Looking at the recent and upcoming releases at the cinema this summer, you’d be forgiven for a certain amount of deja vu. Numerals seem to dominate rather than new titles, despite the subtitles inevitably slapped on after the main title like a badly built conservatory, and the number three turns up over and over again. Spider-Man 3… Pirates of the Caribbean 3… Shrek the Third… Ocean’s 13… The Bourne Ultimatum… (Okay, so the last two may not be so obvious…)
But is it a case of third time lucky or is it just flogging an almost dead horse? The answer, it seems, depends on how bloated the ‘concept’ (that word beloved of film execs) is and possibly how much money there is to throw at it.
First out of the gate was Spider-Man 3. The first in the series was a tour de force, the second rather woolly and this one? Definitely a case of trying to fit two films’ worth of plot into one mammoth bloated mess and too much money to throw at the special effects. Now I love a good bit of CGI as much as anyone, but I’m not a 12-year-old boy and I don’t want to see a giant computer game.
I wasn’t holding out much hope for Pirates 3. The first part bounced along on a goofy innocent charm and Johnny Depp’s bravura performance. The second was a sprawling indulgent and incoherent mess (I really needed that 12 year old to explain the many and various rules of being ‘dead’ of the various factions). But someone had obviously listened to the audience – the third has much more clarity (even if you still can’t understand half the accents). And the makers should be applauded for not going for the obvious easy ending.
So this weekend brings Ocean’s 13, which is more difficult to predict. The film was slick, fun and enjoyable just for watching Brad and George ooze cool. The second just plain tried too hard and was downright silly in places (Julia Roberts pretending to be herself springs immediately to mind). It should be entertaining to see Al Pacino eating the furniture up against George’s laidback style. The odds look good?
Shrek the Third doesn’t need that kind of Las Vegas odds reckoning. Bet the house on it. The first two showed a keen attention to plot and how to advance it clearly that the other should study. Not many movies can pull of fun for the kids and sly fun for the adults at the same time, but this series is a glorious success.
And finally The Bourne Ultimatum. The first two instalments of this franchise re-invigorated the moribund spy movie and showed the Bond producers you could make a movie that was real, taut and exciting without tedious in-jokes and gadgets. Without Bourne, you wouldn’t have had Casino Royale. The always under-rated Matt Damon (who is also excellent in the Ocean’s series) brings real heart to the story of an agent who loses his identity but not his memory of tradecraft.
After if that’s not enough to keep you going, there’s always a new instalment of Harry Potter around the corner.