At the Box Office – July: Captain America, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Time Code

How I love the summer months.  It’s either too hot or too wet but there’s always something to see at the cinema!  Summer 2011 has seen the release of not only Transformers: Dark of the Moon along with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, but also big budget superhero films such as Thor, X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern.  However, the huge summer releases aren’t stopping there as late July will see the release of the last superhero film of the summer, and arguably the most important, as Marvel Release Captain America: The First Avenger.  Or as it will be known in Korea, simply “The First Avenger”.

Captain America is the final Marvel film before the release of 2012’s The Avengers, and it tells us the story of the scrawny Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans, who is selected to take part in the US Army’s Super Soldier Program.  Rogers is then “enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum” thus allowing him to aid the United States War efforts against Hitler and his weapons advisor Johann Schmidt a.k.a Red Skull, played by the always watchable Hugo Weaving.

Now in any normal year, you could pretty much guarantee that Captain America would be a monster success making a ton of money whether the film is any good film or not (*COUGH* Transformers 3 *COUGH*).  However, this isn’t a normal year.  Due to the three other superhero films having already been released, then throw in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Hangover Part II, you have what Jon Favreau has called a “box-office bloodbath”.  Summer 2011 has had such a glut of big budget “must see” films that audiences have already paid to see, some observers are predicting that the poor scheduling of Captain America may hurt the film financially and may well start the decline in popularity of the superhero genre in general.

Captain America has the disadvantage of being one of only two summer films that doesn’t have the luxury of being a sequel, which could definitely hinder its worldwide box office in what has generally been a mixed summer for the genre so far. Thor was the first big film of the summer to be released and it was rewarded both critically and commercially earning $66 million on it’s opening weekend whilst sitting on a respectable 78% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I personally loved X-Men: First Class, and that took in $55 million.  But then came Green Lantern.  Again, figures dropped with only $53 million, (Yeah, I know, “ONLY”!) and has been panned by critics and fans alike. As much as I wanted to like the film, it just took itself too seriously and for a superhero whose main power comes from his imagination, sadly the film seemed to display none.

I think the “failure” of Green Lantern could well work in Captain America’s favour, as people will either be skeptical of spending money on something they know could be a potential failure along the lines of Spiderman 3, or go all out to see the final blockbuster of the season.  I was lucky enough to work on a few of the action sequences on the film and I can tell you they were big and there was no expense spared, which I think will translate brilliantly to the screen.  Not to mention the trailers look impressive and I think that the update of the suit looks great.  For me personally, Chris Evans was the best thing in both Fantastic Four movies, but whether he can pull off the role as the iconic Captain America remains to be seen.  One thing that is for certain though, is that regardless of the commercial and critical success of Captain America, with sequels for him and Thor having already been confirmed and The Avengers being released next year, the superhero train shows no signs of slowing down.

It’s not only superhero franchises getting releases this summer, as August sees the Planet of the Apes series get another addition in the shape of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This prequel to the original 1968 film aims to show us how the apes first came into power.  After several name changes, a trailer was finally released.  And once I had seen this trailer, my first thought was simply, “Why?”.  Once I realised the answer to this question was “money!”, my second thought was “will it be any good?”, because unlike most people, I didn’t despise Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes and quite enjoyed seeing a modern take on the story.  As much as I loved the original Planet of the Apes film, the effects have dated heavily so I wondered what a modern day take on the film would look like.  As it turns out, not that great.  So after Tim Burton’s film, the general consensus seemed to be that leaving the “Apes” franchise well alone was the way to go.

But the Hollywood money machine never stops churning, and in this film, James Franco plays Will Rodman.  A scientist whose genetic experiments lead to the development of higher intelligence in apes.  I really like Franco, but I just can’t see him pulling off a serious role, especially that of a genetic scientist who has an IQ the same as Steven Hawking.  However, I am yet to see his portrayal of tragic poet Hart Crane in The Broken Tower, so I will definitely reserve judgment until I see the film.  Plus some reservations I had about the film disappeared with the release of the second international trailer, and I highly recommend you catch it as it focuses more on the human aspect of our primate counterparts, likening lead ape Caesar, played by Andy Serkis, to Frankenstein’s monster.  The film could well be a cautionary tale foreshadowing the problems with taking science and technology and trying to play God.  Who would have thought all this from James Franco, eh?

And lastly, if you are in the mood for a comedy you are in luck, because another English Language film finally getting it’s Korean release in August, is 2005’s A Sound of Thunder (or “Time Code” as it will be called here) which is possibly one of the worst big budget films you may ever see.  Set in 2055, Ed Burns stars as a scientist in charge of “Time safari”, which offers rich ‘big game hunters’ short time travels to kill off dinosaurs just before their natural death.  When one of these hunters strays off his set path, he alters events of the present as they face “Time Waves” which have catastrophic repercussions.  Think The Butterfly Effect meets Back to the Future, but with really bad acting (yes, even worse than Ashton Kutcher) and really, REALLY bad special effects, then you have A Sound of Thunder.  Which is a shame, as the premise of the film which was taken from a short story by Ray Bradbury is a really interesting one, just poorly executed.  Only watch if you are a real fan of sci-fi and time travel, or if it’s still raining and you don’t want to be outside!


(first published in August’s issue of Grove Korea Magazine)

Categories: Film, Previews


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