Hollywood's Biggest Gambles

We've seen toys become the basis for successful franchises before — Transformers, to name just one — but turning a board game that's been around since 1931 into a big-budget summer popcorn flick about an alien invasion is something else entirely. Universal has poured a reported $200 million into Battleship, which has been described as Independence Day on the water and features no huge stars. Will it be seaworthy? ''It wasn't about spending money on tried-and-true 'stars.' The movie is the star,'' says Donna Langley, co-chair of Universal Pictures. ''And it has global appeal.'' (May 18)

Rock of Ages
Adapted from the hit Broadway musical, Rock of Ages features an odd mix of big stars (including Tom Cruise as a hair-metal singer and Catherine Zeta-Jones as an antirock crusader) and 1980s anthems from bands like Bon Jovi and Journey. For director Adam Shankman, who directed the 2007 hit Hairspray, finding the right tone won't be easy. ''Hairspray was like a bowl of jelly beans,'' he says. ''This is not. This movie gets very dark.'' (June 15)

The Bourne Legacy
Since the inception of the franchise, the name Bourne has been synonymous with star Matt Damon. Now Universal is trying to spin off the series in a new direction with a largely untested box office draw, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol costar Jeremy Renner, playing a different character under the same Bourne banner. Confused? ''The [trademarks of] the Bourne franchise are still very much in place — the car chases, the exotic locales, the hand-to-hand combat,'' says Universal's Langley. ''We really love Jeremy, and are willing to bet on him — the same way the studio bet on Matt at the start of his career.'' (Aug. 3)

Mirror Mirror/Snow White & the Huntsman
In a strange game of fairy-tale chicken, two movies based on the Snow White story are hitting theaters within months of each other. Who will be the fairest of them all: the lighter, more comic Mirror Mirror, or the edgy, action-driven Snow White & the Huntsman? Mirror director Tarsem Singh, whose film will be out first, believes timing trumps everything — ''There really, truly is only room for the first one of these,'' he told EW in December — but the trailer for Huntsman suggests an epic, Lord of the Rings-esque take on the classic tale that could draw in a wider audience. (Mirror, March 16; Huntsman, June 1)

More than 30 years after revolutionizing sci-fi with Alien, director Ridley Scott is going back to the future with a supersecret 3-D project (speculated to be a prequel) about scientists stranded on a perilous distant planet. Can Prometheus live up to the sky-high expectations? ''All you can do is make it as good as possible,'' says Scott. ''So far I'm really, really happy with what I'm getting. But in movies, you can never be comfortable.'' (June 8)

(With additional reporting by Anthony Breznican, Adam Markovitz, Chris Nashawaty, Keith Staskiewicz, Adam B. Young, and John Young)

Originally posted Jan 27, 2012 Published in issue #1192-1193 Feb 03, 2012 Order article reprints

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