Miércoles 10 de Mayo de 2006, Ip nº 152

Run For Your Lives! The Blockbusters Are Coming!

Coming soon to every theater near you: more of the freakin' same! Summer means blockbusters, and that usually means sequels, prequels or remakes. Gone are the days when movies guaranteed the unforeseen: famous actors, yes, but in new roles; familiar genres, sure, but with different stories. Today the demand that Diaghilev made of Jean Cocteau—"Astonish me!"—has become "Remind me." Moviemakers and movie watchers, both groups in a historically cautious mind-set, want more of the same: tiny twists on proven franchises, like the pleasures of a living-room drama or sitcom. In this surprise-resistant summer, that's what you're getting: pay TV.

Once in a while, a new member has to join the club; otherwise, there would be no movies to make sequels of. Three years ago, that film was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. It vaulted from prerelease shrug to summer smash, earning $305 million in North America and $652 million worldwide. So here comes the sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (opening July 7), which was shot at the same time as Pirates III, due out next summer.

For this double voyage, Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer re-enlisted the old crew: director Gore Verbinski, writers Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott and stars Johnny Depp (as scurvy Captain Jack), Orlando Bloom (the young hero, Will Turner) and Keira Knightley (Will's fiancé, Elizabeth Swann). They all seem pumped. "There's a kid inside most of the people on this crew," Verbinski says, "that gets juiced to get up in the morning and say, 'Hey, we're doing this.' This is the type of movie that says it's fun to go to the theater again."

The very notion of sequels might horrify Depp, Hollywood's best current example of dreamboat movie star and superserious character actor. "It's a dangerous game," he acknowledges. "Rocky went into almost Warholian levels of absurdity. But if your intentions are good and pure, then you can sort of skate through, make an interesting, entertaining film." His Captain Jack, the maniacally mannerist pirate, was plenty entertaining, to audiences and to Depp. "I truly love the character," he says, "and I didn't feel I'd had enough of him in the first one."

Or the second or third? Bruckheimer says he's going to save all the sets "in the hope that we can continue the series. If Disney will write us some checks, we'll do it." And if the star isn't bored by then, he jokes: "I'm teetering on the idea of a [Pirates] TV series."

That's not likely. But this is: out of the summer will emerge a from-nowhere smash on the order of The Blair Witch Project or My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Wedding Crashers. Or the first Pirates. After all, a surprise hit is the least surprising thing about summer. —By Richard Corliss. Reported by Desa Philadelphia/Los Angeles


Starring: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Release date: May 5. What the first two made: $396 million

THE CHALLENGE The audience's mission, should it choose to accept it, is to escape into an action movie when its star's off-screen life requires a greater suspension of disbelief than his onscreen stunts do. Weeks before the U.S. opening of M:i:III, as it's curiously advertised, Cruise is in the headlines because of his ecstasy over his new baby and his devotion to Scientology—neither of which cries out "badass superspy." The spy-movie genre has changed too, taking itself far less seriously these days thanks to movies like Austin Powers and TV shows like Alias, created by new Mission director J.J. Abrams. But perhaps it was time to lighten things up. Says Abrams: "Any time you make a movie with a No. 3 in [its title], you have to have a sense of humor."

WHAT'S NEW Cruise's character Ethan Hunt gets a life beyond dodging explosions—and a girl (Michelle Monaghan). "This guy happens to be really good at what he does, but it's a prison," says Abrams. "This woman is a light and gives him a sense of hope." Providing the darkness is Hoffman, who sheds his Capote lisp for a really scary sneer.

THE BUZZ It's a hard call. Does Cruise the tabloid fixture hurt Cruise the movie star? This is the kind of movie audiences like to see him in, so it's a safer bet than, say, Vanilla Sky II. —By Rebecca Winters Keegan


Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth. Release date: June 30. What the first four made: $318 million

THE CHALLENGE The problem with Superman is that he doesn't have enough problems. He can pretty much do anything—dude has superbreath—and apart from the kryptonite thing, he's pretty much invulnerable. And oh, my stars, what a do-gooder. Where's the inner conflict? Or the outer conflict, for that matter? He's not dark and troubled like Batman or Wolverine, or cute and clueless like Spider-Man.

WHAT'S NEW You can't openly monkey with the Superman mythology--there are probably federal laws against it—so to reinvent him director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, the X-Men movies) went subtle, quietly tweaking canonical story lines to roil Supe's placid emotional waters. When the movie opens, Big Blue has been gone for five years, and he gets back to find that Lois Lane has a new guy (!) and a kid (!!). Now, wouldn't that ruffle your spit curl?

THE BUZZ The set radiated bad p.r.: there were rumors of reshoots and wild budget overruns (the reported cost is a mighty $185 million). And do comic-book fans really care if Superman is a lover as well as a fighter? New guy Routh fills out the blue tights, and Spacey looks like a deliciously loony Lex Luthor, but Clark Kent might need to find a new beat. —By Lev Grossman


Starring: Hugh Jackman, Kelsey Grammer. Release date: May 26. What the first two made: $372 million

THE CHALLENGE The X-Men have a problem. Not the threat of Magneto or the fact that a pharmaceutical company has come up with a "cure" for mutancy (jeez, can't we all just get along?). The issue is the loss of Singer (to Superman), who directed the first two movies, and his replacement by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon), who hasn't yet shown Singer's talent for the shadowy action sequences that are the franchise's specialty. Oh, and Frasier Crane is the Beast?

WHAT'S NEW In addition to a bigger part for the under-utilized weather witch Storm (Halle Berry), X3 also has new or much-expanded roles for several mutants beloved from the comic book. White-winged Archangel appears, as does Kitty Pryde, the girl who walks through walls and who served as the imaginary girlfriend for a generation of fanboys. Watch them closely: This is the last X-Men movie, and Fox is looking for mutants who can be spun off as stand-alone franchises.

THE BUZZ Actually, not bad. A strong trailer suggests that despite what Ratner says—"It's not just a bunch of superheroes saving the world and kicking ass. It deals with a lot of issues, prejudice and alienation and all that stuff"—he has grasped one of the basic truths of the series: the more mutants, the mo'better. —L.G.


Starring: Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss. Release date: May 12.

What the first one made: $84 million

THE CHALLENGE Making a 34-year-old disaster movie, known principally for its theme song and Shelley Winters' underpants, interesting to young, gotta-see-it-opening-weekend types. And inspiring awe in people who have seen Titanic and The Perfect Storm.

WHAT'S NEW There's still a boat, a wall of water and a group of survivors. But apart from that, the screenplay is brand new. There's no Winters character—all the women are more of the "don't know-their-names-but-they-sure-look-good-wet" variety, like Emmy Rossum (Phantom of the Opera). And the special effects on this one should make the first one look like a kiddie pool.

THE BUZZ The Poseidon Adventure does not generate much Internet alarm over its desecration. The folks at Warner Bros. (like TIME, an arm of Time Warner), seem to be quietly confident. Their ace in the hole is director Wolfgang Petersen, who, having directed The Perfect Storm and Das Boot, knows from terror and tension on top of and beneath the waves. Poseidon could just be the preposterous, grip-the-armrest thriller people love in summer. Or, like the ship, it could be a sinker. —By Belinda Luscombe


Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou. Release date: May 19. How many books sold: 40 million--plus

THE CHALLENGE Adapting the worldwide best-selling novel into a taut, suspenseful thriller. "Because the story is so well known," says director Ron Howard, "the last little bit of mystery I have to offer is how I interpreted it."

WHAT'S NEW Not the story line, which follows the book's uncovering of an alleged Christianity con job almost, um, religiously. But Howard delivers something the novel doesn't: re-creations of supposed historical events central to the ancient conspiracy. "We try to transport the audience back in time so they can understand its context," he says.

THE BUZZ Security was tighter than the Mona Lisa's smile at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, where location filming was allowed only after closing hours. Ongoing complaints by the Vatican and Opus Dei have only stoked the publicity fires, while a (much) smaller group supporting albino rights blanched at the villain's complexion. Sony has held no screenings for movie critics yet, which is not usually a good sign. But controversy sells, so maybe it won't need signs. —By Jeffrey Ressner


Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx. Release date: July 28. How long the show ran: 1984-89

THE CHALLENGE Updating the ultimate '80s cop show

WHAT'S NEW Miami, for starters. Style-conscious director Michael Mann, who executive-produced Vice for TV, took the original show's atmospherics from a provincial Miami that hid its grit under pink stucco. Now it's a boomtown, flush with international cash and bristling with glassy towers. The crime scene in '80s Miami, Mann says, "was just small-town cocaine cowboys. Now, everything seems to have a couple of zeroes added to the end of it." Gone too are the signature pastels. As for the substance, the director insisted on an R rating, allowing the movie to show the sex and violence the TV show had to imply.

THE BUZZ Production, on location in Florida and the Caribbean, was rougher than Don Johnson's stubble. Hurricanes closed the set three times, as did an incident in the Dominican Republic involving an off-duty cop who wanted to get on-set and a spot of gunfire; in December, Farrell had to be treated for exhaustion and dependency on prescription medication. Mann, a notoriously meticulous director, has pulled off tough, big-star productions before (Heat, Ali). But movie audiences have tended to like their TV remakes campy (Charlie's Angels, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), and Mann takes Vice, the movie, dead seriously. "I hope the movie will surprise people familiar with the show," Mann says. "I was never interested in doing something derivative." —By James Poniewozik

  01/05/2006. Time Magazine.