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.

 

Advertisements

‘The Mummy’ Likely To Die A Slow Death

Remember 2014’s Dracula Untold?  That Luke Evans starrer was originally supposed to be the first movie in Universal’s Dark Universe imprint till they did a ‘Green Lantern‘ and changed their minds.

Though based on reviews coming in for Alex Kurtzman’s The Mummy reboot they might have been better served by going with their original plan.

Indiewire’s David Ehrlich calls The Mummy, “…the worse movie Tom Cruise has ever made–it stands out like a flat note on a grand piano.

Robert Abele, writing for The Wrap says that “(The Mummy)…is an out-of-the-gate stumble that doesn’t even have the sense to sport its own so-bad-it’s-fun personality. It’s the same loud, excessive strain of blockbuster that’s cursing multiplexes, barely qualifying as horror, adventure, fantasy, thriller or even Tom Cruise vehicle.

Which isn’t to imply that all reviewers disliked the new take on a classic horror character.

Jeff Grantz of Heroic Hollywood says that “Overall, I really enjoyed The Mummy.  I think that this was an excellent start to the “Dark Universe…

Mixed reviews are nothing new, though what’s problematic for The Mummy is that the negative review are extremely negative, while the positive ones appear filled with caveats; so expect The Mummy–despite the presence to A-list actors like Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe–to slowly sink beneath the desert sands.

This is a manifestation of the issue I discussed on Screenphiles, namely that Universal, with Dark Universal, is trying to make stories that are bigger, grander and more epic than they have any reason for being.

Gifted- Trailer

As a director, Marc Webb doesn’t nearly get the credit he deserves. His (500) Days of Summer is a damn near perfect dramedy (a curious hybrid of a comedy and a drama, which in the recent past were simply called ‘movies’). 

The problem is that he also directed The Amazing Spider-Man 2, though if we were honest–with ourselves, if not anyone else–the greatest problem with that movie was less Webb’s direction than the writing by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and their ham-fisted attempt at building a cinematic universe with Spider-Man at its center.

Though Webb directed it, so when all is said and done, he receives the kudos if it’s a success–no matter how many hundreds of people it actually took–and the opprobrium if it isn’t (it’s worth mentioning that while The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was by no means a failure, having earned almost $709 million though it did earn less than the AMSM, on what was probably a larger production budget.  This decline is most likely what pushed Sony Pictures into hitching their star to Marvel Studios). 

Besides, it was always apparent to me that Webb was never a big enough name–nor, I suspect did he particularly understand the character–enough to influence what was going on around him. 

But he’s back with Gifted, and while it looks a bit formulaic it also looks like it might tug at more than a few heartstrings. 

In fact, the whole dynamic from the trailer reminds me somewhat of Searching For Bobby Fisher, which means it might leave you a bit teary-eyed. 

Then again, anything that  takes you out if yourself and lets you feel a little bit can’t be all bad. 

Star Trek: Beyond – Trailer (2) Into Reaction

As I mention in my latest video (below the text), the most recent trailer for Star Trek: Beyond (I don’t care that there’s no colon, I’m putting one in anyway) looks pretty interesting.

There’s a lot going on–maybe even a bit too much because from a narrative standpoint I have no idea why things are happening beyond the obvious.  In some instances that’s not a bad thing.

In this case?  No so much.

Though at least Orci and Kurtzman aren’t writing because the moment when ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban) decided to give a Tribble a transfusion of Khan’s blood–never mind the whole Khan reveal in the first place–I accepted that with Star Trek: Into Darkness the franchise had official jumped the shark (though their penchant for ‘magic blood’ as a plot device was the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse as far as movie Armageddon goes).

Spider-Man Returns To The Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Morning After

Spider-Man, climbing

A few hours ago I wrote a piece for MoviePilot about Spider-Man’s return to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and overall I am pretty happy about the way things have turned out.  Technically speaking, it’s not quite Spider-Man returning to where he belongs, but under the circumstances it’s probably as good as it’s going to get.

That being said, there are caveats.  The most significant in my eyes being that Avi Arad is still going to be involved with the franchise, though in an Executive Producer capacity–prior he was a producer.  The problem is that Arad supposedly forced Sam Raimi to shoehorn in another villain to Spider-Man 3 (a move that pissed off Sam Raimi so much that he hired Topher Grace to play Eddie Brock/Venom for no other reason than Arad DIDN’T want him in the role) resulting in the the weakest of Raimi’s three Spider-Man movies, critically speaking–though in Arad’s defense, it was the highest grossing Spider-Man movie.

Another is that Kevin Feige is producing with Amy Pascal, the former Chairperson of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), who also produced Marc Webb’s tone deaf The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Despite TASM2 Webb is a pretty talented director, though perhaps not the right person for the franchise) and let Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and their mediocre magic-blood filled writing virtually ruin the franchise.

Though hopefully Feige will be able to keep things under control, after all he has done exceedingly well guiding the course of the MCU (that being said, part of the deal is for the next Spider-Man to be produced by Sony–Feige and Pascal remaining as producers–with Spidey meeting with his compatriots from the Marvel’s end of the street, which begs the question:  With the contracts for many of the heavy-hitters in the MCU expiring (such as Robert Downey, Jr./Iron Man and Chris Evans/Captain America) then who is Sony expecting to turn up in their movie?

Though the best news of all is that this pretty much puts the kibosh on any Aunt May spy dramas that were under consideration by Sony.

Marvel Studios, Save Spider-Man!

Typically, Spider-Man would be the one doing the saving, but even Spidey is powerless against studio executives who don’t have any real understanding of what they’re doing.

And what many commenters–I mean you, AMC Movie Talk in particular–seem to be missing about the mess that’s stemmed from the Sony email dump is not that the executives involved are throwing ideas agains to wall to see what sticks (pardon the pun), it’s that the ideas that they are considering are really, really bad.

For instance, a standalone movie feature Aunt May?  As a spy?

Believe it or not, I have nothing against her.  As a supporting character she’s pretty interesting, though the problem is that Sony hasn’t even properly developed Spider-Man at this point, and they’re not only talking about spin-offs, but they’re considering a movie based on a character that was never designed to headline in the first place (which isn’t to say that there weren’t comics that featured Aunt May, but despite having not read any I feel relatively safe in saying that they would’ve come relatively late in the cycle).

After all, the movie and the comic are called “The Amazing Spider-Man,” not “The Amazing Aunt May” for a reason.

Is there a possibility that saner heads will prevail, and Sony will finally be able to produce a Spider-Man movie worthy of the name?  Perhaps, but based upon their most recent output, I am just not seeing it.

People criticize–in most instances quite justifiably–Joel Schumacher and his excesses on the Batman films (Bat-nipples, and shots showing the Bat-posterior in all its glory) though when you think about it Schumacher was in his own way paying homage to the comics.  Sure, it was garish, silly (in a very bad way), and campy, but you could see that there was respect for the characters as well.

I get the feeling that Marc Webb is following a similar path (minus the overtly blatant homosexual references) because he–as well as writers like Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci–don’t actually understand the character.

When you combine this lack of understanding with studio interference and budgets way larger than they should be, then the recipe is exactly what we’re seeing unfold a Sony.

Where we can witness a  studio doing the seemingly impossible, taking a comic character loved the world over and ending up with a box-office flop.

 

 

‘Ender’s Game’ Review

Ender's Game

“Gavin Hood’s version of Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” didn’t do too well at the box office, which is a pity, because it’s pretty damn entertaining.”

Gavin Hood’s last film was the pretty mediocre “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” which is reason enough for some to dislike him passionately.  Though not me.  The thing is, technically that film was well-done (some of the FX was a bit dodgy, but that’s not something that I would lay–directly–at Hood’s feet) but the story departed so far from established canon (let’s see…Deadpool, known as ‘the merc with a mouth’ not only doesn’t talk, but has his mouth is literally sealed shut at one point) that there was bound to be a backlash.

Another thing that didn’t do the movie any favors was that, prior to coming out, people became fixated on Scott Card’s feelings about homosexuality (He’s not particularly fond of it).

Though I have a problem with a boycott of a film because of the feelings of the writer are theirs, and they can think what they want.  If Orson Scott Card doesn’t like the idea of homosexuality, or homosexual relationships, so be it.  He has the right to his own beliefs, just as people have the right to decide not to see movies based on his books.

But to organize a campaign against the man because of it, I am not so sure.

Continue reading