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.


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.

Wrong Lessons Learned from the Justice League Brouhaha


And while ‘brouhaha’ may be a little melodramatic for a film that’s earned over $570 million at the worldwide box office the story surrounding the development of the movie is far more interesting than the movie itself.

You may have heard about a petition to release a Zach Snyder-cut of Justice League (despite there being no evidence there’s enough footage to make a complete movie) and a counter petition to release a Joss Whedon-cut of the same movie (who filmed significantly less than Snyder, making the idea even sillier) and quickly realized that they are way too many people not quite understanding the nature of the problem.

And that problem is that the DCEU, as it currently exists, is based on a very shaky foundation, one of Zach Snyder’s making (and that’s not to solely put all the blame on his shoulders, especially considering there’s more than enough to go around.  That being said, if the movie were a critical and financial success Snyder would likely have no problem accepting the kudos.  Conversely, when a movie doesn’t do well the director gets the blame).

And while his approach has its fans, what it doesn’t have is enough to make it viable (or Warner Bros would have likely not have had Whedon reshoot a portion of the entire movie.  And as terrible as the death of a child is, I don’t buy that he stepped down for that reason exclusively, especially when the movie was almost finished).

If that weren’t enough of a reason, this whole petition nonsense triples down on an approach proven NOT TO WORK!  Man of Steel underperformed.  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did as well.  Suicide Squad, despite being the worse of the three–and interestingly not directed by Snyder, despite his visual dynamic in full-effect, didn’t.

The same applies to Wonder Woman.

As I alluded to earlier, it’s not that Justice League isn’t profitable, it’s that it production budget is so high–before reshoots it was somewhere in the ballpark of $250 million there’s little likelihood Warners would throw good money after bad.


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.

Tomb Raider – Trailer

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I bet there’re a lot of people asking ‘Who asked for a Tomb Raider reboot?’

And the answer is ‘No one.’  Then again, who asked for new Star Wars films?  Star Trek?

The answer–while there are always people who would love to see more of these characters and the worlds they occupy–is also ‘No’ though the truth is Hollywood can care less what people ‘ask’ for and more what they’ll pay to see.

And Star Wars movies make gobs of money, no matter how plagued with difficulty they appear to be to actually produce.

Combine the tendency to tell people what it is they want to see with the profitability of Wonder Woman–also released by Warner Bros–with a new-found hunger for female-led action films and a reboot of Tomb Raider a no-brainer.

The DCEU Finds Redemption

There a story on Superherohype where Ben Affleck says that the portrayal of Batman in Warner Bros/DC Films upcoming Justice League would be a more ‘traditional’ portrayal of the character.


The fact that Affleck has to tell viewers this is indicative of perhaps the greatest problem the DCEU has (yet) to overcome: namely a loss of support from their core audience, which are the people who grew up reading the comics these characters first appeared in.

Which is such a weird place to be because it’s a problem of their own making in that all they needed to do was to make their superheroes more faithful (I understand that no character translates wholly intact from the printed page to the movie screen but it’s almost as if Warner Bros wasn’t even trying) to how the characters appeared in the comics, then literally sit back and rake in the cash.

But if Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad have shown us anything, it’s seemingly not quite that easy.

Or does it?  Maybe the greatest problem with the three aforementioned movies has less to do with their their fidelity to the source material (though that’s certainly there) than an attempt to be visually and esthetically different from Marvel Studios.

And on some level that’s understandable.  What isn’t is creating such an esthetically and morally unappealing interpretation of Batman and Superman (though what’s worse is that there’s nothing wrong with such portrayals per se.  It’s more a question of starting with a more traditional interpretation then have events turn the character dystopic–which was said, but never shown in reference to Batman).

That’s an important journey viewers would have not enjoyed embarking on, and would have shown the seminal events that resulted in a murderous Batman (something the character studiously avoided during for the bulk of time he has existed).

Wonder Woman–for the DCEU–is literally a game changer in that it not appears more faithful to the comics than the aforementioned movies, yet managed to appeal to both critics and the bulk of the moviegoing audience.

It may not have quite restored faith in the fledgling cinematic universe that is the DCEU