As the summer of 2008 comes to a close, it’s time to step back, take a look at the carnage, and separate the winners from the losers, and then laugh at the losers and throw things at them. It was a most unusual summer, this 2008, in that the top two movies actually deserved their spots; compare that to recent summers, where directors only had to put a 3 on the end of the title (Spider Man 3 or Shrek the Third, Star Wars Episode III), use 90% of the budget on explosives (Transformers), or taint the hell out of a surprise hit (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest). In fact, the last time a summer movie that was certifiably decent actually came out on top was 2002’s original Spiderman (notice how I left out the LoTR films? Yeah. I did that for a reason.)
As always, it’s more fun to poke sticks at the losers, and the summer of 2008 had plenty of them. Highest on the list was the Wachowski Brothers’ Speed Racer, which ended the term with a meager $43 million, or about a tenth of its production budget (for some perspective, note that College Road Trip — starring Martin Lawrence and Donny Osmond — pulled in $45 million). The other big stinker, sadly, was The X-Files movie, which barely eked out $20 million, proving that you can’t wait six goddamn years after a long-suffering television show has left the network to resurrect it on the big screen. It’s the sort of disaster that can drive you to sex addiction. Rainn Wilson’s The Rocker also won’t top $10 million before its run ends, either. Elsewhere, both The Happening ($63 million) and Hellboy II ($75 million) underperformed, though in the latter’s case, it was because it opened the week before the summer’s big juggernaut, which basically limited most of its take to the opening weekend’s big numbers. I don’t know what to make of The Clone Wars’ ($25 million) lousy performance, except to say it didn’t deserve as much as it made. It was also a crappy summer for independent films, as nothing from the big studios’ specialty divisions broke out, with one exception: The phenomenal Under the Same Moon generated $12 million in receipts. Shame that the The Wackness ($1.8 million) got lost amongst all the big summer releases. We can only do so much here.
There were also a few sleepers, movies that quietly earned their studios millions in profits despite spending most of their days fiddling around in the lower five, notably Mamma Mia (ugh), which pulled in over $130 million (and counting) before the summer came to an end. A few comedies with strong opening weekends also quietly ticked toward or over the $100 million mark while no one was looking: Get Smart ($128 million); You Don’t Mess with the Zohan ($100 million); and Step Brothers ($98 million). August was also dominated by two comedies, Tropic Thunder ($83 million) and Pineapple Express ($80 million), both of which should eventually climb close to $100 million, making them very successful for what they are: R-Rated comedies.
And then there is the Top Ten.
10. Wanted ($134 million): One of my personal favorites from the summer, Wanted started out huge and then faded in the wake of Hancock and later The Dark Knight. But with $130 million plus, there was enough there to prompt a sequel, and the movie not only reminded us why Angelina Jolie is a big movie star, it also finally made the worthy James McAvoy one.
9. The Incredible Hulk ($134 million):Expectations mean everything, and in the case of The Incredible Hulk, $134 million makes it a winner, even though The Hulk made $132 million a couple of years ago and was considered a failure. Also, The Incredible Hulk was a better fucking film. The lesson? Don’t let an art film director near a summer blockbuster about an angry giant.
8. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ( $141 million): Prince Caspian has to be considered a failure for its studio, having generated nearly $150 million less than The Lion, the With, and the Wardrobe, but it wasn’t a big enough failure to prevent them from moving ahead with the franchise, already putting The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the summer calendar in 2010.
7. Sex and the City ($152 million): Blurgh. $150 million is an awful lot for an HBO sitcom turned movie, and a lousy one at that, and while it’s certainly enough to spawn an eventual series of SaTC flicks, I’m guessing that if we passed a collection plate around to all those who were overexposed to the film’s pre-release hype, we could double the box-office loot from those paying to make it all go away.
6. Kung-Fu Panda ($212 million): Seriously? How the hell did that happen? Jack Black as a goddamn Panda? It just proves that kids have no goddamn taste in films …
5. Wall-E ($217 million): … except that they were smart enough (along with a large number of parents) to make the latest Pixar film a success, besting last year’s Ratatouille by $10 million, but falling short of 2006’s inferior Cars. The Pixar beast continues to chug right along.
4. Hancock ($226 million): The old Independence Day/Will Smith weekend worked once again. Even though the film’s twist completely fucking ruined it, Hancock crossed the $220 million threshold and, even more impressively, put up $332 million outside of the United States, where they don’t even have the 4th of July (weird calendars). Why? Because even those of us who knew it would suck went to see it anyway. That’s the power of Will Smith (and Jason Bateman sure as hell didn’t hurt).
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($315 million): In my estimation, despite a huge box-office return ($780 million worldwide), Indiana Jones was the biggest disappointment of the summer, a George Lucas catastrophe that capitalized on nostalgia and curiosity, ultimately spawning the phrase, “Nuked the Fridge,” which will hereby replace “Jumped the Shark” as the expression used to describe the beginning of the end. Worse, like nearly every other entry on the summer’s top ten, there will likely be an eventual sequel, unless Harrison Ford dies of indignity.
2. Iron Man ($317 million): The unbelievably, out-of-this world exceptional Iron Man sits on the summer’s box-office top ten exactly where it sits on the list of the summer’s best movies (or, so think 65% of you, not including The Boozehound). Robert Downey, Jr. completely established himself in Hollywood as the coolest, smartest action hero around. Also, as the action hero more men would sleep with than any other. Dude was a force in Iron Man, and turned a pretty good movie into an outstanding one. It wasn’t the absolute best movie of the summer, but I might agree that it was the most fun to watch.
1. The Dark Knight ($502 million): … and then there was The Dark Knight, a movie that not only holds the position of the summer’s best movie, but the second highest-grossing film of all time. And it’s hard to imagine a movie that deserves it more, though it would eventually fall to iMBD’s third best reviewed movie of all time (which also caused some weird shift, moving Shawshank Redemption ahead of Godfather for number one). Anyway, there’s absolutely nothing left to write about The Dark Knight: It’s the greatest comic-book film of all time, and it has, easily, the best comic-book villain of all time in Heath Ledger’s Joker. As I said in the first box-office round-up after it was released, they really ought to simply change the Oscar to the Ledger, and you can give this year’s Ledger to Robert Downey, Jr.
And that’s your summer of the 2008. Take it in, folks. Because the summer of 2010 looks to be a real crapfest. There’s no way that Star Trek and Terminator 4 counterbalance the suck that will be G.I. Joe, Transformers 2, The Fast and the Furious 4, and The Night of the Museum II.
The Summer 2008 Box Office Round-Up / Dustin Rowles
Box Office Round-Ups | September 2, 2008 | Comments ()