Last week, a vaguely trollish Variety story ("Is Pacific Rim Doomed to Be This Year’s Battleship?") revealed that the new Guillermo del Toro film—del Toro's first directorial effort since 2008's Hellboy II, and a thing that cost somewhere around $200 million to make—might not do so well when it opens on July 12. Over at comics industry blog The Beat, Heidi MacDonald suggested there might be some sort of scheme to try and sink the new movie by "the nerd king of nerd town" ("Hollywood Mystery: Who Is Trying to Kill Pacific Rim?") and directed readers toward another Variety piece, this one about the frayed relationship between Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. Legendary is Thomas Tull's successful, ambitious, and geek-friendly production company that's put up much of the cash for movies like Man of Steel, The Hangover, Where the Wild Things Are, Watchmen, and Christopher Nolan's Batman movies:
Early tracking for the film is so far disappointing with audiences showing more interest in Sony Pictures’ sequel Grown Ups 2, which also opens that weekend. Some are comparing Pacific Rim to Saban’s Power Rangers kids franchise or Japanese anime. As a result, expect a last-minute marketing blitz from distributor and 25 percent investor Warner Bros. to try to turn around those numbers. (Via.)
Oof. Grown Ups 2. Anyway, it's kind of insane that a movie about giant robots that cost $200 million and comes from one of the best directors working today is what counts for a risky proposition in Hollywood these days, but thanks to studios and audiences becoming cripplingly reliant on franchises, that's what it is: a movie without name recognition, a movie without a number after its title, and a movie without any big stars. So it's a gamble, as weird as that sounds, and it doesn't help that box office tracking and results have increasingly taken on a life of their own—like sports for nerds, predicting what movies will do well each weekend and doing autopsies on the ones that fail are now stories in and of themselves. (Poor White House Down.) While places like io9 are already wondering if this means Pacific Rim will be an "epic flop," Legendary's Tull, possibly because he sounds like he might have a bit of common sense, doesn't get it:
"Audiences that have seen the movie, love the movie," Tull told me. "I think in our core audiences and, sort of, the fanboy groups that want to see the movie... we have seen tracking wildly on all of our movies so, at this point, all we can say to audiences is if you go see this movie, you're going to love it and you're going to tell your friends—that's all we can do. The other stuff, it has almost become like sporting events. Every weekend, it's so wildly reported on and now even opining about tracking, which is kind of weird to me. I can tell you, when I was a kid and Star Wars came out, I wasn't like, 'I don't know, the trailer looks cool, but the tracking sucks.'" (Via.)
I'm curious to see how Pacific Rim does—early word of mouth has been off-the-charts positive, and the idea of a new del Toro movie, let alone one about giant robots punching giant monsters, makes me incredibly happy. Any interest I have in how well it does financially is more or less directly related to whether or not del Toro gets to keep making the sort of movies he wants to make.
And for all the hands being wrung about Pacific Rim's tracking, it's still more or less impossible to predict how anything is going to do—tracking is a lousy indicator, as is bad buzz, as World War Z proved. (WHICH IS STILL BEWILDERING. THAT MOVIE WAS FUCKING TERRIBLE.) So I guess what I'm getting at, a billion links and block quotes later, is it's all kind of a crap shoot. Hell, there were people who insisted Avatar was going to bomb, too, and at some point, somebody thought this was going to be the summer of After Earth.