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Captain America, Potter vs Transformers, and Movie Deals: Into the Mailbag


As you folks know, one of my favorite things to do here is answer reader e-mail — Yay! I don’t have to think of a topic! — and this week I’ve got a few in the inbox. So let’s make this a mailbag column and get through some of these, shall we? Excellent.

First question, about this week’s major release:

You’ve said before that some superhero films are science fiction and some are not. Where does the new Captain America fall on that scale?
  It’s true I don’t automatically lump super hero movies into the science
fiction category, because I don’t think some are: the Batman films are
the best example, as their basic premise doesn’t require a science
fiction excuse to exist the way Superman (from another planet!) or Green Lantern (he’s a galactic cop!) do. Whether Captain America qualifies
as science fiction is an interesting question, since, among other
things, it takes place in the 1940s, which is now well in the past. But
then again, our hero Steve Rogers, who starts the movie as a small,
scrawny dude, becomes Captain America thanks to a “Super Soldier”
science experiment that buffs him out significantly.

(Oh, don’t look at me like that. This is all in the trailer.)

It’s
the science experiment that tips the film over at least nominally into
science fiction: It provides a rational, (quasi-)scientific basis for
the hero’s powers and existence. Captain America wouldn’t exist if
science didn’t level up Steve Rogers, and as an extra added bonus, it’s
science we still don’t have today — sorry guys, steroids don’t work
that quickly. So, sure, I’d claim it for the genre. But I’d claim it
like I claim Iron Man: it’s got a science fiction basis, but the science fiction isn’t the focus of the film. What Captain America is about is punching Nazis and fighting Red Skull. So it’s really a comic book action film with a science fiction gloss.

Next question:

Any thoughts on Harry Potter’s opening weekend?

Yes:
Any weekend a film can earn $480 million worldwide is a good one.
Really, that’s just an astounding amount of money for a single film to
bring in so quickly — the film did have an extra day in some
international markets, but even so, come on. That’s just nuts. Domestically, the film made $92 million last Friday alone, which is only $5 million less than Transformers: Dark of the Moon made its entire opening weekend, that being the best previous opening weekend of the year (Deathly Hallows, Part 2 ended up with $169 million for the weekend, which already makes it the sixth highest grossing film of the year). Again: nuts.

But here’s the question I’m interested in: Will Potter overtake Transformers to be the number one domestic film of the summer? Transformers has
$302 million to date and made $21 million last weekend, which I
estimate puts it on track to top out somewhere in the $325 million to
$330 million range. That’s higher than the gross of any Potter film to
date (the first made $317 million). The last few Potter films have been
clustered around the $300 million mark, so that seems like its natural
level, and it’s worth considering that the new film’s box office dropped
by more than 50% on Saturday and dropped 16% from there on Sunday —
meaning that amazing Friday was fans crushing into theaters to see
Potter as soon as possible, rather than an indication of the overall
level of interest in the film. The Potter film is going to have a huge
drop next weekend anyway — almost all blockbusters do — but how much
it drops will give us an idea of whether it will catch Transformers.

My guess: Deathly Hallows 2 will top Transformers and
be the top film of the summer (and the year), which it will owe to the
3D surcharge the last film has that none of the other Potter films did.
But the final box office numbers of the two are likely to be close.
Domestically, that is. I suspect Potter’s going to blow the Transformers
out of the water internationally.

Last question:

Any more news on your movie deal?

Right. I mentioned here in March that my novel Old Man’s War had been optioned for film and was at Paramount,
with producer Scott Stuber and director Wolfgang Petersen attached.
Since then, we’ve passed another option window, and the option was
renewed, so that’s good news. Beyond that, they’re at the “working on
the script” stage (David Self is the screenwriter) and all indications
I’ve gotten are that’s going well.

Be that as it may, making
movies is a slow process, so it will probably be some time for anything
— if anything — goes forward from here. If nothing else, Hollywood
teaches one patience.

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