More than in even most years, Hollywood's latest summer lineup feels like a conversation between a couple of geeky, 10-year old boys. "Who would win in a fight between Spider-Man and The Thing?" asks one. "Are 10 pirate ghosts more powerful than Harry Potter?" wonders the other. One might even screw up his nerve to ask, "Where do zombies come from?"
The summer season has already unofficially started with Spider-Man 3 — an overstuffed free-for-all that makes Spider-Man 2 look like Godfather 1 — and the odds are we're in for a whole lot more of the old more-is-more in the months to come. Is it really possible to amp up the summer blockbuster model while dumbing it down any further? After last season's Superman Returns — an anticipated cash cow that featured some smart, elegant touches and subsequently tanked at the box office — maybe so.
In any event, while there will surely be some pleasant surprises along the way, what lies ahead are wall-to-wall sequels, CG effects, car chases, product placement and a slew of pirates, zombies, superheroes, spies and robots, robots, robots! It's "more is more" and more of the same (but spectacularly so!), and the only real question that remains is: Just who would win in that fight between Spider-Man and the Thing? Or between Harry Potter and the pirate ghosts? Or between the robots and just about anybody else?
Personally, I'm betting on the robots, but you may have other ideas. And so, in the spirit of good clean fun and keeping things interesting, we've devised a little game to keep ourselves amused (hopefully) while tracking the wannabe blockbusters that parade through our multiplexes over the coming months.
The films that follow are grouped according to various types, release dates and earning potential. It's up to you to rank them according to which ones you think will come out on top after all the screaming and shouting is over — screaming, shouting and box office being precisely what summer movies are all about. Turn this into a drinking game at your own risk. Extra points awarded for cattiness.
The Heavyweight Division
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (May 25)
The cool factor here is nearly off the charts — Chow Yun-Fat is on board, as well as legendary Glimmer Twin Keith Richards (in possibly the most brilliant casting coup of the decade). But at a reported running time of 170 minutes, ol' Keef might not be the only one doing the rambling here.
Shrek the Third (May 18)
The saga of everybody's favorite bile-hued ogre continues, with Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz all reporting for duty once again. There are supposed to be some flying monkeys in this one, and Justin Timberlake's in here too, although you may need a scorecard to tell them apart.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 13)
The fifth installment in the Potter series features the boy wizard's first big kiss, a host of even more sophisticated special effects and a lot more screen time devoted to that infinitely evil entity Voldemort — which we're beginning to suspect is just a fancy European way of pronouncing Wal-Mart.
Three sure-fire blockbusters with almost identical target audiences, all guaranteed to rake in a bundle at the box office — but which one will make the biggest bundle of them all? The last Pirates flick grossed a billion bucks worldwide, but Potter fever is at an all-time high, with ghoulish fans chomping at the bit to see who gets knocked off next. And as for that new Shrek, there's something to be said for kids forcing their parents to buy them tickets over and over again. And never underestimate the power of Justin Timberlake.
The Middleweight Division
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (June 15)
As superhero sagas go, this fledgling franchise has yet to prove its bankability, but that could all change with this new installment, which seems hand-designed for the fanboy crowd (those young-ish male louts who rule the box office). Rise of the Silver Surfer promises to be a geek's paradise, with some of Marvel Comics' most popular creations featured, including the titular silvery one and a beyond-good-and-evil nemesis that devours entire planets simply to exist. Oh yeah, and did we mention Jessica Alba?
Ocean's 13 (June 8)
Who says star power is dead? The Ocean's movies may lack the fancy special effects and unadulterated escapism of other summer enterprises, but it's hard to deny the glossy appeal of Msrs. Clooney, Damon, Pitt and company, this time bolstered by the iconic presence of some guy named Pacino. Celine Dion's here too, but don't let that scare you away.
The Bourne Ultimatum (Aug 3)
Matt Damon's back as the amnesiac super-agent jumping through hoops while trying to unlock the mystery of his own identity. Fresh from the critically acclaimed United 93, director Paul Greengrass is along for the ride, bringing what's expected to be an extra touch of credibility to this already upmarket summer franchise.