamotto and the Book of the Vishanti and says crazy things like "By the Hoary of Hosts of Hoggoth!" His main villains over the past 30 years include Baron Mordo, Mephisto, Nightmare, Satannish and the big bad himself Dormaummu. Doctor Strange is currently being written by Jason Aaron (Thor, Ghost Rider, Scalped) and artist Chris Bachalo (Uncanny X-Men, Generation X, Shade: The Changing Man). My all time favorite Dr. Strange in the comics are his guest spots on Spider-Man. If you've been paying attention to the blog you'll notice my connection to many characters in the Marvel Universe is through the webbed wall crawler. That is not an accident as he was my primary reading as a kid. But I always loved how much of a fish out of water Spidey was every time he had dealings with Dr. Strange. Whenever Spider-Man would get sucked into another hellish dimension with Dormammu or accidentally get thrown into the astral plane. His freak outs are legendary and I always thought they were a fun pairing so keep that in mind in the future Kevin Feige.
Cumberbatch nailed Dr. Strange in all aspects and you got to give the man his props for selling it so convincingly. This is by far one of the more difficult characters to bring to screen and he handled it with charm, deftness and sheer bad assery. The film looked incredible with the various worlds especially the mirror world was most spectacular. Now according to Rotten Tomatoes most of the reviews were positive. But after looking a little closer I began to notice a theme. Apparently the movie was was too formulaic for their tastes and that Strange was too much of like Iron Man. And to this I say - huh? Yes Dr. Strange is arrogant and incredibly gifted and is charismatic like Tony Stark but that is the only thing that connects them. He can be a smart ass which is probably why, on the surface, people liked to compare him to Tony Stark. The truth is he's a much more emotional and far less of a narcissist. Yet in some ways he excels at being an asshole, which the film proudly allows him to be. Dr. Strange is confident and understands his exemplary gifts which is why he is a snob to his fellow doctor Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams) when asked to lend his talents to the ER. He has nobler aspirations yes, dickish they may be, but after watching him perform such spectacular surgery it's hard to argue with his logic. There is however a particular trope in most blockbuster films, including this one, that I wish would be addressed and at least tweaked if not removed and that would be the training montage. I understand that no one wants to see Dr. Strange meditating and reading books but at the very least they can acknowledge that things are hard regardless of a photographic memory and that sometimes things take years to learn. For God's sakes you can throw up a 4 years later card or something. We aren't told exactly how long he's been there it may be months or years but it always bugs me so let's try to address that the next time Marvel.
So what can we expect from Dr. Strange in the future of the Marvel Universe? Well it's clear that he will appear in Avengers: Infinity War given that it is revealed in the film that the Eye of Agamotto is the time stone, one of 5 of the Infinity stones. Up to this moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe we have seen the Tesseract or Cosmic Cube from the Avengers and Captain America which is the Space Stone. The Mind Stone appeared in Loki's scepter in Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron and now resides in the headpiece of the Vision. The Aether from Thor: The Dark World is discovered to be the Reality Stone. The final stone is the power gem from Guardians of the Galaxy. All of these forces being brought together to combat Thanos who covets the 5 gems in the Infinity Gauntlet which he revealed at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, he proclaimed as he took the glove that he will have to now get them by himself. With that being said now that Strange has beat back Dormammu and is on his way to being the Sorcerer's Supreme has he created possibly two new allies for Thanos to get what he wants? The second being Baron Mordo played by Chiwetel Ejiofor who started as an ally and a mentor to Strange but by the end of the film felt betrayed by the order and is now a rogue sorcerer doing some really bad things. It sounds like he will certainly be back for the second Dr. Strange film but it would be a great twist to have him return as a heavy in Infinity War. I appreciate that the film brought the visual style of Ditko and kept the weird while deftly bringing Strange perfectly into the Marvel Universe. Bring on Infinity War.
This is a question that has come up frequently over the last few years as the Super Hero genre has grown considerably from one or two a year, if you were lucky, to an amazing six this year. Complaints about the strength and fortitude of this genre has been scrutinized as a passing fad like the Western or too dumb and silly for the norms because they wear costumes and do magic. From big time respected Hollywood directors like Steven Spielberg to the show runner of Gotham, Bruno Heller on Fox. This criticism has not abated. My question is why all the hate? Like most things I think that the peak of Super Hero movies might have met it's zenith this year but it doesn't mean that studios are going to slow down or stop altogether any time soon. Why should they even at their worst the mainstream blockbusters have always found a way to make comfortably over 100 million dollars at the least and at most over a billion dollars or more world wide. Would you stop making these types of movies with that kind of money?
I get it, there are some people who love superheroes and others who do not but what I want to focus on, the question people keep asking, are Comic Book movies ruining the industry? The answer to this question is simple, no. In fact it has streamlined the movie industry in a way that it will never be the same again whether you love these movies or not. Studios from Sony, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, Universal and even some of the mid-majors like Lionsgate are all interested in franchises with their own universe so they can create more movies, video games, tv shows and the list goes on and on. They started this process with mostly just comic book properties, Marvel/Disney doing it the best and now every studio is trying to do this at some level or another and now it's not just comic book characters it's with everything. So in a sense the comic book industry has left a permanent mark on film whether you love them or not. You are always going to have bad movies whether it be an unnecessary sequel, a shitty remake, a terrible book/comic/game adaptation. Personally I would love it if all the studios got back to the art of making movies for profit rather than only looking at profit for movies. There is a distinction.
Also just a note in closing to Bruno Heller, it's your right to call Super Heroes silly and stupid but you look like a horses ass when you say these things while working on a Super Hero show. Gotham, the show you created, is dumb and silly and doesn't feel remotely realistic and I stopped watching it mostly because you are teasing Batman on a Batman show without actually showing Batman and that just doesn't work for me. No matter how many of his villains origins you want to show. The reason comic book movies and TV work is they are faithful in spirit to their original design. It doesn't have to be paint by numbers but it has to make sense. It's that simple.