A few weeks ago, we talked about our most anticipated films of the upcoming Summer movie season. It was full of the usual suspects: 'Pacific Rim,' 'Iron Man 3,' 'Man of Steel' and all of the other movies that you're already planning to see three times. Today, we're going to journey down a different avenue and examine the summer releases that don't feel like sure things. Some of the movies on this list are movies that look great but haven't attracted enough buzz yet. Some are big budget efforts that aren't gaining the traction that they need. Others are just big question marks, movies that we have no expectations for whatsoever. But they all have one thing in common: they're not the movies everyone is talking about right now. At least not yet.
These are the underdogs of the 2013 summer movie season.
We've seen 'You're Next.' We've reviewed 'You're Next.' And we'll be perfectly blunt about it: 'You're Next' is pretty terrific. However, 'You're Next' is a festival hit and an indie darling being pushed face first into the tail end of a packed summer, its only ally a trailer that (rightfully) doesn't spell out what makes it so much more unique and special than your typical home invasion horror movie. We can recommend this movie whole-heartedly, but it's definitely a case of a little movie having a trial by fire. If audiences catch on, we can't imagine it not being a hit...but will they catch on?
How is it that a big budget sci-fi epic starring Will Smith is looking like an underdog? In most summers, 'After Earth' would be the film to beat, but 2013 is an odd beast, filled to the brim with genre releases that have left this one in the shadows. 'Oblivion' beat it to the "post-apocalyptic science fiction" punch and it's currently wedged between 'Fast and Furious 6' and 'Man of Steel,' an unenviable position for a film that isn't about a superhero and doesn't have a number in its title. There is no reason for 'After Earth' to not be blockbuster if not for the fact that it's coming out in this particular summer.
Zack Snyder's '300' came out six years ago. In those six years, the film's specific and instantly iconic style has been mimicked, stolen and parodied in movies, television and video games. What was once a jaw-dropping vision has now become commonplace. So that means '300: Rise of an Empire' will have to bring something completely new to the table if it wants to stand out from the crowd, but everything we've seen so far has suggested that we'll be getting more of the same. And then there's the fact that this thing is coming out in August and we still haven't seen a trailer. Oof. Something is wrong here.
Although 'This is the End' doesn't look incredibly outdated like 'The Internship,' it often does look less like a movie and more like a chance for a bunch of actors to hang out. Although the (once upon a time) massive success of Judd Apatow's films showed that movies where slackers sit around and improv with each other can be very funny, Seth Rogen's directorial debut seems to be built on the shaky foundation that audiences want to see a bunch of actors play themselves and get killed mercilessly. And you know what? Maybe they do. But the comedy tides are always shifting and in a Summer that's bringing us 'The Heat' and 'The Hangover Part III,' this one looks like it'll risk getting lost in the shuffle.
The concept sounds like a license to print money: it's 'Men in Black' meets 'Ghostbusters.' However, 'R.I.P.D.' isn't a sure thing. The only trailer released so far looked a little sloppy. Jeff Bridges may be beloved, but he 's no movie star. Ryan Reynolds is, uh, Ryan Reynolds ('Green Lantern,' anyone?). 'R.I.P.D.' may be hitting theaters in July, but it looks like the kind of movie you usually see getting dumped in September, an expensive but not very good would-be blockbuster. There is so much that sounds and looks cool about 'R.I.P.D.' (Jeff freakin' Bridges!) that we're rooting for this one...but consider our excitement tempered.
Why the hell is 'Now You See Me' opening smack dab in the middle of the summer? The trailer indicates that this magician heist movie will probably be a big healthy slice of goofy fun, but why does anyone think it'll have the strength to stand up in this crowded season of blockbusters? This looks like the kind of movie that would make a killing in April or September as an appetizer or desert to the biggest movies of the year, but we're afraid it's going to get lost in the shuffle of superheroes and giant robots. But we've been wrong before -- maybe the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman and the quick wit of Jessie Eisenberg will be the post-'Iron Man 3' break that movie fans will need.
If 'The Internship' came out in 2007, it would've been a smash hit. It would've grossed upwards of $200 million at the box office. It would've solidified Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as the comedy team to beat. But right now...who knows? Vaughn and Wilson haven't had a stellar track record in the years since 'Wedding Crashers,' churning out strings of forgettable (and frequently awful) films and 'The Internship' feels like a cinematic clutching at straws. Can these two recapture that old magic? Can we all pretend that these guys are as funny and popular as they were a decade ago? In a summer filled with edgy comedies like 'The Heat' and 'The Hangover Part III,' 'The Internship' looks like a bit of a dinosaur.
When it comes to horror movies this Summer, it's all about James Wan's 'The Conjuring,' which has already starting building a reputation as "the movie so scary that they tried to make it PG-13 and couldn't." However, that's not the only scary movie opening during these blockbuster months -- we also have 'The Purge,' which takes the home invasion format and applies it to a speculative universe where crime is legal for one day every year. This is another film that would have a guaranteed big opening in the Fall (what's wrong with October releases for horror movies?), so its June release date feels a litte baffling. Still, there's no denying its creepy concept (and its really effective trailer). Will 'The Purge' stand out in a month that's looking to be all about Superman? Maybe. We hope.
What is there to say about 'World War Z' that hasn't already been said loudly and publicly by every website and trade out there? Brad Pitt's zombie epic survived a disastrous production and was delayed many months for extensive reshoots and rewrites. The trailers aren't great and seem afraid of the film's concept (they never even make it clear that this is a zombie movie). If 'World War Z' is good, it will be because everyone attached to it pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and pulled the production out of the fire. Unlike many of the films on this list, this is all but guaranteed some solid box office, but it's a definitely underdog when it comes to actual quality.
On the surface, there is no reason for 'The Lone Ranger' to be considered an underdog in any way. It's a Disney blockbuster from the director of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' starring Johnny Depp being released on the Fourth of July weekend. It's got SMASH HIT written all over it. But take a step back and ask yourself: are you actually excited for 'The Lone Ranger'? Do you know anyone who is excited for 'The Lone Ranger'? Has anyone seen any of the posters or trailers for 'The Lone Ranger' and declared "Yep! That's the movie to beat this Summer!"? This may be the team that proved that pirate movies can be blockbusters, but westerns are tricky and the Lone Ranger, while iconic, isn't exactly a character the kids are chomping at the bit to see. It'll be fascinating to see whether or not people end up embracing the film because as of right now, it's looking like a bit of a shrug in a season that's giving us 'Pacific Rim,' 'Man of Steel,' 'Fast and Furious 6' and 'Star Trek Into Darkness.'