The Roar Heard Around The World

Screenshot 2018-02-15 02.43.15Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is a bit of an anomaly less because it was written by two African-Americans, Ryan Coogler and Joe Ryan Cole, with a primarily African-American cast than taking those things into account the movie has been gifted a relatively large budget–for a Marvel Studios feature–of $200 million.

And that’s pretty convincing sign of Kevin Feige’s faith in the production, which has been borne out by the box office.

Domestically the movie has (so far) earned $235 million, while pulling in $169 million in international receipts, for a total or $404 million.

It should go without saying that’s pretty amazing opening, increasing the likelihood that this movie joins the Billion Dollar Club before its run is complete.

Next Black Panther will be released in Russia, Trinidad, Peru, Venezuela, Japan and China.

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Black Widow Will Be A Huge Hit (If A Few Things Are Taken Into Account)

imageThe upcoming Black Widow movie has a lot going for it–2017’s Wonder Woman has proven that a female-led superhero movie can not only be profitable, but revered bay both critics and moviegoers alike–but that doesn’t mean that it should take some very significant advantages for granted.

First there’s Scarlett Johannson, who’s shown with 2014’s Lucy that a movie can be built around her successfully (it was essentially a ‘secret’ superhero movie in the same way Unbreakable and even 1980’s Altered States were, if you think about it).

Then there’s the fact that it’s coming from Marvel Studios, who seemingly don’t know how to make a bad movie

But pride comes before a fall, so to ensure that that doesn’t happen, here’s what the producers could do to minimize the odds.

  • Consider a Guest Appearance 

Johannson’s Black Widow is a great character, but imagine how jazzed fans would be to know Captain America or Hawkeye were going to show up (and I know, some contracts are expiring, but if Evans’ enthusiasm for the characer is any indicator he’d likely turn up in a heartbeat).

And speaking of costs, if you recall Avengers: Age of Ultron, there was a scene Black Widow and Hawkeye were talking about ‘Budapest’ and what happened there.  Now imagine a adventure featuring them both, taking place in the past and perhaps revolving around the organization known as A.I.M (Advanced Idea Mechanics, who were sort of teased in Iron Man 3).

It would be in the Winter Soldier vein, and could be very awesome and gritty. 

  • Control Costs

Part of the problem with DC Films–and Zach Snyder in particular–is that their movies are relatively expensive, compared to Marvel Studios, which is why they tend to make middling profits (by way of illustration, Justice League cost somewhere in the ballpark of $250 million before the Joss Whedon-helmed reshoots.  Having seen it I’m not entirely sure where that money went, but it wasn’t on screen).

And speaking of costs, during Avengers: Age of Ultron Black Widow and Hawkeye were reminiscing about ‘Budapest.’

Suppose Black Widow was the movie about that particular incident?  I have no idea what the actual movie will be about, but it would be pretty cool to see a Jason Bourne-type adventure featuring Black Widow and Hawkeye for no more than 80-$100 million?

Such a, relatively speaking, low-cost action movie would likely turn a profit in a week, if not days. 

  • Not to Belabor the Obvious, But Make an Entertaining Movie First

Black Widow’s movie needs to be entertaining in and of itself, instead of having a female lead be it’s primary draw.  If it becomes the latest feminist cause cèlébre it runs the risk of alienating a huge swath of their potential audience.

Now, the producers of the movie can embrace every one of the above steps and the movie still under performs, though I think that’s highly unlikely.

Black Widow vs the Double Standard of Women-Led Superhero Movies

Screenshot 2018-01-15 00.47.58It’s interesting that now Marvel Studios seems to be actively considering a movie based on Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow (Iron Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War, Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron) especially when you consider that the character should have had one long before Wonder Woman did.

That being said, there’s a bright side to Marvel Studios’ seeming hesitancy.

Namely movies with women as main characters are judged by a different standard than those featuring men (and that’s not even getting into differences in color, never mind sex) in that if a movie staring a man fails, all that means is that some other man, in some other movie, will pop up next.

While, if a female-led movie craps out, then there’s a very real possibility that Hollywood might not make any more movies featuring women as leads (in that particular genre) for a very long time.

For instance, if I recall the last superhero film featuring a woman prior to 2017’s Wonder Woman was Elektra twelve years ago.

So as much as some of us don’t want to admit it, there’s definitely a double standard, and movies featuring women don’t have the luxury of being half-baked, which is why they shouldn’t be rushed into production.

Has DC Films Accepted That They Have Deep-Seated Problems, Or Are They Shifting Deck Chairs? Part II

I caught Star Wars: The Last Jedi last weekend and have no idea what all the hullabaloo is about (by which I mean I understand many of the complaints, though they’re not terribly persuasive when looked at in context).

It’s a decent movie though as far as I can tell all the rancor revolving around it is undeserved–though before the movie began there was a trailer for Avengers: Infinity War.

It’s a great trailer, though what interested me more (especially considering I have seen it alt least twenty times) is the response of someone in the theater.

She said, in reference to the trailer, “Those are the really good superheroes.” or something to that effect.

And that, for DC Films, is a problem because what they have lost is something that is extremely difficult to reclaim, and that’s mindshare (a topic I have mentioned before, but is worth revisiting).

At this point, when many moviegoers think of superheroes they think of Iron Man, Captain America or Thor, and to a lesser extent Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

That is a problem because–while it doesn’t mean that people won’t see movies with other characters–it does make it likely that they will occupy a lower tier in terms of their preferences.

So, unless Marvel Studios screws up in a big way there’s virtually no way DC Films is going to close the gap.

Which is why–as I have also said before–they should stop trying.

In other words, the only thing that can save DC Films is that they acknowledge that Marvel Studios has won because that will enable them to do what they should have done in the first place, which is to just produce engaging, fun superhero films without the onus of trying to outrun the fastest kid on the block.

Another reason I brought this up is because Warner Bros recently appointed Walter Hamada as head of DC Films.  Harada has been a producer behind franchises like The Conjuring and IT, though it remains to be seen if his success will transfer to the DCEU.

Avengers: Infinity War Teaser Trailer Tomorrow!

If Justice League left you a bit underwhelmed, Marvel Studios has the perfect holiday gift!  The teaser trailer for Avengers: Infinity War premieres tomorrow (and while I still think a teaser for a trailer is a dopey idea the trend didn’t start with this movie, and isn’t likely to end anytime soon)!

Avengers: Infinity War (and it’s so far unnamed sequel) are the culmination of  Phase Three of the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic  Universe, and supposedly revolves around Thanos taking a more active role in retrieving the Infinity Stones, which when he gets them would make him a god with the power to make–or unmake–the universe.

Standing against him and his Black Order (I hope they go by their name in the comics, the Cull Obsidian) are every hero of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as old greviances are forgotten in the face of the greatest threat the world, and the universe has ever known.

Lightning Strikes, Thor: Ragnarök Roars!

img_0536And Yes, ‘Ragnarök’ has an umlaut and it’s lazy not to include it.

Anyway, last week I made the audacious claim that Thor: Ragnarök would likely join the Billion Dollar Club, the hallowed ground where movies that earn at least a billion dollars go during their theatrical runs roam.

And profits matter because as much as some want to make it all about the quality and watchability of a movie–which are important–Hollywood isn’t a charity and if these expensive tentpoles aren’t going to bring adequate returns, they’re going to stop making them.

And it goes without saying that that’s a bit of a double-edged sword because what applies to the original Star Wars trilogy also applied to the Transformers movies 😭.

I mention this because Thor: Ragnarök has crossed the $500 million mark ($502.3 m) not even two weeks into its box office run though it has to be mentioned that it has done so with little in the way of competition–A Bad Mom’s Christmas is less a genuine alternative than cagey counter-programming–till Justice League comes out in about a week’s time.

It’s worth looking at where Thor: Ragnarök is making its money.  Over $350 million of the $503 million it has earned thus far has come from the international box office–$354 million versus $150 million domestically.

That domestic figure is problematic, though I suspect if it reaches $400 million on this end of the pond a billion dollar run is assured, and ironically Justice League could help as much as hinder that from happening.

Expect moviegoers to initially flock to the latest from Warner Bros and DC Entertainment (ironically enough, on the strength of Wonder Woman, a fortuitous accident because there’s no sign Warner Bros expected her to resonate with audiences as much as she did) but that should only slow Thor’s momentum, not stop it outright.

And if Justice League doesn’t meet audience expectations–all those rewrites and reshoots weren’t made out of overwhelming confidence–which has the side effect of increasing the budget to a rumored $300 million.

That’s problematic because if it makes anything under a billion it’s a well-intentioned failure, while Thor: Ragnarök at a budget of $180 million can reach $800 million and be comfortably profitable.

Though as I have written, I see it going higher.

Is Wonder Woman Really the Highest Earning Superhero Origin Movie?

'Wonder Woman' is highest-grossing superhero origin movie of all time - Business Insider copySorry, I don’t buy it Wonder Woman as the ‘highest-grossing superhero origin movie of all time.

Reason being, it neglect a little movie called Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Spider-Man isn’t an origin movie, you say?

That’s where we’ll have to differ (because it is).

This iteration of Spider-Man is first introduced in Captain America: Civil War so it technically isn’t his first appearance.  Then again, Wonder Woman was first introduced in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice so it wasn’t her’s either.

But what people who say Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t an origin story seem to be missing is that there have been THREE prior versions of the character relatively recently, which means to include it again would bore moviegoers (The Amazing Spider-Man retconned the origin, making Peter Parker’s parents spies–sort of–which was  dumb, though you can at least understand why they did it).

So Marvel Studios took a different approach.  They emphasized Spider-Man growing in the role, so in a sense it is an origin film in that Parker–despite wearing the costume–is not Spider-Man.

Instead he’s awkward, and truth be told, not terribly good at what he does (a fact the movie emphasizes more often than once).

In other words, Spider-Man: Homecoming is an origin story, just not a blatantly obvious one.