5 Summer Movie Blockbusters: Which Will Sizzle and Which Will Sink?

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From outer space tales to superhero franchises, can any of the upcoming summer 2016 blockbusters top mega-hit Finding Dory at the box office?

As Finding Dory devours the box office competition like a certain other famous fish did exactly 41 years ago this summer, studio execs would be excused for borrowing a line from the latter film while whispering among Hollywood backlots, “We’re going to need a bigger blockbuster.”

So far this summer Independence Day: Resurgence proved a disappointment domestically and even Alexander Skarsgård’s abs, accompanied by the rest of the film The Legend of Tarzan, couldn’t top Dory last weekend. This raises the question of if, only a few weeks into the season, we’ve already seen summer’s biggest blockbuster film?

Finding Dory hit theatres on June 17. Only twice since 2010 has the highest grossing summer blockbuster been released later than June 18 – in 2014 (Guardians of the Galaxy, August 1) and 2011 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, July 15). Every other year the summer box office champion was an early release that the season’s other contenders couldn’t beat. Last year’s champ was Jurassic World (June 12), with Iron Man 3 in 2013 (May 3), The Avengers in 2012 (May 4) and Toy Story 3 in 2010 (June 18).

The animated feature The Secret Lives of Pets should knock the fish tale from the top spot at the box office when it opens this weekend but, when considering it’s overall gross, will Finding Dory’s accumulated (as of this writing) worldwide gross of $563,794,830 and possibility of “beating Shrek 2’s $441m domestic total to become the biggest animated feature ever in North America” be too much for any other summer blockbusters to touch? Perhaps, but we’ve got five still-to-be-released heavy hitters ready to take their best shot.

Ghostbusters (July 15)

The Background: This legendary 1980s comedy franchise gets the reboot treatment, this time with an all-female cast starring four of the funniest women in show business.

Star Power Factor: High, thanks to both its principal cast – Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Lesley Jones and Chris Hemsworth – and the slew of nostalgic cameos from the original cast including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Annie Potts.

Early buzz: This film has already jumped through more than its share of hoops, including backlash to the all-female cast concept and the fact that the movie trailer became the most disliked in the history of Youtube. One person who claims to have seen the final version of the film trashed the movie, but whether they’re serious or just trying to play the Internet remains to be seen. On the other hand there’s a whole generation who grew up in the 1980s, many of whom will gladly pay up at theatres to absorb this nostalgia – including yours truly.

Summer’s biggest blockbuster?: Not likely. Even if you believe any press is good press, the initial backlash combined with the nostalgia kick probably won’t be enough to propel Ghostbusters to the top of the summer blockbuster list. That said, director Paul Feig’s past hits include Bridesmaids and Spy – not the biggest films of their respective years by any means but certainly ones that earned lots of laughs and thumbs up from audiences. That may be Ghostbusters’ best-case scenario.

Star Trek Beyond (July 22)

The Background: Another sci-fi reboot, Star Trek Beyond is the third film in the new series of Trekkie flicks and this installment sees Captain Kirk, Spock and your other favourite characters stranded on an alien planet where their hosts do not prove very hospitable.

Star Power Factor: Idris Elba joins the cast that already includes Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock and Zoe Saldana as Uhura.

Early buzz: Aside from the general excitement for another Star Trek film, the movie’s garnered extra attention for the fact that the character of Mr. Sulu, portrayed by actor John Cho in the film and by George Takei in the original series, will come out as gay in the movie. Takei has been openly gay since 2005.

The other newsworthy story is sad one, as actor Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the films, was tragically killed at age 27 on June 19.

Summer’s biggest blockbuster?: The previous two Star Trek reboot movies did big box office numbers, with the second installment, Star Trek Into Darkness, tallying more than $467 million worldwide – almost one hundred million more than its predecessor Star Trek. Both films were also released in May. Will Star Trek Beyond, with the later release date and riding the wave of success of the previous two films, pull in an extra hundred million to top Finding Dory? If it does, that’ll definitely be worth jotting down in the captain’s log.

Jason Bourne (July 29)

The Background: Matt Damon makes his return to the Bourne franchise for the first time in nine years, battling bad guys while trying to uncover and reconcile information about his own past.

Star Power Factor: Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Julia Styles, Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel.

Early buzz: With Matt Damon back there’s a renewed interest in the Bourne franchise, which dropped off the box office cliff big time with Jeremy Renner in the lead role as Aaron Cross in the last flick, The Bourne Legacy (more on that below). It’s enough to get any Bourne fan pumped about the upcoming release.

Summer’s biggest blockbuster?: The Bourne franchise was steadily climbing at the box office, peaking at $442,824,138 worldwide for Damon’s last installment, The Bourne Ultimatum, in 2007. Jeremy Renner’s Bourne Legacy dropped to $276 million in 2012 so there’s no reason to doubt that the jolt Damon brings when he returns to the franchise won’t translate into box office receipts. Whether it can best Finding Dory is another question altogether. Is Damon’s return enough to push the film over the top? Doubtful, but if it does it wouldn’t be the first time Jason Bourne has defied expectations.

Suicide Squad (August 5)

The Background: A motley crew of villainous mercenaries is assembled by the government in a last ditch effort to save the world.

Star Power Factor: A top-notch ensemble cast that includes Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez and Joel Kinnaman.

Early buzz: Filmed largely in Toronto, photos and videos of the production popped up like weeds on social media for months. Jared Leto as The Joker is one of the principal curiosities surrounding the film and the awesome trailers, costumes and action sequences released so far have only served to stoke the already fervent fan interest.

Summer’s biggest blockbuster?: Struggling to duplicate the success of the Marvel Universe, DC Comics was poised to make a huge cinematic splash with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this year. And while it did top out at an almost $873 million worldwide gross, the film was ravaged by critics. Suicide Squad, with its hard edge, anti-hero bent, high-octane action and Jared Leto’s debut as the Clown Prince of Crime looks like it could do what Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman couldn’t: bring in the box office receipts and the critical praise. Suicide Squad has the best chance of beating Finding Dory to become the biggest summer blockbuster of 2016.

Ben-Hur (August 19)

The Background: “Hey, did you know there’s a new Ben-Hur film coming out?” will likely prove the popular refrain when the trailers for this film make the rounds in wide release. It hasn’t received much fanfare yet but, yes, this in indeed the fifth film version of the classic Ben-Hur tale. Judging by the trailer, this reimagining of the story is a little darker and more brooding than the Charlton Heston version, with lots of battle scenes and perilous camera shots of crashing waves, shipwrecks and chariot races.

Star Power Factor: Jack Huston – grandson of John, nephew of Anjelica – stars in the title role while Morgan Freeman plays Sheik Ilderim, who teaches Ben-Hur everything he knows about battle and chariot races.

Early buzz: There isn’t much, and that’s the problem. For all of its action and epic feel, not much has been made about the film. That doesn’t bode well for the box office.

Summer’s biggest blockbuster?: Not at all. Younger generations don’t have any attachment or nostalgia for Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur and it’s not similar enough to that version to compel boomers to hop into their chariots and rush out to see it. It’s a long shot but it could prove a critical success, though there’s also the chance it could quickly fade away into the cinematic ether with movies like Noah, which we forget even existed soon enough.