Did Solo Really ‘Bomb’ In China?


img_0027-1 Words matter, so if you read ‘China Box Office: ‘Solo’ Bombs With Third-Place $10.1M Opening’ from The Hollywood Reporter you’re likely to assume that the movie failed there.

And in a sense it did, though Star Wars movies since being purchased by Disney have underperformed in the Middle Kingdom before–Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($69 million) and The Last Jedi ($42.5 million), notice the downward direction of those figures?–with perhaps the exception The Force Awakens ($124 million).

So, my question is why Solo: A Star Wars Story would be any different?

In fact, what should worry Lucasfilm is not it’s performance in China but it’s domestic take which at just over $83 million is problematic.

And it’s worth remembering that Ron Howard’s reshoots likely added somewhere in the ballpark of $50-100 million to the budget (that’s a guesstimate though I wouldn’t be at all shocked if it weren’t even higher),

A similar thing happened to Warner Bros Justice League when Joss Whedon replaced Zach Snyder.

So it’s not impossible that Solo will have the weakest opening of any of the Star Wars films under Disney, but could still eke out a profit when all is said and done though I but I wouldn’t be so quick to call–or imply–that it’s a bomb (even in China).

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You Can’t Be Missed If You Won’t Go Away

I just read an article about how Zach Snyder’s plans for the DCEU were supposedly so “epic, grand, emotional, joyful and unforgettable” which bothers me more than a little bit because we’re hearing more about Snyder’s plans for this and intentions for that now than when Justice League was actually in theaters.

As I have said before, Zach Snyder is a talented director, but his vision left A LOT to be desired and was by no means fitting for the characters he was developing.

And his greatest problem was an attempt to apply a ‘one size fits all’ esthetic to DC characters (inspired by Christopher Nolan’s work on the Dark Knight trilogy).

A dark, gloomy feel works fine for Batman–though the constant murdering? Not so much–but the problems start when you try to apply the same esthetic to apparently EVERY character in the DCEU.

Superman is–virtually by design–the polar opposite of Batman. He exudes optimism and hope, and while Batman–who isn’t necessarily nihilistic or pessimistic–does embody a world weariness of sorts, a feeling that the individual is constantly fighting against the tide.

So Zach Snyder–either by design or accident–misread the essential nature of the characters he was working with, and made them look like those most of us have been familiar with and instead twisted them into weird, strange versions of themselves.

And the worse thing is, all Snyder and the executives at DC Films had to do is follow the example of what Marvel Studios did with Captain America, namely double-down on those traits (his honesty, forthrightness and a relatively ‘simple,’ black and white worldview) that were defining traits for the character for most of their existence.

in other words, Superman changed to fit the world we live in today, while Captain America stayed pretty much as he was in 1941, in all his squarish glory and was witness to the world changing around him to a time when his values and (relative) moral simplicity once again came back into vogue.

So Zach Snyder essentially ruined Batman and Superman as millions of people knew them so we need time to forget his funhouse mirror interpretations of our much loved superheroes, which won’t stand a chance of happening if he (or those in his orbit) keep implying that the only that was wrong with movies like Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad was that we just weren’t clever enough to get it or maybe if we were just a bit more patient the wonderfulness infrequently seen would somehow make an overdue appearance.

Day of the Dead: Bloodline – Review 

While you can get away with calling Day of the Dead: Bloodline a ‘reimagining’ of George Romero’s classic, there’s nothing ‘bold’ about it (in fact, it’s such a loose interpretation that ‘Generic Zombie Thriller’ would work just as well).

Part of what made Romero’s movies so horrific (in the best possible way) was his penchant for slow-moving zombies.

Their speed was irrelevant because they’re so numerous.  They were a creeping horde of inevitability focused entirely on devouring anything living in their path.

It was this inexorable march that made them so terrifying;  no matter how fast you run, no matter how far you go, they’ll eventually catch up to you.

The zombies in ‘Bloodline’ are of the more athletic variety, which may create more immediate gratification in terms of (jump) scares, though the sense of inevitability, of tension, is lessened (If not lost entirely).

Another trait of a Romero zombie movie is what I like to think of as layered storytelling (a tendency that’s effective the less you see if it.  In his later movies he tended to hit you over then head with ‘MEANING!’ and ‘MESSAGE!!’ which made the movie that encased it a lot less interesting)

For instance, you can enjoy Romero’s Dawn of the Dead at face value–as simply a story of humans in a shopping mall facing off against the undead–or as a commentary on consumerism and how our need for stuff is literally devouring us.

Day of the Dead: Bloodline though?  What you see is literally what you get.  There’s nothing in the way of subtext, which isn’t a deal breaker if the action were more engaging or the characterization strong.

Neither of which, for the most part, happens to be the case.  Though the most damning criticism of the movie is that too many characters have more to worry about from catching ‘the stupids’ than a zombie virus.

By which I mean there’re  too many scenes where people die in circumstances where someone with an iota of common sense wouldn’t. If it happens one time you chalk it up to bad luck.

If it happens three or four more times, it’s really bad writing.

Day of the Dead: Bloodline is not by any means a terrible movie, just not particularly noteworthy.

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.

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.

 

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

 

James Gunn, You Don’t Get To Choose Your Own Facts 

Screenshot 2017-10-28 15.09.58I understand James Gunn (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1 & 2) says that Marvel Studios isn’t competing with DC Entertainment and that there’s no bad blood between the two studios.

Which also happens to be a perspective shared by Kevin Feige and Geoff Johns (the heads of Marvel Studios and DC Entertainment, respectively).

That being said, long before there was a Marvel Studios, Marvel Comics was–quite actively in fact–competing with DC Comics (and still are).  And sure, it was for the most part good-natured, but that didn’t make it any less a competition.

Screenshot 2017-10-28 15.15.33.pngAnd that competition benefitted both companies.

But now that that relationship has become inconvenient–I get it.  It gets really old that people Tweet him, arguing back and forth about Batman V Superman–but what’s he’s doing is acting as if this conflict, this schism between fans of these characters wasn’t at various points fed and promoted by both DC and Marvel.

And that doesn’t mean that it needs– or should–be continued today, but  by seemingly pretending not to see how both companies have contributed to the very problem he’s concerned about is blatantly unfair and unbecoming of someone who’s not only shown himself to be a fan of these characters, but an active participant in the community, as Gunn.

This is on top of the very valid view that Zack Snyder–who was for a time the creative force behind the DCEU–seriously mistreated Batman and Superman, which Gunn seems to not at all willing to take into account.