The 5 Biggest Box Office Flops Coming This Summer

Each spring, the showbiz hype machine talks up the excitement level of the summer blockbuster slate. In fact, despite a big May, Summer 2013 is looking like one of the dreariest and most useless summers ever, loaded with sequels to movies that weren’t worth seeing in the first place, lame vanity projects, overdone epics, and dull retreads.

Forget the summer’s biggest hits. What will the biggest flops of the season be? Here’s an educated guess based on advance buzz.

1. After Earth (May 31)

This is a movie that goes wrong early. Really early. In the credits. “Story by Will Smith”? Huh?

Starring the top-billed Smith son Jaden Smith, who is no longer the adorable little kid he was in Pursuit of Happyness and The Karate Kid but is now a sullen teen? Directed by notorious hack M. Night Shyamalan, he of The Happening and The Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender, the guy who hasn’t made a movie that wasn’t laughed out of theaters in a decade?

Despite all of these obvious problems, plus the additional worry that the similar Tom Cruise movie Oblivion came out in April and fulfilled its title’s destiny almost instantly, After Earth is somehow managing to underperform expectations, causing early viewers to wonder why the former biggest star in the world, the elder Smith, spends most of the second half of the movie injured and stuck in a chair giving his son long-distance pep talks after the two crash-land on Earth to fight monsters a thousand years in the future. And why do both of them talk like they’re from New Zealand? This one is headed for the Bad Idea Hall of Fame, and the Stale Prince’s stock is plummeting after Men in Black III and Seven Pounds.

2. World War Z (June 21)

The warmest reaction from early audiences has been, “Eh, it’s not that bad.” That’s what test audiences said about John Carter.

Plagued by delays and rewrites, the massively overbudget Brad Pitt movie about a zombie apocalypse suffers simultaneously from a groan-inducingly familiar setup and its being an attempt to launch a brand new franchise (based on the novel by Max Brooks, Mel’s son). Director Marc Forster is a fading B-lister who has never made a movie that connected with much of an audience except Quantum of Solace.

J.J. Abrams scribe Damon Lindelof was called in to straighten out the script, but few think the movie will recoup its $200 million budget when it opens against the second weekend of Man of Steel, which is getting excellent advance word.

3. The Lone Ranger (July 3)

Opening over the 4th of July weekend, this opportunity for Johnny Depp to wave his freak flag yet again (a dead bird on your head, John? Sure, go for it) as Tonto is dogged by a goofy slapstick trailer that makes it look like Wild Wild West redux. Plus, whatever fanbase is left over from the 1950s TV show is currently in assisted living.

Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean also made Disney nervous, and with a star of his charisma you can’t be sure what he might be able to pull off, but the Hollywood graveyard is littered with attempts to re-launch the traditional, family-friendly popcorn Western, and in the title role Armie Hammer does not inspire confidence in this $250 million project, last brought to the screen in a 1981 film that flopped hard.

4. R.I.P.D (July 19)

The buddy cop action comedy The Heat, starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, is exciting early audience interest. Not so this rival cop feature directed by journeyman Robert Schwentke (Red, The Time Traveler’s Wife) starring Jeff Bridges and the ever-smug Ryan Reynolds, who seems to be repelling audiences in movies like Green Lantern and The Change-Up.

It comes with a bizarre premise that sounds tough to sell: the cops are undead, working for the Rest in Peace Department, as they try to solve a mystery behind the murder of one of them. The film, which in the trailer looks pretty much like a Men in Black clone, was shot in 2011 and has been kept under a veil, which doesn’t indicate a lot of pride about it. Best guess is that it will disappear quietly without wasting too many marketing dollars on top of its reported $200 million budget.

 

5. Elysium (August 9)

Hoping that there’s still some mileage left in middle-aged stars Jodie Foster (who plays the villain) and Matt Damon (who still hasn’t brought in much of an audience for most of his non-Bourne films), South African director Neill Blomkamp will try to recreate the success of his sci-fi sleeper District 9, but the film sounds a lot like After Earth and Oblivion.

Yet again, we return to a distant future (the year 2154) when the planet is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. One brave Earth warrior -- Damon, who doesn’t look good with a shaved head-- decides to launch an attack on the ruling elites who glide above it all on a space station.

Been there, blown up that.