March is such a frustrating movie month. Up until a few years ago March was traditionally known as a dumping ground for movies that the studios either didn’t have a lot of faith in or were really on the fence about their potential. They’d release these films in March where competition was light: if they were bad, they’d still have several weeks before the summer season to make some kind of money; if they were good, they’d really strike it rich as being the only game in town for a good long while.
Then we began getting so many blockbuster summer movies that the summer weekends began getting crowded and overbooked; rather than lose money by opening opposite another heavy hitter, studios began to roll back into the ‘dead’ months, i.e. March and April, and plop a big movie there hoping to take advantage of the little to no competition. The results have been mixed.
Last year it was John Carter (bomb), Mirror Mirror (decent showing probably due to getting out of the way of Snow White and the Huntsman), and The Hunger Games (hit).
This year we have four ‘big’ (read: summer) films opening in March: Jack the Giant Slayer, Oz the Great and Powerful, Olympus Has Fallen and G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
Which of these will be hits and which are bombs waiting to happen?
Well, we already know of one bomb: Bryan Singer’s +$200 million Jack the Giant Slayer pulled in a measly $28 million at the box office, which is unfortunate. Having seen the movie, I think its criticism and low box office number is undeserved. No, it wasn’t a break-out performance for Nicholas Hoult and it didn’t blow me away with James Cameron level CGI or special effects, and it didn’t even give a new twist on the old fable of Jack and the Beanstalk. It did feature some solid storytelling, a cute young romance, kid friendly heroes and villains, and Ewan McGregor looking like he had a blast swaggering about with a gold miniskirt-wearing Ian McShane. Unfortunately, with the movie’s price tag critics were of the mind Jack the Giant Slayer should’ve been on the level of caviar and filet mignon instead of popcorn and Sour Patch Kids. Reviews were unkind. This, combined with an unenthusiastic marketing campaign, pretty much left Jt GS stalled at the gate.
The movie that seems to be on everyone’s radar and primed to not only be a hit for March but perhaps the year is Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful. And why shouldn’t it? The trailers are breathtakingly amazing; it has star power with James Franco and three well loved leading ladies in Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz; and it’s got Sam ‘Spider-Man trilogy’ Raimi as the director. The story is set in a world we’re all familiar with: the land of Oz. But it takes place during a time period we know nothing about: before Dorothy and Toto landed. Unless the narrative is just completely nonsensical, Oz is going to steamroll its way well into May when the summer movie blockbuster onslaught begins in earnest.
This doesn’t bode well for the final two ‘big’ movies of March: Olympus Has Fallen and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Now, movie geek that I am, I’ll probably see these movies in the theaters (at a reduced admission Saturday or Sunday matinee) because big screen action movies are a favorite of mine, but I also recognize the whiff of uncertainty coming off these movies. (Especially in the case of G.I. Joe: Retaliation which was so close to premiering last summer that the tie-in toys were already in stores.) The movie got pulled for reshoots when producers decided they wanted to expand Channing Tatum’s role to capitalize on his popularity.
A finished product from a prime summer weekend in June got tinkered with and received a new launch in the non-prime month of March? That doesn’t bode well in terms of quality. Then again, between Channing Tatum and The Rock’s sheer force of will and muscle, G.I. Joe Retaliation may pop up to be a hit and surprise us yet.
No matter which of March’s offerings is a hit or bomb this month, one thing you can say about them is that they’re all perfect flicks to snap us out of the intensity of the ‘serious’ movie awards season and begin the transition into a more mindless, lighthearted, action-packed movie season.
Jack the Giant Slayer
Oz: The Great and Powerful
Olympus Has Fallen
G.I. Joe: Retaliation