Have We Been Brainwashed?
I'm just gonna come right out there and say it. The box office numbers for the weekend of August 13th were, in a word, disappointing. I say this because admittedly I am defending 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World', but there is a bit more to it than just that. I have a theory about the general movie going audience and that is that frankly I feel like we (yeah, that's me included, so in a way I'm going after myself so don't get too mad at all this) in a word have become simply brainwashed over the years. As to how, well, allow me to explain using figures. The weekend box office numbers for the weekend of August 13th have the film 'The Expendables' at number 1 with a good, clean $38.4 million. 'Eat Pray Love' came in second place with a fair $23.1 million, but the third movie that opened that weekend that was sure to have us geeks flocking to the screen in massive numbers, 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World' opened with a mere $10.6 million. Sure, that sounds like a nice big number to us but you have to consider the fact that it was made for $60 million, meaning that it didn't make its money back and actually bombed at the box office. Now, let us take a look at the Tomato Meter on good old Rotten Tomatoes. Currently as I write this, the ratings have 'The Expendables' at a mere 40%, 'Eat Pray Love' at a bad 38%, and 'Scott Pilgrim vs The World' with a fresh 81%. So I can't help but beg the question "what the hell happened here?" The film with the far better rating ended up bombing, and I have to say after seeing it today is clearly looking like it's not doing much better. Alex and I went to see it tonight (1 week after opening) and the theater was rather empty. But why? Where are all us geeks who want to see our 'Scott Pilgrim' graphic novels brought to life? I'll tell you, and the answer is simple. The guys are watching their 80s action heroes blow shit up in 'The Expendables' only to come out of it saying that it was either "terrible" or using the saying that "it was just a fun time" or "it was really cool and old school". And let it be know that I'm almost positive that I'd fall into the latter 2 statements! This is nothing against anyone who says this, I mean, Sean even gave it a clean 4/5. And upon seeing it I'm sure I'll rate it with a similar frame of mind. But with all due respect, what am I watching other than a fun, dumb action movie in which the old school action heroes are just blowing shit up? And what about 'Eat Pray Love'? Well, there's the movie that the girl geeks are going to see 'cause it's this nice, heartfelt drama, and pretty much screams "chick flick". In the meantime, Scott Pilgrim lands in the #5 position behind 'The Other Guys' which was actually #3, and 'Inception' which has sunk to #4, but is certainly getting its fair share of staying time. But 'The Other Guys'? A movie where we get to watch man-child extraordinaire Will Farrell do his thing AGAIN? I'm sure it has its share of good comedy to it, I'll give it that, but between those three top movies I'm getting very simple messages. The guys wanna see explosions, the girls wanna see a dramatic chick flick, and as a whole we wanna see Will Farrell's comedy 'cause as much as I don't really like the guy, there's no denying that a lot of people love his comedy. It's rating on the Tomato Meter is 76% so that's certainly nothing bad. But what we don't wanna do is flock to the theater to see an original concept using different styles and providing us with a fun, symbolic, and very different movie. Now, what about the film 'Inception'? That's an original concept, it's highly rated, it's sticking around. I must be wrong about us being conditioned to want to see movies that are based off of concepts that we're used to, right? Well, that has it's own answer as well and one critic I enjoy listening to claimed its success right from the get-go. The name Christopher Nolan is attached to it. Christopher Nolan brought 'Batman' fans 'The Dark Knight' a couple of years ago. But why did we all flock to see that? Well, it's a property, something we all wanted to see because it was the new Batman vs The Joker film. Then, word of mouth made it a HUGE box office breakthrough. So with the director of that movie's name attached to 'Inception', the Nolan fans came out of the woodwork to see what he could do, and it's been a success. Even I was merely curious about it in general by the trailer until I saw Nolan's name attached to it. Then I was like "oh yeah, I'll be seeing that." So maybe now you're asking "well what about Edgar Wright? He's a big name too." Well, not really. He directed 'Shaun of the Dead', he directed 'Hot Fuzz', but be honest and tell me how incredibly popular these movies are OUTSIDE of their sort of cult following. He also directed the series 'Spaced' by the way. How many of you have heard of that? The good news is that Edgar Wright is certainly not suffering, and I give him mass amounts of credit that he doesn't seem to care about his movie's box office numbers. He seems to be one of those genuine people who want to make a movie, get it out there, and simply entertain us. So good on him for that. But it still bugs me that as an audience we do certainly seem to be conditioned to want to see certain things. Now let us rewind to earlier this year, and take the movie 'Kick-Ass'. It took the superhero movie concept, which is frankly becoming stale, and twisted it into a semi-realistic parody-like film. But did it last? No. Sure, it was R-rated, so that's gonna be holding some numbers back. But the films it was up against lasted just a bit longer, like 'Clash of the Titans' which was a nightmarish mishmash of special effects that stole the story and threw it out the window. 'Date Night', a romantic comedy about some couple trying to spice up their relationship. And the horrendous 'Death at a Funeral', which was loaded with random raunchy and just plain bad comedy delivered by a cast that otherwise should make for an awesome, fun comedy. Seeing any similarities here? Tomato Meter time! 'Clash of the Titans' got 29%. 'Date Night' got 67%, so that's nothing bad, but still nothing awesome. 'Death at a Funeral' stands at a 38%. But 'Kick-Ass' rates the highest, yet lasted the least amount of time with a 76%, which is pretty good. So I dunno, I guess my final theory is that as an audience we seem to want to see things that we've become accustomed to, even if we almost don't want to. The 'Spider-Man' remake will be seen by mass audiences, and while I still cringe quite a bit inside, thinking this is happening too soon, I'll surely be waiting in line for it. 'The Avengers' is an idea that is already wearing very thin by what we've seen in 'Iron Man 2' which may as well have been called 'Avengers Origins: Iron Man'. And I am calling it right now that when 'The Avengers' finally gets to us, we're not gonna care that much anymore and it's not gonna get very generously rated as the idea is old as hell now, but the box office will totally clean up. Why? 'Cause we want to see it, because it's something we've grown accustomed to, something we know and recognize. There will probably be an awesome movie based on some wildly original concept opening alongside it that year that won't do as good because we'll all have ben waiting so long to finally see the massive superhero cross-over film. Now, in closing, this is simply a theory that I have developed and it makes a lot of sense to me. In case you haven't figured it out yet, it's that we, as an audience, have our minds set on familiarity in various concepts of film and would far rather see that than something awesome, original, and ought to be recognized for the art that it is. And this even throws me into the mix. I'm not gonna be hypocritical and say I'm not guilty of this, myself, but I will say that I think I'm noticing a trend in it, and therefore am writing this. Now to pose a final example of what I'm talking about, 'The Hurt Locker' won a much deserved Academy Award earlier this year against the fan favorite 'Avatar'. What did the audience like more? Obviously 'Avatar'. It was James Cameron, it was awesome special effects, and a really fun ride. But... as great as 'The Hurt Locker' was, ask yourself, how long WAS 'The Hurt Locker' out, and how many people flocked to see it? I might be wrong about this whole thing, and I'm not out to anger anyone, I'm not out to debate, argue, or get into some heated conversation about film. I'm no expert, I don't get paid for this site, the enjoyment of film is all totally relative, but I just thought that this would be interesting for my own audience to read through and think about. If you've made it this far, thanks for taking the time, and again don't attack me over this if you think I'm in the "wrong", this is simply something I notice, it's my own take on the situation, and chances are I've missed a few minor details along the way while using the most basic of devices. Until next time, this is Donnie saying "If you see a trailer for a movie you think looks just okay, try paying for that over the new superhero movie you think looks awesome. You may surprise yourself."