The common rallying cry around the movies— which tends to get louder on weekends when box office takes a dip— is that audiences want more originality and less sequels. They want something new and fresh, instead of another reboot, remake, sequel or spinoff. They want a new dish instead of last year’s leftovers, but is that really the case? In 2013, the top 5 grossing movies of the year so far are a sequel (“Iron Man 3“), spinoff (“Oz The Great And Powerful“), sequel (“Fast & Furious 6“), sequel (“Star Trek Into Darkness“) and reboot (“Man Of Steel“). And the top 10 is rounded out by two more sequels (“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “The Hangover Part III“). And if early numbers and trends are anything to go by, one of the big original tentpoles of the summer could be in trouble.
According to Variety, as production company Legendary Studios exits Warner Bros. to find a new home, they wind up some egg on their face in the next couple of weeks. Tracking right now indicates that Guillermo Del Toro‘s massive monster movie “Pacific Rim” is trailing behind “Grown Ups 2” — yes, really. And folks are worried. Warner Bros., who ponied up a quarter of the $200 million dollars-plus budget, are throwing even more money at P&A in the hopes to stir more excitement. But what dose this mean the next time someone like Guillermo Del Toro wants to make an original property with big studio bucks?
No matter how you look at it, “Pacific Rim” was a gamble. A big sci-fi blockbuster pitting monsters against robots, it’s probably safe to say that even now this is being seen as a dude movie, with little interest to bring in female audiences. And not only is the movie trying to sell an original, exciting concept, it’s doing so without any lift from an A-list cast, with character actor/TV types like Idris Elba, Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Day filling out the roles. The only thing “Pacific Rim” is being sold on is spectacle….but does that work when half the footage we’ve seen is hard-to-see, blurry fights at night in the rain? There’s only much cranking BRAAAAM in the trailers will do.
But on the flipside of this is “Grown Ups 2,” a sequel to a shitty, shitty movie that made a lot of money (over $270 million worldwide). Are we really seeing an instance where audiences are siding with a movie that’s going to be familiar even if it’s terrible, versus risking their dollars on something unexpected and untested? Are folks more comfortable letting Adam Sandler grunt his way through another movie than experiencing something potentially new? One could argue “Grown Ups” is a different kind of boys’ club movie, with a thin veneer of a family movie painted on and a PG-13 rating, it aims at a broader audience than the very niche, very geeky “Pacific Rim.”
If so, to an extent, this is why we can’t have nice things— the more ticket buyers choose the safe route, the less likely studios are to roll the dice on original concepts. And even as Guillermo Del Toro sets up his next movie, it’s telling that his gothic horror “Crimson Peak” is being stacked with a starry cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska. And even someone like Christopher Nolan had to prove himself first with an established franchise, before getting the resources to make “The Prestige,” “Inception” and the upcoming “Interstellar.”
But let’s not panic just yet— there has been more than one occasion where the trades like to report bad tracking weeks out, only for a movie recover by the time it hits the release date. And that could certainly be true here. But what this does suggest at the very least, is that marketing an original movie concept with blockbuster expectations is an uphill battle all the way. But what do you think? Is “Pacific Rim” a risk that’s going to pay off?