|Posted on July 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM|
The Audience Has Spoken
Deep down, I can't say I'm surprised. Sure, buzz was high. Sure word of mouth was great. Reviews good. People were leaving happy. Pacific Rim was as promised: a fun and easy to digest action epic that just reminds us to have a good time at the movies once in a while.
I think my concern started a week and a half ago. Tracking on the film wasn't doing so hot, and it's not surprising. If you don't know, "tracking" basically asks "what do people think of this film before they see it" and, in the case of Pacific Rim especially, "what is their awareness about said film?"
The marketing department over at Warner Bros were dumbfounded. On paper, they thought it might have been easy. "Just market it like Paramount did with their Transformers movies and call it a day."
They were wrong. Big time. Nobody went to see Transformers because it was marketed well, they went to see it because it was Transformers which crossed boundaries of generations and ages. It marketed itself.
Pacific Rim was an all-new IP. It had nothing for the masses to know what it's about and why. The marketing folks probably thought "ok, just show the big robots and stuff."
But that's when the second roadblock came up. They got the film…and it is SO not what they were expecting. Truth is, it was probably better, but that doesn't mean it's easy to convey what it is to the public.
This isn't what we wanted! What do we do!?
So the public were already not aware, but that's not an excuse is it? They had choices. When they got to the theater or looked online to at least TRY to inform themselves, they saw the options of what they were going to spend their time on. What they were going to go and see. They were going to tell every studio out there what it was they really wanted.
And they wanted awful comedy sequels to awful comedy movies.
A few years back, shortly after Scott Pilgrim vs. The World bombed at the box office, that this was a trend that we're going to see more: creative, good movies are too hard for studios to figure out what to do with. Why? Because the public wants safe. They want familiar. They want something they can say "oh, I know what this is" then pay money to go and see it.
Yes, that means they knew exactly what Grown Ups 2 was and paid money to see it. That movie already made its budget back, Pacific Rim, a movie that deserved to open at three-times what it made, is flopping around struggling.
You can't blame the studio for Pacific Rim's failing. They marketed it best they could, but like the public it wasn't familiar enough to really get out there.
But you can blame the public. The audiences that chooses what lives and what dies at the box office also chooses what a studio is willing and not willing to do in future decisions. Most are unaware of their power, they just want to watch a movie and the last thing in their mind is that their dollar is going to drive the direction of an entire industry. New IP done by a great director that's a lot of fun (and 20 years ago might have dominated the box office?) No thanks. Low-brow, shoddy comedies thank you very much.
So why do studios green light awful movies? Just look to this past weekend. There's your answer.
I had thought about taking another route on Pacific Rim: that it reminds us that you can have simple and fun when done well, and how much that is better than the forced-drama and convolution of a lot of other big tent-pole pics (especially this past summer). But really, the fact it didn't do all that well is far more painful. I'll put up with studios making a few Lone Rangers or Star Treks if it means at least putting out a Pacific Rim here and there.
So expect more sequels. More remakes. More big blockbusters that try to be too clever or "insightful" and in the process forget to just make a good movie. Why? It's not because the studios are out of ideas. It's not because they don't want to do original and creative well-done movies. It's because that is what the audience wants. Simple as that.
Now, though, I don't even know if they'll do that. They may put all their eggs in one basket in the direction that the audience obviously wants to go - further and further down the road of "low-brow, cheap comedies" and "bloated blockbusters." That's it. That's your choices.
You know. Nevermind. There is no "may" in that equation. It's a fact.
Congratulations 'Murica. Enjoy the potholes.