The Five Blockbusters in Danger of Tanking



LAST year the casualties included a superhero powered by a lantern, Martians in desperate need of a mother and an ill-advised team-up between James Bond and Indiana Jones.

2011 was touted as the year of the movie sequel - 24 were released - but it will be remembered as the year audience attendance fell to record lows and the number of box office turkeys rose dramatically.

This year movie execs will be on edge as Hollywood's blockbuster season gets into gear. There has already been one career-ending disaster (Disney's John Carter) and one record-breaking hit (The Hunger Games).

And although the line-up for this year includes several films that have the potential to break the billion-dollar mark - The Avengers, Ice Age 4 and The Dark Knight Rises - there are more than a few blockbusters that could end up tanking at the box office.



1. Battleship



Plot: Rihanna, Liam Nesson and Friday Night Lights' Taylor Kitsch defend the Earth from an invading alien armada.

Why it could fail: There are many problems with Battleship, although the most obvious one, that it is based on a board game, shouldn't hurt it all that much. The ads promise a film like Transformers (are those Decepticons in the water?) and that franchise has managed to take more than $US2 billion at the box office.

Critical reaction to the film has been almost universally negative, with many calling it sub-standard Michael Bay. Again, that shouldn't necessarily be a barrier to success - all three Transformer films were panned - but coupled with audience exhaustion with that style of sci-fi action flick and Battleship's prospects don't look good.

The film, which cost $200 million to make and possibly $100 million more to market, is yet to debut in the US but it opened in Australia and 25 other countries last week, taking a respectable $58 million. That's a solid start but it was overshadowed by the $98 million taken by Titanic 3D ($67 million was taken in China alone). Like most blockbusters, the majority of Battleship's money will come from its opening weekend and from markets outside the US. Asia should be Battleship's biggest market but with interest still high in Titanic 3D and The Avengers set to make its mark in coming weeks, Battleship's prospects don't look good. It won't be the disaster that John Carter was - both films share the same star, though - but anything less than $300 million will be seen as a failure, as this was supposed to be the start of a lucrative franchise.

2. Rock of Ages



Plot: Two young dreamers find love in Los Angeles. It's the '80s, though, and the action is interrupted by mullets, power chords and ROCK.

Why it could fail: Rock of Ages is based on a hit Broadway musical and features lots of 80s hits, which should guarantee an audience. But movie audiences are a fickle lot when it comes to musicals and what works on the stage doesn't always work on screen. The last musical to do any decent business was Hairspray and that was five years ago. Last year's Glee movie died at the box office despite the popularity of the TV show.

Rock of Ages boasts some big names on its cast list - Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Catherine Zeta-Jones - but they are a decade past their prime and unlikely to resonate with younger audiences. The music list is similarly aimed at the nostalgia crowd and they tend to stay home with the kids and rarely make it to the cinema. Young audiences - which drive the majority of box office revenue - are unlikely to psyched about Starship and Whitesnake.

The film's budget - a reported $70 million - is also on the high side for a musical. The last time that sort of money was spent on a musical was in 1967 with Dr Dolittle and the results almost crippled a studio and killed off the genre.

3. The Amazing Spider-man



Plot: High school nerd Peter Parker crawls up walls and fights crime after he is bitten by a radioactive spider.

Why it could fail: Wait a minute, haven't I already seen that film? If the plot of The Amazing Spider-man seems familiar, then it's because it is. Memories of Tobey Maguire spinning webs and swinging off rooftops will still be fresh for most movie-goers. The first Spider-man film is only ten years old and spawned two sequels, the last of which came out in 2007, so it's not as if the world is crying out for a reboot of the story, which The Amazing Spider-man is. Audiences will take some convincing to fork out money to see what is essentially the same movie even if it is in 3D.

The first three Spider-man movies made more than $2 billion at the box office and generated billions more in merchandise. But this could work against The Amazing Spider-man. If it fails to match-up to those movies, it will be seen as a disappointment. That could harm chances of a new Spider-man franchise, which is what the studio, Sony, wants more than anything else.

Audiences are showing signs of superhero fatigue, with recent comic-to-screen outings such as Green Lantern and Jonah Hex performing miserably. Plus, this blockbuster season is packed with superheroes: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk will be battling for screen time in The Avengers and Batman will be returning in The Dark Knight Rises. The anticipation for those two movies far outstrips that for The Amazing Spider-man, which suggests Spidey could get lost in all the spandex.

4. The Bourne Legacy



Plot: It's a spy film so the plot is being kept under wraps. What is known is that the story deals with the fallout from the events in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Why it could fail: Can you make a Jason Bourne film without Jason Bourne? That's what audiences will be asking themselves when The Bourne Legacy hits cinemas. Although set in the Bourne universe, Legacy doesn't feature Jason Bourne. The reason for this is Matt Damon decided to walk after the film's producers decided to part ways with Paul Greengrass, the director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Greengrass's shaky camera style and Damon's intense stare brought a sense of realism to the Bourne films and were their main selling point.

Universal has drafted in Bourne's screenwriter Tony Gilroy to direct and Hurt Locker star and Damon-lookalike Jeremy Renner to be their Bourne substitute, Aaron Cross, but it will take more than that to convince movie-goers. The ploy smacks of those posters that trade on loose associations with successful films - from the studio that brought you Shrek etc.

Again, the name of the game is franchise. The last Bourne movie made $440 million worldwide, so Universal will be looking for a total of $200 million to at least save face. But without a big name star and the film's main character, this could be a mission impossible.

5. Total Recall



Plot: A factory worker begins to suspect that he's a spy, though he is unaware which side of the fight he's on.

Why it could fail: Total Recall was a successful sci-fi action flick from the '90s starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was big on guns, splatter and Schwarzenegger zingers, the best being "Consider that a divorce" after Arnie shoots his fake wife. The remake has swapped bulging muscles for soulful eyes, with Colin Farrell playing the hero who has his memory altered (or does he?).

The film's two-minute trailer manages to reference just about every successful sci-fi film of the last decade - Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Inception, Transformers, I Robot, Attack of the Clones, Minority Report and The Matrix - but in a way that suggests the film is a rip-off. The quick fades to black and the taglines "What is real" and "What is recall" aren't quite as bad as the "Titans will clash" that accompanied Clash of the Titans but it doesn't give the viewer much to hang onto.

Sony Pictures is hoping Total Recall will emulate the success of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. That film debuted in August last year and made almost $US500m at the box office. But movie-goers went because the ad campaign highlighted the believability of the film's central character, the CGI ape Caesar.

Although he has movie star looks, Farrell has not proved himself as a leading man; S.W.A.T., Miami Vice and Fright Night were all disappointments at the box office, while Alexander was a complete disaster.



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So ONTD, will you be seeing any of these potentially flop films? I'm not joining my friends today to see Battleship, not paying for and sitting through that shitfest.