After the wacky and semi-improvised sci-fi offering of Men in Black 3 last week – shouldn’t ten years of pre-production result in something better? – much grittier drama now takes hold as Snow White and the Huntsman (yep, seems the seven dwarves get relegated from the title when the woodcutter is played by Thor) battles with Prometheus for box-office glory this weekend.
It’s looking like The Avengers may have been as light-hearted as big-budget cinema gets for the next few months. While Snow White and the Huntsman offers a grittier spin on the classic fairy tale, Christopher Nolan ends his Batman trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises in July, while Peter Parker struggles with responsibility in the rebooted Spider-Man. Apparently nothing says summertime like dark dramas that probe the murky recesses of the human condition.
Could any of the studios be worried that their summer offerings lack the fizzy humour and one-liners that played a part in making The Avengers so successful so quickly? The Dark Knight Rises seems destined to be a sharp mood comedown from the witty writing Joss Whedon delivered for Marvel and the latest warzone-photography film banners for the Batman three-quel are Very Dramatic.
So, is humour the key to big box-office this year? Daniel Craig is insisting Skyfall is funnier than his previous James Bond outings, although the first teaser doesn’t really reflect that (unless the po-faced line “Some people are coming to kill us; we’re going to kill them first,” is followed in the script by the stage direction ‘…And Martini-fuelled hilarity ensues’).
Perhaps the Studio Boss will feel the need to address his minions, as rumours drift through Hollywood that Ridley Scott has brought the funny to the latest cut of Prometheus. Don’t audiences want some light comedy between graphic sci-fi carnage?
The Studio Boss reclines in his palatial office and reaches for his PA system. A brief squeal of feedback alerts everyone throughout the studio:
“There’s no need to worry about our summer slate, my minions. Yes, The Avengers was great. It was funny, entertaining and the bit where Hulk punched Thor made me cackle. But forget Joss Whedon and his astonishing wit. The world is a dark place and Christopher Nolan will remind us of that. Come July audiences will lust for darkness, weighty drama and that cool bat hovercraft thing that was put in the Dark Knight trailer.”
Minions throughout the studio smile at each other as they draw reassurance from their overlord’s soothing tones.
Studio Boss continues: “Despite what the more paranoid among you may think, Prometheus hasn’t been given a lighter edge to make it more like Avengers. It’s edgy, dark and looks more than a touch apocalyptic. I don’t think there’s likely to be a scene where Michael Fassbender gets back from their tense trip onto the alien world and tells a concerned Idris Elba, ‘Yeah, you know what? I had a bad feeling going out, but actually everything went fine.
“‘We got a few life-form readings but the aliens turned out to be really rather nice. They looked a bit scary, but they sat us down on bean bags, gave us tea and bagels and calmly explained the meaning of life. The atmosphere was like a school staff room at lunchtime – casual, relaxed – only in a slimy cave with lots of leathery eggs; our initial sense of massive peril was pretty misleading.’
“My minions: Historically the Alien franchise has been ‘In space no-one can hear you scream’, not ‘In space no-one can hear you snack on a toasted bagel with a chatty Alien’. It’s ‘The search for our beginning could lead to our end’, and not so much ‘The search for our beginning was extremely successful and everyone came back in one piece’.
“You just know there’s going to be something really awful in the cave, and then there’s going to be some death, weird alien bugs in people’s eyes, Idris Elba issuing kill orders and that enormous hulking spaceship from Alien doing crashing cartwheels across a dusty wasteland. It’s all in the trailer, people! It’s going to be terror in space and then everyone will be in the right mood for high drama in Dark Knight Rises. You’ll see. That is all.”
Studio Boss tickles his wolf hound under the chin and smiles to himself. Summer will be thematically dark and gloomy, plagued by horrifying space exploration and a masked vigilante fighting a psychotic super-villain, all of which leads into autumn when James Bond will get really stressed. Good times. Good times indeed.