With the release of the new Charlie’s Angels reboot failing to capture the interest of cinema goers, it’s director has already begun to use the too often used tactic of blaming the audience, or in this case, the lack thereof, for the film’s failure. Elizabeth Banks, who also stars in the new film has been upfront with her opinions as to why it flopped financially with Box Office takings said to be less than $10 million domestically bringing in a paltry $8.6 million.
Of course it could have been the fact that younger audiences simply weren’t that excited by the relaunch of a franchise based on a TV show that ended in 1981 and which was last seen with a completely different cast way back in 2003, but Banks failed to acknowledge any of this, instead stating that there was a far more sinister motive behind the film’s failure. She told the Herald Sun;
“Look, people have to buy tickets to this movie too. This movie has to make money. If this movie doesn’t make money it reinforces a stereotype in Hollywood that men don’t go see women do action movies.”
When it was pointed out that recent similar, female lead action movies such as Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel had scored huge sums at the Box Office, Banks was quick to again lay the blame at the foot of sexism;
“They’ll go and see a comic book movie with Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel because that’s a male genre. So even though those are movies about women, they put them in the context of feeding the larger comic book world, so it’s all about, yes, you’re watching a Wonder Woman movie but we’re setting up three other characters or we’re setting up ‘Justice League.’”
Although I will agree that perhaps the two examples used as a defence were perhaps the wrong choice, both films do indeed form a part of a much larger sub-genre than that of a late seventies TV Show, however it does seem that directors are using excuses like this more and more to justify their film’s downfalls.
I’ll lay my cards firmly on the table here as I’ve not seen Banks Charlie’s Angels reboot. I had no plans to before it opened to fairly weak reviews and I won’t be making the trip to the local multiplex to somehow appease Ms Banks either. That’s not to say that I‘ll be boycotting it though. If in six months’ time it shows up on a streaming service I might give it a whirl. But it’s not a film that is going on my to-watch list and that should be fine. I’m pretty sure I don’t fit into the demographic that it’s aimed at anyway. To simply state that a film has failed due to a perceived prejudice seems a rather inept tactic. Surely if a film is likely to receive any perceived backlash, then why would a studio wish to invest in it in the first place?
Columbia Pictures must have believed in the project to have put their money up in the first place.
I understand if people were vocal in their disapproval from the announcement of a project, that a director or studio could perhaps perceive that they have a problem on their hands, or even upon the release of its preview trailers as was the case when fans reacted in shock at the initial design for the upcoming Sonic The Hedgehog film, but this didn’t seem to be the case with Charlie’s Angels.
In fact it’s becoming more and more of a trait for directors to even begin challenging their perception of how their piece will be received even before it has actually hit the screen. Recently director Tim Miller appeared to try to out-troll the trolls prior to the release of his entry into the Terminator franchise. Before the sixth film in the series, Terminator: Dark Fate had even been released, Miller reacted rather intensely to some quite moronic internet disapproval of the initial trailer giving centre stage to its trio of female leads. With all due respect, Arnold Schwarzenegger had already had his moment to shine in the unspectacular “revival” that was Terminator: Genisys in 2015. With the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and new characters emerging, why not give them the spotlight?
It seemed that Miller perhaps didn’t feel confident enough to let his film speak for itself and instead decided to meet any potential (a key word here) objections head on. Speaking in particular of McKenzie Davis’ character, Grace the director stated;
“If you’re at all enlightened, she’ll play like gangbusters. If you’re a closet misogynist, she’ll scare the fuck out of you, because she’s tough and strong but very feminine. We did not trade certain gender traits for others; she’s just very strong and that frightens some dudes. You can see online the responses to some of the early shit that’s out there, trolls on the internet. I don’t give a fuck.”
This it seems may have been a course of action that Miller engaged in a little too quickly when you consider that the film was yet to be released and was almost a silent sucker-punch from him to any oncoming, future criticism that the film may have received. Miller was drawing the battle lines before any actual kickback against his movie. He was seemingly intimating that if you dislike the film, then you are actually the problem, not the film itself.
For the record, having seen Terminator: Dark Fate, I can attest that Davis does a more than adequate job in a somewhat limited role. I would argue that his comments regarding Grace’s femininity are perhaps a little off the mark though. Apart from the obligatory naked time travel scene that comes along with the already familiar Terminator storyline, the character spends the majority of the movie in rather male-centric clothing and doesn’t seem to be exactly playing to the ‘gender-traits’ that he espoused. Again, as I have read numerous times before in various character descriptions, a strong female role is almost always defined nowadays by a stone faced expression and a cold fronted display of almost supposedly male like proportions.
Considering myself both a fan of the first two Terminator movies and definitely not a closet misogynist, I just didn’t particularly enjoy the film. Not because I object to the female leads, in fact the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor was the only thing helping steer it from being another complete car crash akin to its predecessor. No, Terminator: Dark Fate is a disappointment for a number of reasons, but not down to any sexism on the part of cinema goers.
That being said, contrast this movie’s perceived failure due to an anti-female stance against Arnold’s longtime friend/rival, Sly Stallone’s recent box office disappointment just weeks before Dark Fate’s release if you will.
Rambo: Last Blood did nowhere near the numbers that its studio was expecting and why was that? Well if it’s up to the “experts” then that’s down to the film being a byproduct of the male lead action genre that doesn’t appeal to audiences anymore. The film was heavily criticised for its depiction of the Mexican people and one (presumably very liberal reviewer) even went as far as to suggest that Rambo was now doing Donald Trumps xenophobic work for him. It appears that you can’t keep either side of the political fence happy these days.
So there we have it. It would appear that film goers don’t appreciate the toxic masculinity of John Rambo, but also don’t want to see a female centric action/adventure either. I’ll have to go out on a limb here and say that, in my opinion, both films simply weren’t that good and after the initial excitement of their release faded from the Zeitgeist of the casual viewer, attendance naturally dropped substantially.
Although opening reviews are obviously very important, word of mouth obviously plays a part in attendance in the following days and weeks after a film’s release, not to mention the lack of repeat viewings playing its part as well. Simply put, if a film’s great, you may want to go see it again. If it’s not, then you won’t. It’s really that simple.
The same of course can’t always be said of other films that fail to take off financially. Recently Mike Flanagan’s Doctor Sleep fell short of its projected box office takings. I must say that it is rather refreshing that Mr Flanagan hasn’t resorted to such lowballing as to tell the world that this failure is down to two of its three main stars being females. This particular film is blessed with impressive performances from young newcomer Kyliegh Curran, alongside Rebecca Ferguson’s brilliant turn as the villainous Rose The Hat. Having seen Flanagan’s sequel to The Shining and been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, I’m amazed that more people aren’t going to watch it, despite it getting solid reviews in the press and even praise from the notoriously hard to please author Stephen King.
Maybe for whatever reason the idea of Doctor Sleep just failed to capture the imagination of the majority of cinema goers. This could be down to the fact that a younger audience doesn’t have the same connection with the original film that came out nearly forty years ago, or that fans of the original film simply didn’t want a sequel? In truth, there probably are numerous reasons, my point being that it would be easy for Flanagan to blame others, but he has remained dignified enough not to go for the now familiar route of blaming the public for his film’s failure. Perhaps this is due to the glut of positive reviews Doctor Sleep received, or maybe it’s because Flanagan is actually just proud of his work and confident enough to know that a good film will find its audience in the end anyway. If anyone ever needed an example of this being the case, then surely the best exhibit would be another movie based on a King novel, 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption, which flopped spectacularly upon its initial release but eventually found it’s audience upon it’s home video release and now sits at No.1 on IMDB’s list of the greatest films ever made. That’s not to say that Doctor Sleep will likely achieve such lofty heights but I do feel that the years will be a lot kinder to it in retrospect than it will to either Charlie’s Angels, or the film that many believe is now the final nail in the coffin for the Terminator franchise.
The same can be said for numerous Box Office failures much like the aforementioned The Shawshank Redemption which now sit highly on many best of lists. John Carpenters The Thing. David Fincher’s Fight Club and more recently Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 all failed to make it big financially at the cinema, but further down the road have garnered a strong following.
I think it’s high time that the likes of Miller and Banks stop trying to tell audiences that they’re wrong by staying away from bad films and maybe look at why their films haven’t had the response that they desire. For me, when a filmmaker attacks criticism of their film by decrying an audience’s opinion as being based on some form of prejudice, they do little else but offer themselves up for more ridicule and further critic-filled inspection of their film than it perhaps deserved.
I do feel however that if a movie has a message to put across in its story then maybe it’s worth making sure that the story is a good one in the first place. Yelling at people who disagree is one way of dealing with it. Making a better film in the first place would probably be a better option.