Heroic Hollywood’s Summer Movie Preview – 19 Blockbusters To Watch!

Ah, summer, a time for outdoors, sports . . . and many hours in a movie theater! That’s right, it’s summer blockbuster season, the time of year when superheroes, explosions and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are guaranteed box office draws. Summer has the highest concentration of big budget extravaganzas created by the biggest entertainment industry on the planet competing for eyeballs. Naturally, that’s our bread-and-butter at Heroic Hollywood and we have a preview with all you need to know about this summer’s releases.

When I said “highest concentration,” I mean it. A casual perusal of the release calendar yielded 19(!) blockbusters looking for box office dominance in the short span of a few months. Nowadays, summer movie season is more and more blurred. Furious 7 and last weekend’s The Jungle Book both earned mega-dollars as April releases, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Deadpool opened in March and February. Still, while new release corridors are being paved, studios still comfortably sit on prime summer real estate three to four years in advance.

Which blockbuster will win the box office crown? Which will surprise and which will fail? Here’s our list!

Captain America: Civil War (May 6)

The first on the list seems destined to outgross all others  listed. An Avengers film masquerading as the third Captain America, Civil War already has the world in its pocket. Heroic Insider co-host Daniel Alter thinks Age of Ultron underperformed relative to the first Avengers because excitement for this film was already building. And his co-host and our Heroic Hollywood bossman Umberto Gonzalez reported tracking for this film is huge, with anywhere from a $175 million to $220 million opening weekend in sight. With stellar reviews, Marvel already has Summer 2016 in the bag. The real question is: what other movie can even come close to this movie in terms of buzz and revenue?

The Nice Guys (May 20)

What I think has the biggest chance of being the sleeper hit of the summer is Shane Black’s comedic noir follow-up to his billion-dollar grosser Iron Man 3. The benefits of doing a Marvel film – or any successful blockbuster generally – is the leverage to whatever films you want however you want to and this reeks (in a good way) of Black cashing in his chips on a script he loves. Passion is key (Exhibit A: Deadpool) in an era of corporate cookie-cutters. Black is a true talent and the great trailers showcase exciting chemistry between stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. This could be the perfect adult counterprogramming.

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 27)

Bryan Singer actually gets to direct the third film in the X-Men trilogy! What’s more, he’s brought back many iconic characters (Cyclops! Jean Grey! Storm! Nightcrawler!) and elements (a new Quicksilver scene). While the initial footage was underwhelming (Apocalypse looked straight-up like Ivan Ooze), later trailers have a more grandiose and comic booky feel to them, absolutely essential in a story about an Egyptian mutant-god of destruction. It should gross equal to Days of Future Past, if word-of-mouth is good. As this franchise moves into a cinematic universe era of storytelling, it has to embrace the operatic roots of the X-Men. Given the last 16 years of the Singer-verse, I’m not sure he’s the one to deliver but Josh Boone’s The New Mutants and a proper retelling of the Dark Phoenix saga has my hopes high post-Apocalypse.

Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27)

Who asked for this? Oh, I know. The audience equivalent to $1 billion box office did. Sigh. Well, in a world of four increasingly-terrible Transformers films, it totally makes sense we’d have a nascent series of increasingly-terrible Alice in Wonderland films. On a serious note, the appeal of the first was Tim Burton, Depp in his prime and freshness. This time, they have no Burton (replaced with The Muppets‘ James Bobin), Depp past his prime and instead of freshness, flat-out antipathy. So it will probably make another billion.

Looking on the bright side, we probably wouldn’t have gotten Jon Favreau’s excellent The Jungle Book adaptation if this hadn’t hit so big, so . . . (grits teeth) thanks.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (June 3)

I was a huge fan of the original live-action Turtle films, the 1990 original and 1993 sequel Secret of the Ooze. They are camp-awesome. Before Batman Begins brought the gritty to comic book films, those two films, especially the first, brought a level of gravitas missing from the bright, colorful and CGI’ed world of these Turtles. I got nothing against any of those things or how this take actually uses characters like Rocksteady, Bebop and Krang. But whether because I was weaned on the originals or the marketing, I have zero interest in this sequel Out of the Shadows or its predecessor. That said, the 2014 first was a hit and going further “out there” with the mythology is the right move I think. Expect this one to kick Alice to the curb and scoop up the kids as summer break starts.

Now You See Me 2 (June 10)

The bloodiest weekend of the summer is shaping up to be this one where Now You See Me 2 opens against horror sequel The Conjuring 2 and video game adaptation Warcraft (both films to follow). Lionsgate is ailing without The Hunger Games and with the Divergent series flatlining. They need franchises and have already set this film’s direction Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) to return for number 3. However, if this film gets clobbered this weekend, do those threequel plans go up in smoke? There’s a lot riding here on the return of the Four Horsemen (no, not those Four Horsemen, these Four Horsemen). Thankfully, the cast is (mostly) back and super-appealing. This one remains a question mark.

The Conjuring 2 (June 10)

This one is somewhat less a question mark than an exclamation point. CinemaCon reaction was huge, with Variety saying it walked away with the most buzz. Director James Wan was going to step away from horror movies after the first film but the grueling production of Furious 7 complicated by Paul Walker’s death made him want to return to familiar territory. Wan is one of the most-sought after directors of the moment; the soaring success of his horror franchises and Furious 7 graduating him to blockbuster-status, with Aquaman and Robotech films coming in 2018 and 2019. This could be the rare horror sequel that outgrosses the original and the surprise winner of the June 10 weekend if the next film doesn’t perform . . .

Warcraft (June 10)

There’s a lot riding on Warcraft. It, along with the Assassin’s Creed film hitting in December, are big litmus tests for video game adaptations. Millions are invested in both projects with this one probably coming in more expensive due to the extensive CGI Orc characters and fantasy landscapes. It’s big, it’s bright and it’s the game through-and-through. The challenge facing the film: is the audience who wants to see the game on-screen big enough to stand out this summer? Is this Lord of the Rings or one of its many forgettable knock-offs? One thing is for sure: it isn’t a cash-grab. Director Duncan Jones is a passionate gamer and the story he’s chosen – the origin of the war between humans and Orcs – is compelling one, as is his decision to show the war from both sides. I’m pulling for Warcraft, even as I remain skeptical about its box office prospects.

Central Intelligence (June 17)

If the day ever comes that we are without at least two Kevin Hart comedies in a six month span, you know you’re in the Matrix. In this edition of Kevin-Hart-Screams, he is a former high school jock-turned-accountant who is forced to team with his former classmate-turned-badass CIA agent (The Rock). Hilarious interplay ensues. Honestly, I can think of better uses of Dwayne Johnson’s time (Dude has like 20 movies in development more appealing than this) but teaming with Hart is strategic. Plus, he’s already proven he can carry original IPs like last summer’s San Andreas. Will this one match that success? The two big box office draws are already looking to possibly reteam for the Jumanji reboot shooting this fall if schedules can be worked out (Hart has to work around his The Intouchables remake with Bryan Cranston while production on Johnson’s video game/monster film Rampage is said to have been pushed back to 2017).

Independence Day: Resurgence (June 24)

This one hits me right in the 90s nostalgia kidney. I grew up unabashedly loving the first. It’s an epic modern B-movie that is ripe for update, as I’m certain I’m not the only one who looks back fondly on the original (and yes, perhaps through rose-colored lenses but just let me have this!). I think people are underestimating those factors here and it might result in surprise box office strength for this late sequel. Put it this way: if Fuller House was a success, this should be too. Also, I much prefer having Will Smith in Suicide Squad than in Resurgence, since it frees it up space for new stars like Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher and Maika Monroe akin to how Star Wars: The Force Awakens expertly introduced Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. Plus, more Jeff Goldblum is always a good thing (are you listening, J.A. Bayona?).

The Legend of Tarzan (July 1)

I think this film is set to run into a buzz-saw of backlash unless it’s somehow inescapably good (gonna be honest, unlikely). Tarzan is an antiquated character by many standards. It’s off to a bad start, with rumors of director David Yates essentially having to abandon it in a time crunch to get the Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them ready for a November release. It’s also been preemptively compared to Pan, last fall’s extravagant Peter Pan origin story that bombed critically and commercially. In the plus column, Yates is a talented director, the cast’s pedigree is high and Samuel L. Jackson spoke positively to Collider about the film, its politics and its blockbuster credibility. Then again, Jackson isn’t the most discerning actor ever and it faces the same skepticism that Warcraft faces; will mass audiences flock to it? Charitably, this film’s an underdog.

The BFG (July 8)

Every Spielberg film is a blockbuster, regardless of size or scope. This adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s book continues a fruitful partnership between him and this year’s Oscar-winner for Best Supporting Actor Mark Rylance, who won for Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (the team-up continues with Spielberg’s next two films, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and Ready Player One. Could a role in Indiana Jones 5 follow?). Large-scale “safe” family films are rare nowadays but this film looks to pick up where last year’s Paddington left off in proving there’s an audience willing to go to the theater for them, if they’re genuine enough. Rylance as the titular Big Friendly Giant will provide counterprogramming to the large PG-13 marketplace entering second and third weekends as well as the next film on the list . . .

The Purge: Election Year (July 8)

Talk about synergy. The first Purge was the sleeper hit of summer 2013, doing insane business on a low budget (aka the Blumhouse model). The second was relatively forgettable a year later but cut to 2016, in the midst of the craziest U.S. presidential election in most of our lives, and you have a film who’s shrewd subtitle markets itself. The film could and probably will be a mess of tone and theme but even if they come close to actually delving into the mythology of the Purge (or do anything close to what Rick & Morty did with the concept), I will be satisfied and I think a lot of moviegoers will be too, enough to at least make it on-par with the original box office-wise.

Ghostbusters (July 15)

The biggest risk of the summer isn’t Warcraft or The Legend of Tarzan but this feminized reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise but I’m all in for it. It’s already gotten flack from fan purists and misogynists upset that the new movie is coming from the director and stars of Bridesmaids. Given that pedigree and the hilarity of the cast (I’m especially excited for SNL performers Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon), I think it’s going to be awesome to see ladies kicking ghost ass. The last Ghostbusters movie was almost 30 years ago and the last good Ghostbusters movie was over 30 years ago. I think this fresh take on the material from proven comedic voices is exactly what audiences want.

Star Trek Beyond (July 22)

Star Trek was good. Star Trek Into Darkness was not. Thathnkfully, J.J. Abrams moved to greener, more War-like pastures (and knew better than to continue there on into The Empire Strikes Back-Wrath of Khan parody he attempted last sequel). Now, we are graced with Fast & Furious director Justin Lin’s take on a Simon Pegg and Doug Jung script, set during the Enterprise’s five-year mission, that finds our crew stranded on an alien world and antagonized by Kraal, a prosthetic-heavy Idris Elba. This franchise is looking for a little bit of redemption after the four-years of Is-Khan-In-It? for the last sequel backfired spectacularly. Can it grow its box office or is it set on a course of diminishing returns?

Jason Bourne (July 29)

Nine years after trilogy capper The Bourne Ultimatum and four after the middling spinoff The Bourne Legacy, Matt Damon returns to his most famous role, superspy Jason Bourne. This reunion of Damon and director Paul Greengrass has been speculated about since Ultimatum‘s release in 2007 but only last year did is coalesce into the generically-titled Jason Bourne, a label that makes clear Frank Marshall’s assertion that in contrast to James Bond, Jason Bourne is and forever will be Matt Damon (until, you know, they inevitably recast or reboot the role). I think this film will win the month of July, box office wise but I wonder, given comments Damon has made in interviews, whether this is a post-script or a continuation. Will we have to wait nine years for another sequel, when Damon is 55? And what about Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross? Surely he and Bourne will have to cross (ha!) paths at some point. I want answers, damnit!

Suicide Squad (August 5)

After the disappointment critically and commercially of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it’s up to supervillain team-up Suicide Squad (and Wonder Woman) to save the DCEU’s reputation and make some money before Justice League attempts to redeem the brand entirely. Reshoots have taken place very recently, at first report to add humor and character beats but later clarified by director David Ayer as adding action. Warner Bros. is bullish on the property, already putting Suicide Squad 2 (speculated to be released October 2018) in development so Ayer can return immediately after he wraps his R-rated fantasy cop film Bright starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton for Netflix. Most everyone is optimistic here but the question now is, with Batman v Superman underperforming, does this outgross it? And how much more pressure does that put on Justice League to hit a billion or just beat Thor: Ragnarok? 2017 is shaping up quite nicely.

Spectral (August 12)

Of the 19 films on this list, Spectral has the most potential to surprise, simply because most people aren’t aware it even exists. We do know its been described as a supernatural Black Hawk Down starring a bunch of studly dudes like James Badge Dale (doing his soldier thing from 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi) and Max Martini, and a couple chicks, among them Emily Mortimer. There is no footage, no pics, not even a title card. If they’re smart, they’ll Cloverfield the trailer onto a big blockbuster to gin up interest.

Ben-Hur (August 19)

This is another film, like The Legend of Tarzan, that seems destined for the loser pile by summer’s end. How do you even remake a larger-than-life film like Ben-Hur? In a world where Ridley Scott remade it twice and called it Gladiator the first time and Exodus: Gods and Kings the second, it seems passe, which is a term no one thought to use when the 1958 original came out. All respect to director Timur “Russian Spielberg” Bekmambatov (Wanted) and stars Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell (and bored-looking, dread-wearing Morgan Freeman), but even my interest in brother-vs-brother rivalries can’t get anything in me to root for this movie.

Summer 2016 is bursting at the seams and it seems likely that at least half of the films on this list will fail to make their huge budgets back. With such an extreme rise in high-loss, high-reward studio filmmaking, even the maestro himself Steven Spielberg determined it was unsustainable. So even as summer movies move out of summer movie season, weekends at the theater will only get bloodier for blockbusters over time.

Sam Flynn

Sam Flynn

Sam is a writer and journalist whose passion for pop culture burns with the fire of a thousand suns and at least three LED lamps.