If you feel like Hollywood has been cranking out nothing but sequels and reboots, you’re not alone. The movie industry is surprisingly risk averse, frequently investing in known properties rather than taking a chance on original ideas. That’s why we end up with movies like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
This summer is no exception. Sequels, prequels, and reboots will once again dominate the big screen. So before you plunk down $15 (plus snacks), let’s take a moment to risk assess some of the summer’s most-anticipated movies.
- Godzilla: King of Monsters (May 31) The crypto-zoological agency, Monarch, fights a bunch of giant mythological monsters, including Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. Will humanity survive the battle of these ancient super-species?
- Dark Phoenix (June 7): Set in 1992, this latest film in the X-Men franchise involves a solar flare hitting the X-Men while on a space mission. Jean Grey “loses control of her abilities and unleashes the Phoenix."
- Men in Black: International (June 14) A London-based team of Men in Black (MIB) secret agents become involved in a series of alien attacks that sends them traveling around the globe.
- Child’s Play (June 21) A mother unknowingly gives her son an evil toy doll named Chucky.
- Toy Story 4 (June 21) Picking up several years after Andy gave his toys to Bonnie, Bonnie makes a new toy named “Forky” from arts and crafts supplies. The toys help Forky as he struggles to adjust to his new life.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5) Taking place after Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker goes on a school field trip to Europe and ends up joining forces with other heroes to battle a threat.
- The Lion King (July 19): A lifelike, computer-animated remake of the original 1994 movie.
Due diligence for movies is always tricky. Trailers are just a sneak peak, and movie stars promoting films in the press and on talk shows aren’t going to say anything but nice things.
Reviews of the movie will come out closer to the release, but even then, the reviews must be taken with a grain of salt. Your views may not align with the reviewers. For instance, low-brow comedies and high-octane action movies are often criticized by movie critics looking for gravitas. If you prefer popcorn flicks to arthouse films, you might love a movie that all the critics are trashing.
After the movie comes out, box office results and audience scores can provide additional insight, giving you an idea of how the general public likes the movie.
With so many subjective insights, it may be most useful to consider your personal history with the franchise and cast. Have you liked previous installations? How intriguing do you find the cast based on their past work?
What are you looking for in a movie?
Godzilla: King of Monsters
Pros: The cast includes Millie Bobby Brown (aka Eleven from Stranger Things) and Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water). Both actresses have a way with monsters.
The studio is so confident in the movie that it has another sequel, a remake of Godzilla vs. King Kong, due out next year.
Cons: The premise indicates a lot is going on. Who are all these other monsters? It sounds like there will be a lot to keep track of.
The plot sounds like one of those movies where there’s tons of fights and a bit of nonsensical narrative in between the fights.
My Final Verdict: Godzilla may be king of the monsters, but he won’t rule my summer. Pass.
Pros: Phoenix is played by Sophie Turner (Sansa from Game of Thrones - Queen in the North!). It also stars Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain.
The last movie in the saga, X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), made a lot of money and got an A- score from audiences.
Cons: X-Men: Apocalypse had mixed reviews with critics complaining it was unoriginal.
I haven’t seen a movie in this franchise since the early 2000s so it may not make a lot of sense.
My Final Verdict: This is a dark-horse candidate, and given the other choices, I’m going to have to say this phoenix isn’t going to rise to the occasion. Pass.
Men in Black: International
Pros: The original movie was really fun when it came out in 1997.
It’s got a nice risk management angle as agents monitor and mitigate alien activity.
Steven Spielberg, Chris Hemsworth, and Liam Neeson are attached to the project. They have a very special set of skills.
The last movie had strong reviews and made a ton of money.
Cons: No Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones.
It’s hard to get that catchy earworm of a theme song out of my head. (Sorry, now you have that problem too.)
My Final Verdict. Could be a fun ride. Worth considering.
Pros: Mark Hamill is the voice of Chucky.
Chucky is a robot instead of possessed by evil, potentially offering an insightful critique of modern life.
Cons: Potential nightmares.
The series creator was excluded and is not happy.
My Final Verdict: I’m not into horror. Pass.
Toy Story 4
Pros: All the Toy Story movies have been great.
Woody and Buzz are back (along with Tom Hanks and Tim Allen).
All the feels.
Cons: Tearing up in public.
What kind of a name is Forky?
My Final Verdict: To infinity and beyond! I’m in.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Pros: All-star cast.
Has a summer vacation vibe with all the travel.
Critics really dig the trailer.
Cons: (Spoiler alert about Avengers: Endgame) Spider-Man died in Avengers: Endgame earlier this summer, so how is he in this movie?
My Final Verdict: Could be fun. Definitely worth considering.
The Lion King
Pros: The cinematography looks beautiful.
James Earl Jones is back as Mufasa.
Cons: Known plot limit surprises.
My Final Verdict: Hakuna matata! Sounds fun.
Consider these controls for minimizing the risk of wasting your time and money on this summer’s Ishtar.
Don’t go opening weekend. Wait to see how the audience responds and how much money it makes. This additional data can influence the final decision, particularly when on the fence.
Pick a theater with good food and nice seats. At least if the movie doesn’t wow, you’ll be comfortable and have a tasty snack.
Wait for the movie to hit a second-run theater. Same big screen, but a lower ticket price means lower risk.
Wait for the movie to be available on-demand or on cable. Minimal risk with even lower costs, plus snacks and drinks at home. You also gain the ability to pause for breaks, if needed.
Public opinion. Ask around to see who has seen the movie and whether or not they like it. Give more weight to the opinion of people who share your general outlook. If your 14-year-old nephew thinks it’s amazing, it doesn’t mean you will.
Theater run. Sometimes movies stay in the theater for weeks or months. Other times they leave quickly. If you’re thinking about seeing a movie, pay attention to how many showings are available in your area. If they are dwindling, make sure you make seeing the film a priority or you may miss out.
The weather. If it’s going to be ridiculously hot or rainy, it may make a so-so movie look more appealing.
In the end, going to the movies is a relatively low-risk proposition. Most of the risk falls on the studios, who need to make back production budget and marketing costs and are therefore very vested in a film’s success. So sit back, relax, and enjoy letting someone else worry about risk for a while.
See you at the movies!