By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Box Office Year & Originality
I don’t understand what Brooks Barnes smokes before writing up his pieces on the film industry. Today’s bit of absurdity is about how a wave of originality is taking over Hollywood because of this year’s box office.
My sides are hurting from laughing.
I’ll keep the response simple.
There were twenty-two $250 million worldwide grossers in 2010 (counting Tangled, which is just short of the figure and will be there this week).
Ten of them were sequels or direct remakes.
Three of the “originals” were children’s cartoons.
One was based on a videogame. One was based on a children’s TV series. One is an standard-issue Adam Sandler comedy. One is an action movie based quite overtly on the premise of going to the movie to watch a parade of action stars from the last 3 decades, including Governor Schwarzenegger. Robin Hood was a new version of a classic story.
We’re up to 18 of 22. What’s left?
Knight & Day, explicitly noted as the movie Hollywood won’t be making anymore.
Salt, a terrific return to Angelina Jolie kicking ass… a three-times successful franchise.
Shutter Island, a truly terrific, original piece by Scorsese.
Inception, a hat tip to The Nolans doing more Batmans that ended up being a huge (and expensive) success.
How many of these Top 22 grossers have rankings of 80% or better on Rotten Tomatoes? 3.
How many 70% – 80%? Another 2.
The cut-off for Rotten is 60%.
And don’t get me started on the complete lack of (recent) historical perspective when it comes to such claims that hiring “edgy” directors to do seemingly mainstream properties is a new phenomenon. This is an article that calls out Chris Nolan for originality. Has anyone at the Times heard of Bryan Singer?
If Disney’s model for success is Burton doing Alice, great… just make sure the combination of the director and the classic, completely familiar source material make people go, “Of course,” when they hear the combination. I love Guillermo del Toro, but only a small percentage of the audience knows him by name or is clamoring for a Haunted Mansion movie. (I’m sure it will be great and the marketing will, as it must, sell it.)
Sony bet on Sam Raimi for the first Spider-Man film. Great choice. And I hope Webb is one too. But the Spider-Man movies remain Raimi’s only $100m worldwide grossers in his career. (500) Days of Summer did a terrific $33 million… terrific for what it is. A blind monkey with all the movie channels on his satellite could open the next Spider-Man to $100 million. The success of the franchise will not prove the value of an edge director. Marc Foster made the worst Bond movie in many years… but it still beat Casino Royale domestically (not worldwide), made by second-time Bond director Martin Campbell. I am rooting for Webb. I LOVE Andrew Garfield for this job. Tobey Maguire is one of the great characters actors of his generation. Garfield is heading that way and can be a bigger movie star than Tobey is ever likely to be. He’s got that gear. Great! But it proves little.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller are great guys and Cloudy was absurdly brilliant… but the “daring choice” is to remake a 80s TV show. Wow. Edgy. (Don’t even get me started on Sony dumping Soderbergh on Moneyball… though I am very much looking forward to Bennett Miller’s version of the project.)
“Animation is not as infallible as it has been.” A record FOUR animated $200 million domestic grossers in one year… doubling the previous top of two. Huh?
The audience most certainly has NOT pushed back. The “rejected” Tom Cruise and Sex and the City 2, each to the tune of over $250 million worldwide. Julia Roberts was rejected to the tune of $203 million. Nice rejection. Disappointing vs expectations? Absolutely. But a little sane perspective please.
Whipping Boy The A-Team grossed $15 million less than The Social Network. It also cost more. But again, perspective. Paranormal Activity 2, Jackass 3D, and The Other Guys are all modestly reviewed retreads that will be more profitable than The Social Network.
God bless The Social Network. Huzzah. Really. But you can’t take the odd man and try to claim it’s a trend. That goes for Inception as well, a movie that could have been delivered by ONE filmmaker and only one… from his (and his brother’s) mind… and it would never have been greenlit ANYWHERE if it weren’t for the success of The Dark Knight. The success of Batman Begins would not have gotten that film greenlit. Great… but not a standard that any studio can work under.
I am all for originality. It is my belief that the biggest successes come out of the unexpected. Twilight was dumped by Paramount. Slumdog MIllionaire dumped by Warner Bros. Fox sold off 60% of Avatar with less than a year to go before release. Due Date and Shutter Island are great examples of films that were not expected to do as well on paper… any by the way, were director and star driven. There are plenty of good stories.
I love Pixar… very original… yet, a franchise with a history of quality that people follow closely. DWA is out there working it too.
But let’s not delude ourselves. The only original thing about Alice in Wonderland was Burton’s visuals… and they were, in many ways, expected and anticipated, which made the film such a massive hit. But not a great film. Iron Man 2 is a terrible film. The Twilight series is famously horrible (except to the obsessed fans, 50 million strong). Clash of the Titans? Prince of Persia? Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth in the series? The horror… the horror…
You know what’s original? Making the right choices and having it all work out. The Karate Kid… fifth in the franchise… but from that first trailer, you knew they made the right choices… the kid is great… Jackie Chan as an old guy… make it international so the alienation is real and not just teen angst… all great choices. Is it the best movie of the year? No. But it really, really works for its audience.
And the same is true of The Social Network, which is pretty much a perfect film within the boundaries of the script Aaron Sorkin wrote. And yeah, $192 million is great for a straight drama. It’s not the best gross in that niche this year. And the film that did better for Sony but got killed as a disappointment? Eat Pray Love… a bad movie that did really strong business worldwide… but still not seen as enough.
Trend. Stories. Suck.
(Edit, 12/27, 1:27p – There were four previous Karate Kid films, not three.)