Why Is Anyone Shocked Justice League Underperformed?

I was watching a lot of YouTube this weekend, deliberately looking for videos about the shocking–for some–weekend box office returns for Warner Bros/DC Entertainment’s Justice League.

Though what I find most shocking is their their shock because the writing has been on the wall for literally years.

While none of the movies that make up the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) have yet to fail financially, they’ve certainly done so critically (with the exception of Wonder Woman, the first DCEU movie under the supervision of Geoff Johns and Diane Lane, co-heads of DC Entertainment, that was both financially and critically successful), which is an indicator that critics were not too crazy about how DC was interpreting its own characters.

The declining box office was a sign moviegoers felt similarly, a change in sentiment was seemingly slow to respond to.

Snyder’s first movie under the DCEU banner was 2013’s Man of Steel, a nihilistic– some could say cynical–take on Superman which it could be argued underperformed (for a movie featuring literally one of the most iconic characters in comic history).

Suicide Squad (despite being written and directed by David Ayer, stuck faithfully to Snyder’s template of visual ugliness and moral murkiness; which perhaps ironically better fit the property, since we’re talking about a team composed of villains) actually over performed at the box office, despite being savaged by critics.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was literally the nail in the coffin for Synder’s version of the DCEU (and I honestly believe that if his daughter had not committed suicide–which resulted in him moving away from directing Jusrice League–Warner Bros would have had to find some other pretext for replacing him because when a movie featuring two of the most iconic characters in history fails to break a billion at the box office, something is very wrong.

Which brings us to Justice League, the movie that literally was the straw that broke the camel’s back for many viewers.  Despite brining in Joss Whedon to change the feel and tone of the movie, it’s apparently resulted in a clash of styles as opposed to the clarity of one person’s vision, which is problematic for entirely different reasons.

Luckily–for comic book movies–this appears less a problem with them in general than the DCEU in particular which means that as long as other studios continue to push the envelope and develop new and interesting characters there’s little chance of the same happening to them

 

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Rebirth of the Dark Universe?

The seeming collapse of Universal’s Dark Universe cinematic universe should maybe be seen as a blessing in disguise.

Keep in mind Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy earned over $409 million on a budget of $125 million, which isn’t a terrible outcome (though promotional costs, which I haven’t seen, are important) and indicates an interest in the concept.

Interestingly, NOT casting Tom Cruise might have better shown how much interest there was in The Mummy–and by extension their Dark Universe–and likely would have cost less to produce, which could mean the movie would have had a better chance at profitability.

What Universal needs to do is to go back to the original movies–and for a start emphasizing horror, as opposed to action– and put Jason Blum at the helm because if he and his Blumhouse Pictures production shingle–conveniently at Universal as well–has proven anything, it’s that he knows how to make extremely profitable horror movies at minimal cost.

By way of illustration, Blum’s The Purge cost $3 million and Insidious cost $1.5 million and earned $98 million and $97 million, respectively.

Which is exactly what Dark Universe needs right now.

 

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.

Welcome To Millarworld?

Screenshot 2017-11-08 02.38.43I thought the benefit of Netflix buying Millarworld (the publisher of comics like Kick-Ass and The Golden Circle) was to provide competition to Marvel and DC (especially when you consider that Disney is starting their own streaming service sometime in 2019 and taking their content–Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and Pixar–with them.

According to Vulture, Netflix is planning to launch a new comic via Millarworld, The Magic Order, about a bunch of magician families that come together to protect the world against a threat potentially more powerful than themselves.

Which is interesting because I’m no longer certain what direction Netflix is taking with Millarworld, and perhaps more importantly, why (other than to keep the comic publisher out of someone else’s hands)?

Disney & Fox Would Be the Avatar of Movie Studios

And speaking of Avatar, guess which studio released it?

If your guess is ‘20th Century Fox,’ now picture one studio releasing Avatar, the Alien and Predator movies, Star Wars and Marvel superhero movies.

Those are a few of the movies that would come under the aegis of a combined Disney and Fox, which would likely cause even more consolidation among studios because who can effectively compete with that lineup?

As awesome as the idea is of the X-Men finally coming back to Marvel Studios is, I’m not at sure Disney buying Fox’s film and television production and distribution businesses is such a great idea.

Sure, Simon Kinberg would likely no longer be given free rein to ruin the X-Men, and the fate of the Fantastic Four would finall be resolved in the most awesomest manner possible but it would make Disney even more massive, more powerful than it already is.

And I’m not entirely sure a 21st Century Fox as a division of The Walt Disney Company (it would likely require way too much effort–and money–to get rid of  Fox branding, which is why it’s likely to exist alongside Disney as a stand-along shingle) is a really good idea for anyone that’s not a shareholder in either company.

And to emphasize my last point, Disney earned $2.9 billion in 2016 (and that’s not including the millions generated by Thor: Ragnarök).  

Combining the titles they already control with those of Fox sounds like Ragnarök for all the other studios, which certainly wouldn’t have the seer market power of a combined Disney/Fox.

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.

Will Thor: Ragnarök Join the Billion Dollar Club?

img_0536I think it’s very, very likely.

Reason being, Thor earned just $449 million in 2011.  It’s sequel, Thor: The Dark World, earned almost $645 million in 2013.

Notice the upward trajectory?  And do you know what those prior movies didn’t have?

A Hulk!

So, while Thor: Ragnarok has yet to released in North America it’s already earned over $109 million and has yet to be released in the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Germany, Russia and Mexico

So, it’s expected to just earn just under $300 million from all those countries!?  Let’s see…it’s likely to earn over $100 domestically, meaning that it would be pulling in just under $200 million from Canada, China, Japan, Germany, Russia and Mexico.

And that’s HIGHLY unlikely.  I expect a more reasonable estimate is somewhere in the $500-$600 million ballpark, which considering it has no competition till Justice League comes out November 17th, I expect that it will have earned at least $700 million by that time, well on it’s way to a billion dollars.