2007 Summer Blockbusters and stuff

So, how about a look forward to the year ahead? Let's see...

No matter what the quality of next year's movies, expect it to be a box office record-shattering year. Now of course, that can be said about any year nowadays, but even then, 2007 should be pretty interesting from a money-making perspective. The only way 2007 won't emerge as the highest grossing movie year ever is if the ticket price for movies drops to about 25 cents. Since that has about as much chance of happening as a Subway sandwich coming to life and eating Jon Lovitz (but man, wouldn't that be cool?), expect the big studios to net a lot of cash in 07. The biggest reason for this is that four (count em, FOUR) of the biggest franchises in the history of cinema have new installments hitting theatres in the months ahead. And when I say four of the biggest franchises ever, I mean that the only other franchises that come close to being as big as these are the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings movies (though the Jurassic Park flicks might give em a run for their money). So what are these franchises, you ask? Let's take a look.

Harry Potter: There's not much to say about this franchise that hasn't already been said. Harry Potter is simply one of the most popular fictional characters ever created. Author and Potter creator J.K. Rowling could write a book about Harry having troubles reading his grocery list at the supermarket because he accidentally broke his glasses and it would still sell over 5 million copies on its first day of release. What was immensely popular on the page easily translated to a huge box office smash when the Harry Potter universe got the big screen treatment in 2001. Since then, four titles of the eventual six-book series have been made into movies and this July will see the release of the fifth movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The worldwide grosses of the first four movies are as follows: $976 million, $879 million, $794 million, $892 million. I'll save you the pain of doing the math in your head: that's a combined $3.5 billion (well, just over, actually). In other words, Harry Potter is well liked. And 2007's fifth installment in the franchise should have little difficulty attaining similar heights.

Pirates of the Carribbean: Last summer's sequel, Dead Man's Chest, grossed $1.6 billion worldwide, making it only the third film ever to cross the billion dollar mark in box office receipts (the previous two were Titanic and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King). The first movie was no slouch, either. It grossed over $650 million worldwide. That means that between just those two movies, Johnny Depp and co. raked in $2.2 billion, which is kinda mind-boggling. Now that Pirates craze is in full effect, Disney should have no trouble with their third installment in the Pirates franchise, titled At World's End and due out this May. Judging by the mammoth DVD sales of Dead Man's Chest, fans' interest in the franchise is far from waning and, looking at those aforementioned numbers, this franchise clearly has a few fans.

Spider-Man: The first Spider-Man movie, riding a wave of anticipation and global Spidey love, was an absolute juggernaut that shattered nearly every box office record in the books when it was released in early May 2002. It would go on to gross $820 million in worldwide receipts. The sequel that followed two summers later opened to rave reviews and proved that the first film's success was no fluke when it amassed $780 million worldwide. Those wonderfully interlocking sums add up to $1.6 billion, making Spider-Man the highest-grossing comic book franchise ever by far. Spider-Man 3 hits theatres this May on the same weekend that the series was launched five years ago. It will be no surprise when the movie kicks off the summer blockbuster season with a bang, just as it did when the series debuted.

Shrek: I'm still confounded by the success of these movies (I fail to see the allure of a misunderstood ogre who tramples through a post-modern fairytale world where tired pop culture references run rampant), but it's obvious that I am alone in my confusion. The first Shrek grossed nearly $470 million worldwide, while Shrek 2 almost doubled that, amassing a colossal $900 million worldwide. That's a combined worldwide gross of over $1.3 billion, which last time I checked was a lot of money. With that incredible jump in overall box office haul from the first movie to the second one, this summer's upcoming Shrek the Third could become the biggest hit of this very lucrative franchise.

Despite the guaranteed gargantuan success of the four aforementioned movies (and the immense popularity of their respective franchises), they're not the movies that I'm most looking forward to this year. As I said before, I'm not crazy about the Shrek movies, so Shrek the Third holds little interest for me, beyond the fact that it will provide me yet another opportunity to try and figure out why so many people are so enamoured with the characters. I was pretty disappointed by Pirates 2 and, by the end of it, discovered I didn't give a single crap about any of the characters in the movie. I imagine the third one will offer simply much of the same old stuff, which sadly includes more Orlando Bloom. Ugh. I'm certainly excited about Harry Potter 5 and will be there opening night, I'm sure, but Order of the Phoenix is my least favourite of the books and my excitement level for the seventh and final Potter book (due out sometime this year) eclipses my excitment level for this movie. And that leaves Spider-Man 3, which is the movie I'm most looking forward to out of these four. The promise of seeing hulking villain Venom on the big screen is ultra-cool, but there is a specific plot point mentioned in the trailer that leaves me a bit nervous. It seems that Sam Raimi and company have taken the liberty of rewriting the Spidey mythology by claiming that Sandman (chief villain of the movie) is actually the one responsible for the death of Peter Parker's Uncle Ben, whose murder in the first movie (supposedly at the hand of a petty thief, as the story went in the comic character's actual origin) was the singular event that transformed Peter Parker into Spider-Man. I don't like the idea of messing with the Spidey mythos, so I'm worried and skeptical, but I'm hoping that there is a method to this madness.

So what movies AM I looking forward to in 2007? Well, here are a few titles that definitely have me excited: American Gangster, Beowulf, 300, The Golden Compass, and Grindhouse.

Plus, here are two summer movies that I expect will ultimately suck pretty hard but that I can't help but be excited for: Transformers and Fantastic Four: The Rise of the Silver Surfer. One has giant, ass-kicking, transforming robots and the other has a chromed-out dude on a surf board flying around Vancouver, er, I mean New York. Sounds like popcorn silliness to me.