It's the most blockbusteriest time of the year - the American summer. Furious 7 kicked off the 2015 blockbuster season appropriately by becoming the fastest film to ever reach a billion dollars at the box office.
And Avengers: Age of Ultron is being released in the United States today, a whole week after most of the rest of the world (including New Zealand) got to see it. This increasingly common release strategy, (which was also notably utilised for the first Avengers film) speaks to the increased role the international market (i.e. us) has in determining both the immediate and ultimate success of a blockbuster. Which is nice.
At this stage, Furious 7 and Age of Ultron seem likely to be the biggest moneymakers of the year until the latest entry in a certain space saga arrives at Christmas time. But could either film qualify as the most exciting blockbuster of 2015? Efficient, bombastic, successful - yes. But exciting? Maybe not. Both delivered what they promised, not neither blew the walls off the cinema in the way a truly exciting blockbuster can.
There's a bunch of pretty huge films still to come, and some of them aren't even sequels. Here I will assess the rest of the season's in blockbuster offerings and list them in descending order of how exciting they are.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Sequel? Sort of, but not really. The barely-discernible chronology of the previous films points to this being more of a reboot, especially with Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson in the title role. Whatever the case, series writer/director George Miller is at the helm which makes this an honourable exercise from any perspective.
Exciting? If there's one blockbuster this season that seems destined to satisfy the above-stated criteria of blowing the walls of the theatre, it's this one. The trailers are absolutely insane. An audience softened by the ephemerality of do-anything, go-anyway blockbusters built on CGI foundations is very hungry for the metal-grinding tangibility this film promises.
NZ release date: May 14th.
Sequel? No. It's a contemporary fantasy story that incorporates various elements owned by the Walt Disney company, including ol' Walt himself apparently. So it's not a wholly original proposition, either. It was inspired by the contents of an old box. I hope the box gets a 'Story By' credit.
Exciting? Despite the flagrant corporate synergy on display, I couldn't be more excited for this fanboy-indulging wallow in the wonder of retro-futurism. The prospect wouldn't be nearly as enticing if it was anybody other than Brad Bird directing, but if there's anyone qualified to go full-Disney with a blockbuster, it's the creator of The Incredibles. I will be disappointed if they don't reference the frozen head rumour.
NZ release date: May 28th.
3. Jurassic World
Sequel? Yes, albeit with the kind of shiny new cast you'd usually associate with a reboot.
Exciting? Very. I'm still getting over how the third Jurassic Park film was somehow much smaller the underrated second film. No such scale problems appear to plague this grand new venture, in which the park itself is finally open. The potential appearance of some kind of super smart dinosaur isn't especially exciting, but I will be judging this solely on the people-getting-eaten scenes.
NZ release date: June 11th.
4. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Sequel? You bet your ass it is.
Exciting? This franchise has never faltered in my eyes. Every single film is a winner. I enjoyed Jack Reacher, but Christopher McQuarrie still seems like a weird choice to direct this. That said, I'm wholly confident in Tom's quality control abilities at this point.
NZ release date: August 6th.
5. Terminator: Genisys
Sequel? We could spend all night debating exactly how this fits into the Terminator universe, but of all the sequels on this list, it reeks the most of being a sequel, if only for the desperation of the narrative gambits revealed in the trailers.
Exciting? But still, I am excited to see it. The goodwill I maintain for Arnold Schwarzenegger will carry me into hotter fires than this. Any time this man is on the big screen, I will get excited.
NZ release date: July 1st.
Sequel? Not really, unless you count the Marvel Cinematic Universe as one big franchise. Which would be fair enough.
Exciting? It's clear now that Age of Ultron was never going to be as much fun as Guardians of the Galaxy, which re-emphasises how the MCU is at its best these days when it's breaking new ground. Ant-Man probably won't reinvent any wheels, but it's the biggest diversion from the MCU 'formula' (for lack of a better word) since Guardians, and that's exciting.
NZ release date: July 16th.
7. Inside Out
Exciting? The fact that Pixar films aren't quite the guaranteed gold they once were can actually make it more fun to anticipate one. There's an element of chance now. Memories of Herman's Head aside, this looks like a proper hoot.
NZ release date: June 25th.
8. Fantastic Four
Sequel: New adaptation of the Marvel Age's flagship series, previously the subject of two massively turdful films in '05 and '07.
Exciting? Fantastic Four is my all-time favourite comic book but the challenges of adapting it are considerable and yet to be overcome. This could well be the film to do it, but what I've seen so far bears little resemblance to what I loved about the source material. As far as I'm concerned, I got my dream Fantastic Four adaptation with The Incredibles. Still, I'm excited for the new film, because The Thing.
NZ release date: July 30th.
9. San Andreas
Sequel? No. But could almost be an unofficial remake of the 1974 disaster classic Earthquake with less Marjoe Gortner.
Exciting? Although spectacle for its own sake no longer fires me up the way it used to, star Dwayne Johnson almost qualifies as a hometown hero, and that gets me excited. More than Marjoe Gortner does, at least.
NZ release date: May 28th.
Sequel? No. But it does re-team director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy, and could easily function as a spiritual sequel to both The Heat and Bridesmaids.
Exciting? A little bit I suppose but mainly because of the supporting cast, which includes Rose Byrne, Jude Law and Jason Statham, all being bawdy as heck. I'm not above admitting that appeals to me. Also interesting as a dry-run of sorts for the Feig and McCarthy-led Ghostbusters.
NZ release date: May 21st.
11. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Sequel? It's a big screen adaptation of an old TV show, an idea that almost seems kind of quaint in today's world of reboot-fied sidequels.
Exciting? In theory, no. But the trailer made me a lot more interested than I had been, even if it is all Guy Ritchie gloss. I guess I'm a sucker for that.
NZ release date: August 13th.
12. Ted 2
Exciting? Ted was good. I will see Ted 2, but I can't say I'm especially excited about it. There's a slight whiff of The Hangover to this sequel - it's all coming off a tad too self-congratulatory. We'll see I guess. The cameo bar has been set high. Sam Jones has had his moment, it's time for Brian Blessed's time in the sun.
NZ release date: July 2nd.
• Which blockbuster are you most excited to see? Do you think Furious 7 or Age of Ultron will reign supreme as this year's most exciting blockbuster? Comment Below!