Christopher Nolan is taking a chance — with Warner Brothers’ money — that audiences in the US and abroad will forsake slick summer sci-fi and Spandex (comic book) pictures and show up for a little history.
That risk has been obvious ever since the movie was announced as a summer release. “Dunkirk”, with its limited-appeal all-male/all British cast, WWII subject and British history plot, always felt like a between-seasons prestige picture. Nolan could bring all his skills and technological access to a gripping real-world story, maybe nab an Oscar or three for his troubles.
But in a desultory summer of sequels and one-weekend-only film phenomena, “Dunkirk” has a chance to upset the summer applecart, win a weekend, knock the wind out of over-praised piffle like “Spider-Man” and “Caesar Scowls One More Time” (“War for the Planet of the Apes”). Reviews and Nolan fans (nominally a sci-fi and comic book film crowd) should lift it.
It earned $5.5 million in late Thursday previews, which is more than “War for the Planet of the Apes” managed. Big, very big. Not huge.
“Valerian,” a gorgeous but generally empty-headed Euro-blockbuster from Luc Besson, will suck some of the oxygen away from the fading “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and “Apes.” Not much, but enough. It could hit $20, based on Thursday night’s $1.7 million.
Box Office Mojo says “Dunkirk” is on track to clear the $50 million dollar mark on its opening. That’s spectacular for a film that doesn’t feature a proven effects-driven comic-book hero in its title.
Box Office Guru is predicting a more-in-line with diminished expectations $38 million. It still will win the weekend, as “Spider-Man” fell off a cliff last weekend and “Apes” look to plummet to Earth even quicker.
Both box office sites are figuring “Valerian” will not clear $20 million — $16-17. The comic book it is based on is French, and the movie — middling reviews in the US, better ones abroad — is something only a Jerry Lewis on medication could truly embrace.
That will drag “Apes” down to the low $20s, and could even send “Spider-Man XXXV” to $20 or lower. Neither of those looks to have the legs of “Wonder Woman,” legs in a box office sense.
If “Dunkirk” out-performs expectations, studio green-lighters could be given pause over their mania for “Let’s just do what’s branded and has worked before — another SPIDER-Man/BATman/SUPERman/AQUAman/Wonder WOMAN movie — and play it safe.”
“Girls Trip” looks to break a dreadful summer streak of dog comedies — bad movies that underperform with audiences. It’s an African American Lady “Hangover,” to use high concept coinage. Reviews have been terrific. It’s a slack, somewhat scruffy but UPROARIOUS farce that takes four 40something college pals back to their hedonistic past on a trip to New Orleans, which has rarely looked livelier or lovelier on film.
The Big Easy is back, and Latifah/Jada/Regina and break-out star Tiffany Haddish are about to “get turnt,” which I have no business using in a sentence, but there you. HUGE dirty laughs in this one. Upbeat reviews will help. Our prognosticators figure it should flirt with $25-30 million, but could catch fire and clear that.
So the marching orders — take dad or granddad or the history-averse teens to “Dunkirk.” Get a sitter and order drinks and catch “Girls Trip.”
And we’ll see how the chips land.