12 May 2017

King Snatch - now that's a movie!

Here we are now in Week Two of the Summer Season (we ought to have a preview post at some point this year) and after a pretty strong first weekend both critically and commercially in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), we have what I'd suspect to be our first dud weekend. Well, Snatched (2017) ought to do fine, but I have no real burning desire to see that. Or King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) for that matter. Let's get into that one first:
"Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords
is no basis for a system of government."

Now, a few years ago, this was planned as an epic six-film mega saga. That's obviously one of the stupider ideas to come out of Warner Brothers in a long time, although we somehow got eight films and counting out of Point Break (1991) with cars, so who knows. Guy Ritchie and company have backed off a bit from their original grandiose plans, but this still feels like a totally misplaced IP. Sure, it's got to be a very lucrative prospect. No one actually owns the rights to King Arthur, so you've got a nice built in recognition base without any of the mucky muck of paying anyone for it. Like Tarzan. That worked out great.

Like with that film, I think first impressions are important. What's your first reaction when someone tells you they're making a big budget blockbuster King Arthur movie? For me it's a resounding meh. I'm not sure why we keep going back to this well. The latest really big installment of the mythos was King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen playing the eponymous king, which is most remembered to this day for featuring its weird green Keira Knightly. That was also supposed to be the "true story" of the legend, which is of course total horseshit. Beyond that, there are a ton of adaptations out there, none of which are particularly fondly remembered.

So what makes this one stand out? Besides the ever bland Charlie Hunnam, who has Sons of Anarchy and not much else under his belt? To be fair, he proved capable in Pacific Rim (2013), which is astounding considering that film mostly featured Giant Robots fighting Monsters. He does have a certain appeal, and although I have yet to see it, apparently brings it in the already underrated Lost City of Z (2017) which just came out a few weeks ago. This is all to say that even though Charlie Hunnam sucks, maybe he doesn't.

Now, against all odds, this thing might actually be good. In its own way. I'm game for this. Blockbusters these days seem to wash into each other so much. Marvel and Star Wars tend to stand out because they've somehow earned a place outside the rabble, where people still care about the characters, story, and universe, despite the fact that if they were any other property they'd likely be ignored. It also works that they have exceptional casting and filmmaking talent attracted to them, which makes them memorable and competent, if not exceptional. Outside the big IPs, though, modern blockbuster filmmaking is in an awfully weird zone.

This really dates back to 2014, where it seemed like every big film earned about $200 million domestically, was decent quality-wise, and not really worth a cultural impact in anything else. 2015 was mostly blinded to Universal's impeccable work on Furious 7 (2015) and Jurassic World (2015), while 2016 was all-Disney all the time with a huge windfall for anything else, even equally established properties like Star Trek Beyond (2016) and Jason Bourne (2016). To some extent it doesn't make sense - why should The Jungle Book (2016) work while Star Trek Beyond fails? Or King Arthur, for that matter? I mean, Richard Kipling has to be as well known as King Arthur, right? It's not like everyone reads the book every night or just watched the 1967 animated version the other week.

It's a tough call culturally. It's weird that Guy Ritchie's last three films feel this way. Sherlock Holmes (2009) was infamously overshadowed by AVABAR (2009), although I'd argue still struck out well on its own. I enjoyed that movie but it led me to have no desire to watch Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) until just a few weeks ago, which is a film that flirts with greatness and cleverness without ever really getting there. It was overshadowed by Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011) and culturally, even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) in the years after its release. Flash forward four years and we get The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) which is by all means a great, funny, sexy film that was totally drowned by Straight Outta Compton (2015) that summer. Ritchie films for whatever reason, just never seem to be the most important film currently at the Box Office. Maybe that's also because they all tend to be British re-treads and period pieces, which don't resonate as well as their competitors.

I suspect King Arthur to face much of the same. Not only is there pretty strong holdover from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (it's got to clear at least $60 million in its first week to beat it for the #1 spot, and that's being generous), but it's got Alien: Covenant (2017), Baywatch (2017), and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) coming up, ALL of which have had better marketing campaigns and really notable identities. King Arthur gets buried. Maybe I'll really like it one day, like I am with The Lone Ranger (2013). Are there King Arthur LEGOs?
All told though, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn
are going to have a great weekend

Next we have the Amy Schumer / Goldie Hawn vehicle Snatched, which is actually my sneaky pick to win the weekend (if it can clear Guardians' aforementioned $60-70 million mark, which is within its range). Unbelievably, I have no real interest in the Schumer / Hawn lost in South America adventure, but for damn sure my mom is - I might take her for Mother's Day and that's really all you need. This is too good an opportunity to have a great female-driven comedy for a perfect weekend. It's like when I took my dad to watch That's My Boy (2012) with me for Father's Day! Same thing.

For some reason Amy Schumer tends to get a lot of flack - whether it be joke-stealing accusations or whatever. It's really just because she's a successful woman traditionally male-dominated profession. After a pretty good television show she had some success with Trainwreck (2015), which I always chastise as not really leaning into woman empowerment enough. I mean, it's as if they jammed a bunch of sports icons in there to appeal to a male demographic that would otherwise be turned off. I don't understand why they didn't just try to appeal to a female demographic, who cares. That's actually exactly what Snatched is doing, which is great.

As an actress, Schumer can carry a film and Trainwreck is funny enough, even if John Cena and LeBron James got all the meaty lines and roles somehow. My main reason for being excited at all for Snatched is the opportunity to put the ball back in the mother / daughter relationship court, which is pretty rarely examined, much less in a mainstream comedy. I think commercially this will do just fine, and critically it seems to be suffering, but in the sense of "Trainwreck was better!" If you take out the idea that Trainwreck was good then maybe we got a shot here.

The last trick is cultural relevance, and we've had a few comedies hit it pretty big over the past few years, but I don't think anyone really fondly remembers Trainwreck (outside of the aforementioned John Cena and LeBron scenes), although Inside Amy Schumer dominated cultural conversation for a while. There's a lot competing right now, and TV comedy is pretty good. Her Netflix specials that dropped a few weeks ago mostly landed with a thud, so ultimately who knows. There is a niche here if it can win the weekend, but with an onslaught of big movies in subsequent weeks I see this as one that's lost in the haze.

What say you? Will you opt for swords with bros or South America with your mother this weekend?

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