It has been 10 days since the release of Justice League. I write that because, in my mind, it feels like twenty. And, sure, part of that is due to the way in which time seems to drudge forward endlessly into a river of constant, bleak despair in the year 2017, but the other part is due to the overall effect Justice League had on moviegoers…or, more accurately, lack of effect.
Because, though Justice League marks a big step in the DC Cinematic Universe, it has failed to capture the zeitgeist in the same way the films that came before it have. Say what you will about the quality of Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, or Batman v. Superman, but they are bonefide blockbuster hits (barely so with BvS, but still.) Justice League’s blockbuster status, though, is a lot more questionable. Opening at $96 million might SEEM okay on the surface, but diving deeper, It’s actually a shockingly low number for the superhero team-up. It’s the lowest opening yet for any of the DC universe films, which in and of itself is a big problem. But combined with the massive production budget (some reports claim the cost could come to over $300 million, and that’s before marketing), and that number looks far less enticing.
And though Thanksgiving weekend MIGHT have been the opportunity for the film to break out in a bigger way, the past five days very much showed that not to be the case. Grossing just $59.6 over the time frame, Justice League failed to even place second in its opening weekend, losing to Disney/Pixar’s Coco in its debut weekend. Combined with a second weekend drop of 57% and things are not looking great for Justice League. At this time, the losses could add up to over $100 million.
So, as I have done in the past when a box office bomb is unleashed upon us, the question must be asked: how did this happen? Well, Mr. Warner Bros: we gave you all the clues. You should have seen this failure coming. Here are 5 of the main five reasons Justice League bombed at the box office.
5. It ran right up against Thor: Ragnarok
Why Hollywood studios continue to do this is baffling to me, but it’s hard to deny that Justice League’s to close-for-comfort release date to Thor: Ragnarok did not help the film at all. On the one hand, I can see Warner’s confidence in placing Justice League so close to Ragnarok — looking at the other two Thor movies, Warner probably didn’t sense much of a threat. What they didn’t know at the time was that the film would prove to be A) a critical and commercial success that dwarfed its two predecessors entirely and B) something of a team-up film involving two Avengers and a fan favorite villain. It was also an effects-heavy fantasy action pic, which…yeah, is also Justice League. The film’s just both seemed too similar to orbit the same release window and, though comic fans conceivably chose to see both, general audiences? For a good portion of them, they chose the old reliable Marvel movie.
4. It didn’t feel like an “event” at the same level of The Avengers
This is where the strange building blocks of the DC Cinematic Universe really comes into play. Unlike Marvel (yes, you are going to hear this comparison a lot through this article, deal with it), DC built up its universe and the characters within it in a rather, shall we say bold way. Well Man of Steel and Wonder Woman were traditional, rather standalone origin stories, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was something…different. Initially it was aimed as a Man of Steel sequel, but ultimately morphed into a Justice League prequel of sorts, featuring the Big Three (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) in substantial roles, and awkward appearances from the other League members as well.
So, going into Justice League, we’d already seen half of its members team up to fight evil together. This wasn’t an unprecedented event, even within the universe of DC. And though the Big Three combined alongside the likes of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg…we had yet to be introduced to The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. There was no anticipation to see them fight alongside the heroes we already knew, at least not for the non-comic book fans in the audience.
And the fact that Superman is bizarrely absence from the majority of the actual film didn’t help either. A residual effect from the decision to leave him dead at the end of Batman v. Superman, killing off Superman before certainly didn’t help Justice League feel like a grander team-up film. It left him out of a huge majority of the marketing, with all the big team posters and group photos not featuring the Man of Steel at all. This was a rather boneheaded decision from the marketing department, because it wasn’t exactly like Superman’s involvement in the team and (eventual) return to it would be some big shock. But by trying to ignore the Big Blue Boy Scout in the room, Justice League felt like even less of a monumental “coming together” than it even did initially.
3. The Justice League marketing was flat all around
Leaving out Superman wasn’t the only problem with Justice League’s marketing, however. Really, the film’s ad campaign was all over the place. It was of course focused heavily on the idea of the superheroes all teaming up to fight bad guys…except we never really found out who that bad guy was, or what he was even after. Like the vague trailers for Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell before it, the trailers for Justice League showed us pretty much nothing of the story. And well that might be fine for the spoiler-phobes that are averse to plot-heavy trailers (such as me), to general audiences, it doesn’t give them much to lean on as far as what drives the film.
These vague trailers are becoming a weird trend for the big blockbusters, and I honestly don’t think they help most movies. Well stuff like Star Wars: The Last Jedi can bank on mystery and general atmosphere to sell itself…some films need a little more help. It doesn’t help that none of the visuals in the Justice League trailer stood out very much (and looked actively bad in places), nor did the trailer present any big “moment” that would put asses in seats. Bringing up The Avengers yet again, there was no instantly iconic moment in the Justice League trailers that was nearly to the level of the spin around group shot, or even Iron Man being pursued by the giant alien monster (“bringing the party to you, etc.). When the coolest visual is Aquaman (a character audiences once again had no particular affection for) riding on top of the Batmobile, you might just have a problem. Hell, even Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice had a cooler, more iconic ad campaign than Justice League. Love it or hate it, the teaser trailer for the movie INSTANTLY captures your attention, in a way Justice League never really could.
2. Mixed reviews certainly didn’t help
The film world is torn between the idea that critical reception no longer manners, and that Rotten Tomatoes is the most important thing in the world. Obviously both are pretty contradictory opinions (Rotten Tomatoes is build up off of critic reviews after all), and pretty hyperbolic too. But, if you ask me, reception IS important. Even if “reviews” aren’t the most important thing in the world anymore, social media dictates that the reactions to a movie are generally echoed to millions, and impact a film’s opening substantially. And the reactions to Justice League were, decidedly, mixed.
Not as bad as Batman v. Superman, for sure — there were actually a few positive reactions in the mix, in comparison to what seemed like a deluge of hatred for BvS. But it still wasn’t very good at all, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 41% only being a positive when you compare it to the terrible scores for BvS and Suicide Squad. And well something like Thor: Ragnarok and DC’s own Wonder Women was able to ride good buzz to a strong opening, Justice League was not. Making a movie that is received well, in this day and age, IS important. When even Transformers feels the brunt of critical response, you know that social media reaction is a huge deal. Just making a movie that people seem to like can make up dozens of millions of dollars. And if you haven’t seemed to do that, expect a lower opening from the get go.
1. WB scorched the earth when it came to building up the DC Universe
This is the most obvious, most direct, and most important factor that led to Justice League underperforming — the quality of the previous film’s turned people away. Batman v. Superman was so widely disliked that “pessimistic hesitation” became the default mode for people when it came to this follow-up. Zack Snyder and Warner Bros. just poisoned the well big time here and, though that didn’t matter as much in the franchise films of the past, when you are playing the cinematic universe game, quality MATTERS.
In a way, the response to this whole DC Cinematic Universe is the exact opposite that Marvel has built up to — when general audiences see the Marvel logo, they expect a super fun, quality time. And for that reason, the Marvel films have soared at a consistently high pace. Hell, the third Thor movie made more money in its first few weekends in release than Justice League has, and that’s not because the character of Thor is more popular than Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. It’s because Marvel as a brand has installed trust in its audience. The DC movies have, for the most part, inspired bitterness.
And, yes, I get it — there are fans of the DC Movies out there, and by no means is the franchise universally hated. If that was the case, then Justice League would have opened to FAR LESS than $96 million. But with the kind of money Warner Bros is spending, and the impact they clearly wanted this film to have, they have to make movies that are universally beloved. And it’s not like they can’t do that — Wonder Woman is very well liked by audiences, and that appreciation for the movie led to a long, healthy box office run. Because it was good, and people liked it. And though Wonder Woman plays a role in Justice League, her involvement alone wasn’t enough to convince people this enterprise is worth funding. So they didn’t — simple as that.
Now will they in the future? That’s a damn good question — Justice League’s entire M.O. seems to be convincing people to like the DC Universe again, adding in better character work and splashes of fun to the previously dour experience. But, at this point, it feels like Warner is building a castle on top of a crumbling foundation. Though the film is still very much flawed, it does represent a mostly positive turning point for the DC Universe, and its characters. But, at this point, the damage has already been done, and a ton of money has been lost. It might be too little too late to save this particular branch of the DC Universe.
…But thankfully DC always has more Suicide Squad spin-offs, right? Maybe Deadshot buys a cell phone. Has Captain Boomerang ever owned a bear? The possibilities are truly endless!
Also published on Medium.
The Spider Man: Into The Spider-Verse Teaser Trailer Creates One Hell of An Eye-Popping Debut
Sony’s Animated Spider-Man movie looks better than expected, thankfully.
Well, if you can say anything about Sony Pictures, it’s that they tried. Sure, that phrase is likely going to be engraved on their headstone a decade from now, but it doesn’t make it any less true — Sony is going through every single one of their brands, digging through them endlessly for any ounce of blockbuster potential they may have. It would be almost impressive, if it also didn’t seem so creatively empty.
But, hey, it doesn’t have to be. Sure, no one in the goddamn world is itching for a Mobius the Vampire Movie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be great. Even something born out of needless franchising can be a work of artistic value. And there’s no two men you don’t have to tell that too than Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
The pair have been able to turn creative bankruptcy into brilliance for years now, and Sony recently set them loose on the crown jewel of milked-dry brands: Spider-Man. Together the pair wrote the script for a Spider-Man movie that would be created by Sony Animation (who the duo worked with on the Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs films) All we knew about the project for a while now was that it would involve the character of Miles Morales (played by Dope’s Shameik Moore.) But with the film coming out next Christmas, Sony decided that now would be the best time to give the film its first grand showing.
And what a showing it is. Though the trailer is brief, and honestly doesn’t tell us a lot about the finished product, it being simply a “teaser” probably helps. We don’t get a lot of strictly “teaser trailers” anymore — those have unfortunately morphed into the far less gratifying “trailer teasers,” whose distinction is actually super important so, shut up, YOU’RE the crazy one. But brevity is the sole of marketing (that’s the quote, right?), and it’s pretty impressive how the Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse teaser trailer comes in, establishes exactly what it is, and exits in style.
“Style” being the key here. While I was worried an animated Spider-Man film would end up looking like a boring computer generated, flat mess, Into the Spider-Verse actually looks pretty great. It has a very unique look, one that is clearly trying to emulate the look of a comic (like most animated comic book movies), but also throwing in static backgrounds and 3D character models. Hell, it even seems to cut inand out of stylized 3D to flat comic art when it wants to, which could be pretty cool (if not overused.) The movements even have a little bit of stop-motion jitterness going on (ala The Lego Movie.) This might seem like too much for one animated Spider-Man movie to handle but, at least in this initial tease, it seems to work for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Story wise, we only get a brief introduction into what is going on, with the “Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask” providing most of the grunt work. It’s a bit of an out there pitch for a Spider-Man movie, and I do have to wonder if the finished product might end up suffering from indeed having too many spidermen. But if the main complaint of your movies existence is that it makes too many competing Spider-Man uses all at once, why not lean into the complaint, right? Once again, Lord and Miller got great results out of doing similar with 21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street, and The Lego Movie. Why not Spider-Man?
And really, like all the movies they make, my trust in Lord and Miller is what has me on board. The pair have yet to let me down with anything they have gotten their hands on, and though they aren’t directing the movie (that honor goes to animation vets Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti), they are producing and writing the script. And with their time recently getting cleared up, I’m hoping their influence is all over this thing. After all, in Lord and Miller I trust.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse might end up being a desperate bid to squeeze ever dollar out of Sony’s cash cow…AND it might actually be a pretty good movie, at the end of the day. After all…in Lord and Miller I trust.
Also published on Medium.
Alita: Battle Angel Trailer – James Cameron and Robert Rodriguez Made A Sci-Fi Blockbuster Together, And It Looks Weird As Fuuuuuck
The first trailer for this manga adaptation is…something, all right.
For as long as I’ve been reading about movies on the internet, I’ve been reading about Alita: Battle Angel. The live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga is the definition of “long-gestating” — in fact, James Cameron first announced his intentions to make the film as a follow-up to Titanic in freaking 2000! Yes, the year 2000, with no numbers or anything! That puts its rough time in development at 17 years, which is insane really. Cameron always said it was a project he would get to at some point, but then a pesky little thing called Avatar got in the way, and the project got put on the backburner. Again, and again, and again. Seriously, just take a look at the film’s Wikipedia page — the “Development” tab is one hell of a roller coaster.
But now, nearly two decades after Cameron first expressed interest in making it, Alita: Battle Angel is a real thing…although its form is not quite what we were promised initially. Since Cameron made the decision to devote the rest of his life to making 6000 Avatar sequels, the writer/director finally made the executive decision to give the project to someone else. That someone else ended up being Robert Rodriguez, who finally got the film into production last year. And now the first fruits of that labor have arisen in the form of the Alita: Battle Angel trailer…and it creates one hell of a first impression, I’ll give it that.
Is it a good first impression though? Honestly…no. While I love the concept behind this, and appreciate the ambition of what Cameron and Rodriguez are trying to do — oh boy, there’s something spectacularly off about everything in this film.
Most of that weirdness can be directly attributed to the Alita character, who is one distinct looking main character. Appearing like an anime character come to life, Alita has the classic huge anime eyes, and overall looks absolutely bizarre. And, sure, that’s reasonably part of her character — she isn’t human, so should look a little bit off. But the problem isn’t that she doesn’t look like a normal human: it’s that she looks like a cheap CGI construct of a creature, moving around freely in a cartoon world with reckless abandon.
I tend to not like to using this comparison as it feels awfully insulting to video game, but there are complete shots of this trailer that do indeed look like a CGI cutscene — or even worse, Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within. From the beginning, Cameron pitched this film as being very CGI heavy. Hell, he even conceptualized the Alita character as a completely CGI created character back in the mid-2000’s which, at the time, was a pretty nuts thing to even imagine. But now we live in a time where fully CGI characters are commonplace, and quite a lot of them end up looking pretty great when in action.
But Alita does NOT look great, at least in these trailers, and it’s not just the huge ass eyes either. Just the way she moves is off-putting, and the way Alita’s entire face looks grafted on to her body makes her a distracting presence every moment she pops up. And, honestly, I’m going to put most of the blame on this lack of graphic fidelity directly on the hands of Robert Rodriguez. The dude is at his worst when using an abundance of computer-generated imagery, mostly because he doesn’t seem to care whether or not any of it looks “realistic” — I honestly think he likes things to look ridiculously cartoony. I mean, have you SEEN images from The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl?
And, yet, he doesn’t seem to care. Ever since he started Troublemaker Studios, his go-to has been shooting everything he does in his garage, set against a green screen, style be damned. And well that’s “fine”on a Spy Kids movie (or even something like Sin City, which is so heavily stylized it can paint its rough edges in a pretty noir coat), it absolutely does not work on a $200 million dollar, would-be sci-fi epic. Say what you will about Avatar or James Cameron, but even with his love of computer-generated imagery, he remains a perfectionist to his core. Avatar NEVER looked cheap or even overtly cartoonish, at least not in the same way Alita: Battle Angel so far looks.
Then again, Cameron’s perfectionism is probably what kept us waiting nearly 20 years for this movie in the first place. Maybe what it needed was a Robert Rodriguez, who will bang out a film in a year and consider it a win if things look “good enough.” But, once again, Alita: Battle Angel is Rodriguez working on a scale he never has before. And from what I see so far, I’m not so sure it’s him playing to his strong suits.
I’m still interested in the movie simply due to Cameron’s involvement (and his script, which he co-wrote with Laeta Kalogridis), but I feel like this is a project that’s already doomed from the get-go. It’s a super niche adaptation, and a costly one at that. And though I will never claim to speak to the masses, I can’t help but feel that if I’M creeped out by what I see, the mainstream will be even more turned off. It also doesn’t help that the film has very little star power to speak of: I love Christoph Waltz as much as the next guy, but he isn’t going to put asses in seats here. Jennifer Connoly has also been off the A-list for a very long time, and Mahershala Ali, well great, is still very much an up-and-comer. It’s a decent cast for a film fan, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly bankable one.
But, ultimately, it’s all about the feel of the movie here, and this trailer does a rough job presenting anything but a feeling of “WTF did I just watch?” There might yet be a fun and exciting sci-fi adventure in Alita: Battle Angel, even when watching through that mode. But if the old saying about the eyes being the window to the soul is accurate, then this movie has one FUGLY soul at its core.
Alita: Battle Angel will hit theaters right in the middle of next year’s summer fray: July 20, 2018. Good luck to it there, I guess — my gut can’t help but feel like this one is going to be another Ghost in the Shell level disaster for Fox, but maybe some cautious optimism could do me some good here. After all, I should know better than to doubt the power of James Cameron at this point. And who knows: maybe audiences will be hypnotized into buying a ticket by the horrifying uncanny valley that is Alita’s soul-sucking bug eyes? I’m sure that’s what Fox is hoping for, at least.
Also published on Medium.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Trailer – Really? This Is The Best They Could Come Up With?
Well, at least it has Jeff Goldblum.
Like many other folks on the internet, I was not a fan of 2015’s Jurassic World. It was not the worst movie ever (and, hell, probably isn’t even the worst Jurassic Park sequel), but it was still pretty far from “good” in my mind. And it is a movie that my opinion has only lessened on the farther away I get from it — never a good thing, really. So, for that reason, I was clearly not SUPER PUMPED for its sequel, next summer’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. But even then though…really, Fallen Kingdom? Is this all you got? Is this really you putting your best put forward to get people expected? Cause it’s weak.
The above trailer has been (EXTREMELY ANNOYINGLY) released in piece meal over the past week, but the full thing landed last night during Thursday Night Football. And, as a trailer, I will say it’s not terrible — it is well edited, and certain parts of it look good, at least visually. Then again, the section in which the volcano is exploding and Chris Pratt is (rather ridiculously) running down the mountain looks pretty bad, so clearly the visuals here are a bit of a mixed bag.
But what concerns me more about Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom isn’t so much the look, but the plot. Honestly, it seems pretty unspectacular from what we can see of it so far, with the “rescue mission” to save the dinosaurs from an exploding volcano feeling like a rather lame set-up for more dino action. For what it’s worth, making sequels to Jurassic Park was always a difficult thing — the original very much feels like a “standalone” adventure, with pretty much every follow-up feeling like an inorganic way for Universal to milk people’s love of the first movie. Finally they landed on an interesting concept for a sequel in Jurassic World (what if the park actually opened, and then bad shit went down?), and proceeded to squander the opportunity by introducing a lot of other dumb shit (invisible dinosaurs, trained raptors, etc.) But even that undeniable “fresh start” for this accidental franchise wasn’t enough to propel this into a new set of stories.
…But that of course wasn’t going to stop Universal, who made over a billion dollars with Jurassic World, and were going to continue the series no matter what. And if this trailer is any indication, there hasn’t been a ton of thought put into making this sequel work — any reason to go back to the island, even a dumb one, is all Universal was asking writers Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connoly to come up with. And they shrugged, came up with the first idea that popped into their heads, and cashed their check.
Even putting the plot aside, the character motivations are already pretty irksome. One of my main issues with Jurassic World was the way it treated the dinosaurs, specifically Chris Pratt’s “pack” of trained raptors. The last thing I am looking for in these movies is some emotional bond between our leads and the dinosaurs, but that seems to be ALL these movies can come up with for why these humans keep doing dumb things. This is especially a problem because the Jurassic World series wants to have its cake and eat it too — they want to instill the idea of the dinosaurs being creatures who humans can bond with, but also want to create a Jurassic Park movie in which dinosaurs try to eat everyone. That contradiction is what gave birth to the stupid hybrid dinosaur (who was the REAL villain, you see), and I’m sure will lead to even dumber “upping of the stakes” in this one.
I’ve kind of lost myself in a pile of rants here that don’t really have much to do with the trailer itself, but that just goes to show how little this trailer convinces me that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is something worth caring about. Jurassic World just did such a poor job of rebooting this franchise in an exciting way, that I find myself apathetic to following it up. For instance: who gives a shit about those stupid-ass transportation pods again — they weren’t cool the first time, and I’m not looking forward to our heroes being bobbed around in an aimless CGI blur for half the movie, screaming their heads off as a way to present terror, but not having anything scary actually happening. Give me a colorful jeep any day.
Hell, this is the kind of trailer that can’t even make JEFF GOLDBLUM a promising sight. It’s just him spouting out standard Ian Malcolm lines (MEMBER “LIFE FINDS A WAY?”), and it’s lame that all we really see of him is in a courtroom, giving some speech. Maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions, but something tells me from this trailer that he will be an outside influence on the action, likely appearing towards the beginning in a couple of exposition scenes, but disappearing once our main characters return to Isla Nublar.
You know, our main characters, one of whose name is Owen. I completely forgot that, since it meant so little in the first film. And don’t even ask me the name of who Bryce Dallas Howard is playing. They’re both lame characters only marginally bumped up by the actors playing them, and to say I have no interest in seeing them on continued adventures is an understatement. Then again, I could say that about this whole damn movie in general, with this trailer doing absolutely nothing to convince me this might be an improvement over the first. And without the intriguing premise to support him, my expectations are pretty damn low.
At the very least, that whole stupid “MILITARY DINOSAURS!” thing has been tabled…for now, at least. Giving guns to dinosaurs is Universal’s mechanical spiders, for some reason. One day they’ll get their stupid, stupid, stupid dino soldiers though, and once that happens, I’ll 100% know this series is no longer for me.
Also published on Medium.
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