Hollywood and Pacific Rim
With Pacific Rim currently out and the big thing to talk about is how it isn’t a box-office smash but falling just behind the dreadful Grown-ups 2, Adam Sandler’s latest terrible comedy to get him and his buddies big pay checks. Now this comes with questions of why that is, how could that possibly happen, and what that says about us as a culture.
To start with Pacific Rim is an amazing film, best summer blockbuster I’ve seen in a while. It’s actually fairly smart, doesn’t talk down to the audience, and we can tell what’s happening in the fight scenes. There may be many reasons for it failing to grab a bigger audience but the quality of the film isn’t one of them. The film has the heart of the classic action blockbusters. I would recommend it to anyone who likes action movies.
So why isn’t it getting more attention? Well there are many reasons and we’ll probably never know why a film fails. We’ve seen great films fail to get an audience for years after its out on DVD, terrible movies get big numbers and buzz, and there isn’t any explainable reason for it. There is no special formula for making a hit, they just happen then people try to rationalize why it happened. For Pacific Rim some blame the marketing not presenting anything other than robots punching monsters, which surprisingly isn’t just what people want to see. To a certain extent I can see where that comes from, the trailers were just the same bits of dialogue of “to stop monsters we created monsters” and “stopping the apocalypse!” instead of some less cliché lines. They could’ve used the “now we can fight the hurricane, and win” line, but that might’ve been considered bad taste in America.
Marketing can make or break a film and is usually the reason why a film gets big numbers or no one has heard of it till it comes out on DVD. The best recent example was Disney’s John Carter, which was so badly mismanaged it has filled a book. Probably the big reason it failed was that another film flopped before it, Mars Needs moms, so the studio decided that therefore people didn’t want to see films about Mars. So John Carter of Mars had every bit of Mars taken out of its marketing and that lead to some absolutely terrible marketing, so much so that fans actually made better efforts than the studio. The result was a rather good film not getting nearly enough money to justify itself.
Why did Disney make such a stupid assumption about Mars and why is it that when something fails it’s always attributed to a random factor like female leads, minority characters, or anything that isn’t a white male? Well I think they honestly don’t know why things sell or fail so they jump on their prejudiced reasoning as something to justify it in their heads. It’s not as simple as ‘the movie was bad’ because bad movies sell just as well, and sometimes better than good movies. Michael Bay movies are incredibly popular despite them being extremely terrible, dumb, and sometimes offensive, movies. I don’t think anyone knows why those films are popular money makers while others aren’t, so we jump on reasons even if they don’t make much sense. The cynical reason is that the general movie audience doesn’t want to be challenged doesn’t want anything that is smart or different. But Avengers did very well so even that’s in doubt.
The Lone Ranger is becoming another flop for Disney, which will probably be attributed to the franchise not being a seller anymore or that Westerns aren’t money-makers like they were in the old days. I doubt they will assign blame to them just trying to make a hit movie just by doing a ‘paint-by-numbers’ scheme of putting Johnny Depp in a movie and letting him take over and go crazy comic relief. It worked in the Pirates movies and other Johnny Depp films so why wouldn’t it work for the Lone Ranger. Well apparently they were so sure of this hit formula they didn’t even bother trying to actually write the script till they started shooting, but I doubt they’d realise that either. Part of the problem is that studios just don’t want to look any deeper than saying it’s the audience not wanting a type of movie, not that it was how the movie was put together that drove people away. But again Adam Sandler movies and the Transformers franchise does well and they’re examples of how not to make a film.
The question is why did Transformers succeed while Pacific Rim is struggling. Well part of it is marketing; another reason is that Transformers is an established name so half the work of the marketing department is done. It brings it back to the audience not wanting anything new, or at least not as willing to try out new things. Which leads to us getting a load of adaption’s, remakes, and unnecessary sequels for films since they know it can sell. Our culture is becoming stagnant in places due to this where we can’t give something a chance; take a risk, on something a little bit different. Even books are being flooded with rip-offs of popular works, like Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey, where there’d be clearly marketed as virtually the same, right down to the book covers being almost identical.
We need to try our best to stop this and support original works if they look good. In movies, books, TV shows, comics, web material, wherever we see it. Take a chance on something and try to ensure our culture doesn’t turn into something we’re going to regret later on.