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The 5 Reasons Justice League Bombed At The Box Office

As the dust begins to settle, let’s explore just what exactly led to Justice League’s box office failure.

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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.

Justice League

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.

#NeverForget

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.

#AlsoNeverForget

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.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)

Movies

Feel Free To Take The Rest of The Day Off, The John Wick: Chapter 3 Trailer Is Here

The national holiday known as John Wick Trailer Day begins…now.

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I love movie trailers. I know for some they find the mere act of watching a movie trailer a “spoiler” for what is to come in the final film, and look, I get it. Sometimes, there are moments and things I see in a trailer that, when I watch the full movie, I wish I could have taken back seeing. But, for me, there’s something so magical about the trailer watching experience that I can’t throw away the art form entirely. And though you might bristle at my definition of trailer making as an “art form”…eh, you’re wrong. There is a beauty to a well produced, well edited trailer, and the best ones are examples of the power that come with the form. Yes, they’re marketing, and yes, they’re sometimes scattershot, thrown together bores. But the good ones? Watching those come hand in hand with watching movies, at least from my perspective.

All of which is a long preamble to me saying that, on Youtube, I have a private little playlist of trailers for movies, TV, and video games that I absolutely LOVE. Trailers that I return to again and again and again, just because the craft that went into them is so staggering. One of those trailers is this first one for John Wick: Chapter 2, which was my first indication that “Woah, this one is going to be something special.” And it very much was! But even outside the general kickassery of that sequel, the trailer was and is absolutely delightful. So coming into today’s big release of the John Wick: Chapter 3 trailer, I had some very high hopes. Would — and could — this trailer manage to match the quantified hype levels that the Chapter 2 teaser put out?

Honestly, no, not quite. But the first trailer for Chapter 2 didn’t show us a FREAKING KATANA MOTORCYCLE CHASE/FIGHT, so it rather evens out, don’t you think?

And not being as masterful as the first Chapter 2 trailer ≠ being bad. In fact, from a purely technical and academic level, this trailer would probably best be described as something that, fundamentally, “fucks to the max.” You got the aforementioned motorcycle chase, which indeed fucks hard. You got the much teased “Keanu on a horse” action, which indubitably fucks. You got John Wick murdering people with a book, which of course fucks, how could you even question such at thing. And you got Halle Berry and her attack dogs joining in on all the fun, which in this franchise of course, is murdering people. Sounds like Trailer Fucks Bingo, if you ask me.

And what the trailer does so well (and what I hope the film will do well too) is amp up the tension, to an insane degree. Ending the second film on that huge cliffhanger was a brilliant move, as seeing Wick prepare in the “one hour head start” he has to get the hell out of New York before literally every hitman around comes to assassinate him makes for a heck of a sequel pitch. And the trailer plays around with that deliciously, racketing up the tension in the first half to deliver the true fireworks in the second. Set to a remixed version of the crooner tune “The Impossible Dream” by Andy Williams, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the operatic, pulse pounding remix of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” used in the Chapter 2 trailer, but it still makes for an interesting, exciting contrast.

John Wick: Chapter 3 Trailer

And everything else about this trailer is classic John Wick greatness, from the many, MANY creative kills (seriously, that book thing) to the surprisingly crisp, exciting photography brought to life by cinematographer Dan Laustsen. Lausten took an already pretty presentation from the original John Wick and made it flat our gorgeous, and that sense of visual beauty is all over this trailer. I love action movies that take the time to actually look good, and John Wick is one of the few franchises committed to having that kind of aesthetic. In addition to the mayhem, carnage, and wacky-ass world building, of course.

Anywho, this is a great trailer, but it does little to change my overall excitement for the film — after all, it’s hard to go much farther than “PUMP THIS SHIT IN MY VEINS NOW,” right?

John Wick: Chapter 3Parabellum (yes, this one has a subtitle, to the annoyance of SEO managers everywhere) hits theaters on May 19. And even if the first trailer is a smidge below the one for John Wick: Chapter 2, the astounding first two posters released for the film more than make up for it. BRB, clearing wall space.

“John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is on the run for two reasons… he’s being hunted for a global $14 million dollar open contract on his life, and for breaking a central rule: taking a life on Continental Hotel grounds. The victim was a member of the High Table who ordered the open contract. John should have already been executed, except the Continental’s manager, Winston, has given him a one-hour grace period before he’s “Excommunicado” – membership revoked, banned from all services and cut off from other members. John uses the service industry to stay alive as he fights and kills his way out of New York City.”


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God Damn It, Sony is Back On That Ghostbusters 3 Shit Again

“I am so freaking tired writing about Ghostbusters sequels.” – Me, in the year like Two-Thousand-God-Damn-Twelve

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I thought we were passed this, you guys. I really, truly did.

After nearly a decade of writing stuff about Ghostbusters 3, I thought the release of Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot (maybe subtitled Answer the Call? I don’t fucking know) signified the end of an era. All the in-fighting, fanboy hyperbole, acute sexism, accusations of sexism, controversies, cameo wrangling, and nostalgia baiting all led up to 2016’s Ghostbusters — and it all fizzled like a recently used Muon Trap. The reboot got mixed-positive reception from critics, but absolutely bombed at the box office, grossing a paltry $229 million worldwide off a budget of $144 million. After literally decades of build-up, I thought this was how the saga ended: a middling-to-bad reboot that would end up being forgotten to time, in a franchise that likely wouldn’t see the light of day for decades to come.

Oh, but don’t underestimate the folks at Sony Pictures! Apparently it only took them two years to turnaround from the failure of 2016’s Ghostbusters, wipe their hands on their jeans, and get back to work on revitalizing the series. So in a move that I can’t imagine anyone in the year of our lord 2019 asked for, we’re getting another Ghostbusters movie, completely divorced from everything set up from the last one. So another reboot, essentially!

But, no, that would be inaccurate. Because this project will be a sequel of sorts…a sequel to the original two Ghostbusters, that is. In what should have been clear from the start, but inexplicably wasn’t for the team behind 2016’s reboot, these “thirty years later” revitalizations are incredibly popular nowadays. From The Force Awakens to Creed, every series that was once popular decades ago is now being revitalized, with a younger cast indeed “rebooting” the series, but the old guard sticking around to serve as a continuation, rather than a rehash, of what came before. It’s like having your cake and eating it too: the studio gets their “new” franchise off the back of an old one, but you respect and excite fans by showing more of what they loved the first time. It’s a win-win and, quite honestly, I think the quality of these legacyquels (as Matt Singer so brilliantly coined) has been better than the standard reboot/remakes we were getting for a while there.

By going this route, franchise films can at least make a statement about their own impact, or their place in the pop culture cannon, which is a lot more than standards reboots usually do. Those end up just saying the same exact story over again, trying to tap into the magic of seeing it for the first time, but absolutely failing to do so. You know, like how the 2016 Ghostbusters did. As much as one group might like to bitch and moan about how casting women ruined everything, it wasn’t the genitals of the cast that took down Ghostbusters, and it’s absolutely insane I have to write something like that in the first place. It was the uninspired, meandering, and ultimately forgettable way Ghostbusters tried to cash in on its predecessor’s clout that ultimately did it in.

But let’s make like Sony, and forget that whole movie ever even happened: a new Ghostbusters is coming, whether you like it or not. And if you think this is just in the planning stages, or something Sony rattled off as a potential project during an investor’s meeting, think again. Because, slightly burying the lede here (that you probably read everywhere else, so forgive me for assuming you already know) is the fact this project is coming from none other than Jason Reitman, the filmmaker behind Tully, Juno, and the like. He’s also the son of franchise director Ivan Reitman which, y’know, I’m sure is totally unrelated.

Anywho, he has been working on it in secret for a while now alongside Monster House writer Gil Kenan, and the project is already set to begin shooting by the end of the year for a Summer 2020 release. Still don’t believe me? Just take a look at the already released teaser for the film, reportedly done by Reitman himself, and brandishing the “Summer 2020” release in plain sight. This one’s coming folks, and coming fast.

Now just in case you needed reminding, this one DEFINITELY takes place in the original continuity — you hear that Elmer Bernstein score? Oh yeah, buddy, that’s OG shit right there. And on the surface, yeah, it’s pretty cool to ape that aesthetic. And Jason Reitman is a strong director, even if this one seems like a very strange fit for him (his films are funny, sure, but not out-and-out comedies: his sensibilities are more Sofia Coppola than Judd Apatow). But I just can’t get excited about this thing, not in a way I might have back in 2012 or whatever. After years and years of talk about further Ghostbuster films, only to get the subpar 2016 reboot, I’ve rather soured on this franchise. Unless the pitch is really strong, and the actors involved (all teenagers, from what’s been reported) are interesting, I just can’t get enthused about the prospects of Ghostbusters 3: Here We Fuckin’ Go Again.

Even worse will be the discourse around it, and the shit that stained the last one floating back up to the surface. Another round of talking about whether or not the original movie is good (it is.) Another round talking about whether Ghostbusters 2 is bad (it is, very.) Another round of needless appreciation for Paul Feig’s tepid reboot. Another round of MRA asshats whipping their dicks out and complaining about how only men can shoot imaginary beams out of imaginary packs while capturing imaginary beings in an imaginary story. Another round of well-meaning but overbearing people, in kind, giving more credit than necessary to a movie that frankly doesn’t deserve it. And another round of me whining about the discourse, whilst doing absolutely nothing to divorce myself from it.

It’s all just…so…tiring.

Ghostbusters 3

Like Bill Murray in another, non-Ghostbusters movie (that actually is a lot better than Ghostbusters if you think about it), I can’t help but feel I am stuck in an endless loop writing about this thing. Ten years from now? I’ll be writing about Ghostbusters 3. Twenty years from now? Ghostbusters 3. Thirty years from now? I won’t be writing about anything, what with the collapse of all life on the planet and what not. But the last thing I write before I fight in the water wars, or engage in vehicular combat for gasoline, or — most likely — drown in the rising sea levels?

Fucking Ghostbusters 3, man.


Also published on Medium.

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The Crushing, Existential Sadness of The Disappointing Glass Reviews

R.I.P. Shyamalanassaince: September 2015 – January 2019.

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I am eternally fascinated by the career of M. Night Shyamalan. After bursting on the scene with The Sixth Sense nearly 20 years ago, the man went on to gain an incredibly rare status amongst his directing brethren: actual name recognition! He’s one of the few directors who many people outside Film Twitter can name — up there with Spielberg, Scorsese, and Tarantino. But unlike those other directors, Shyamalan’s brand can probably be described more as “infamous” than famous, especially in recent years. The man went from the New Spielberg to a laughing stock…literally.

And well his fall from grace is, in some accord, deserved (his movies post Signs are all dire to varying degrees), I still can’t help but feel pretty bad for the guy. He went from being a huge up-and-coming talent, the next big thing in the world of Hollywood, to an absolute joke amongst critics, audiences, and his peers. It’s the classic Hollywood rise-and-fall, played out in slow motion over a twenty year period. But right when all things seemed over for Shyamalan, and he delivered for the first time something Hollywood would not allow (a legitimate box office bomb in the form of After Earth), Shyamalan attempted what few failed artists can surmount: an honest-to-goodness comeback.

And it wasn’t a sudden comeback either: Shyamalan spent years revitalizing his public image, first doing so with the surprisingly solid The Visit back in 2015. It was a return to low-budget roots for the director, and its nature as a sort of pallet cleanser for the director was very much apparent. It was a movie he seemed obliged to make to get even an ounce of his creative juices flowing again, and it turned out to be a pretty fun little comedy/horror movie to boot.

After some decent television work developing and directing Wayward Pines, Shyamalan came roaring back to life with another low budget delight, 2017’s Split. It was a film that was thrilling, funny, well crafted, and genuinely exciting. Basically, it was something we hadn’t seen from the man in damn near 15 years, and audiences took notice. On the backing of a bravado post credit scene, linking the film to his previous cult classic Unbreakable, response to the movie was incredibly promising. And remember that whole thing about Shyamalan’s Hollywood clout running out because he made a bomb? Well, Split, off a $9 million budget, made $238 million — making it a massive, massive hit. A good movie AND a hugely successful one? Yup, Shyamalan was back, and as a huge fan of his first three features, I couldn’t have been happier for him.

Now we stand a mere five days away from the release of Glass, Shyamalan’s newest feature. As a sequel to his current hit Split, and one of his past hits, Unbreakable, it serves as pretty much a crescendo for the entire man’s career. One of those “everything has been leading up to this” moments those voiceover guys are always talking about in the commercial. Glass was — had to be — the thing that solidified the Shyamalanassaince.

…And he whiffed it. Goddamn it, he fucking whiffed it.

Glass Reviews

That’s at least according to the first reviews for the film, which were released Wednesday following the lift of the film’s press embargo. To say they were incredibly mixed is an understatement. Here’s just a sampling of some of the notable ones:

‘Glass’ Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Grounded Superhero Movie Is the Biggest Disappointment of His Career

Glass’ tries and fails to shatter the comic book movie formula

M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is half-empty and deeply unsatisfying

M. Night Shyamalan’s Long-Awaited ‘Glass’ Is A Bewildering Misfire

‘GLASS’ REVIEW: M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN BREAKS HIS CLEVEREST FRANCHISE

I don’t say this often because I’m not a character in an early 90’s sitcom, but…ouch-a-rooney. Those are not pretty reviews, and are a direct return back to the critical dragging that was unleashed upon films like Lady in the Water, The Happening, and The Last Airbender. And though it would be easy to cry “Well, the critics are wrong!” here (as people on the internet often do, bafflingly)…they weren’t wrong with those last three. They were all terrible. And with Shyamalan’s track record, I’m unfortunately going to have to take the critic’s side here: by all accounts, Glass is an excruciating disappointment. And, man…what a fucking bummer.

Of course, I have yet to see film myself (I’m not special like all those other film journalists), and I remain somewhat hopeful I’ll come out on the positive side of things. But, at this point, it’s undeniable that this whole thing has put a massive dent in the pent up anticipation for the film. Since Split, it’s been a solid two years of anticipation from Shyamalan apologists like myself: we finally got the sequel we spent a decade asking for and, even better, it came in a way that seemed unique, fresh, and necessary. It wasn’t just a last ditch effort for Shyamalan to gain some clout back from his former fans. He did the work, guys! But like a drug addict who was on the op-and-up, only to suffer an insurmountable relapse, Shyamalan has fallen once more. He was supposed to be our Timothee Chalamat — our Beautiful Boy. And now we’re all very, very sad Steve Carrell.

Because, on a personal note? This has massively curbed my enthusiasm for Glass which, up until this point, was pretty sky high. I really had faith in the movie — naively, I admit — and my hype was frankly off the charts for it. I’m currently in the process of writing up my list of most anticipated films of 2019 (yeah, yeah, I’m late, whatever), and let’s just say Glass had a very high ranking amongst that list. Emphasis on the had — as much as I want to see the film still, I just can’t get excited for it like I was before the negative reviews. And I doubt I’m the only one either; this really puts a damper on the pre-release hype, as you would expect.

On my planned path to MAXIMUM HYPE, I just got done re-watching Unbreakable in the lead up of Glass‘s release. And guess what? That movie still fucking rocks. It’s slow and contemplative and weird, but it manages to engross me with every single frame. And just seeing it again made me slightly more optimistic for Glass, if anything to see these characters again. But in the back of my mind, that voice was still being cautious: “it’s going to be a disappointment. It’s very bad, apparently. DON’T. GET. EXCITED.” That voice is probably right…but also a fucking buzzkill.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Glass-Bruce-Willis.jpg

And the saddest thing of all, to me, is that it seemed no one really saw it coming. Usually when a film is going to be poorly received by critics, press releases are held very close to the film’s opening weekend. You don’t want bad word-of-mouth to sour the launch, so you cut off as many people from seeing it as you possibly can. And yet, Glass screened almost two weeks earlier for critics: usually, a sign that the people involved imagined that it would be, at the very least, tolerated. Hell, when I first saw Film Twitter commenting about the press screenings, I got exciting, thinking that Universal and Shyamalan probably imagined the film was going to get great reception, and wanted to ride that buzz into the film’s launch. I mean, you wouldn’t set up a series marathon across the country a week before the film’s domestic release if you didn’t have faith people would respond well to it…right?

That’s my thinking at least, which leads to a pretty depressing conclusion: the poor response is blindsiding everyone involved. They screened the movie early because, generally, they thought that people were going to end up liking it. The fact that a majority didn’t (and, even worse, some outright despised it) probably came as something of a sneak attack. And for a director whose probably experienced that experience MANY times in his career (for better or worse, Shyamalan seemed to buy into his own hype there pretty bad for a while), for it to happen to him again right on the cusp of his grand return is probably the harshest sting of all. Or in Simpson meme:

There’s a reason why so many movies are about underdogs: everybody loves them. To see a character rise up from the bottom and make it to the top is one of the most common — yet satisfying — forms of storytelling. Even more satisfying is the “comeback kid,” someone who manages to rise from the bottom, fall from the top, and rise up yet again. It’s inspiring to know that, despite our failures, we can still succeed — and we love to see that narrative play out. But this is no movie: this is real life, and things don’t always turn out as we want them to in real life. Rocky gets knocked out in the first round. The Slumdog Millionaire beefs it on Question #1. Daniel-San gets his ass handed to him instantly. And M. Night Shyamalan makes yet another bad movie. For as much as the characters in his movies might be Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan sure as hell isn’t.


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