The new Girl Talk has been on a constant loop at my house. My favorite part for the moment is when “Pretty girls be quiet, quiet” plays over Mr. Big Stuff. It may be my favorite album of the year.



TRON: AFTERMATH (AFTERMASH)

I believe it was three years ago that Comic-con was shown the first new Tron footage, a demo reel that was meant to get the crowd excited about the possibilities of a new film in the franchise. Jeff Bridges was involved, and though the project was chancy, it came at the exact right time for a studio to reboot a long dead franchise. Of course, Steven Lisberger had been trotting out the idea of a sequel for years and had gotten close enough to get a video game going. But this was going to be more than that.

For nearly a year now there’s been a teaser to get audiences geared up, and Comic-con has leaked some footage. Like Avatar, they had a Tron day, Disneyland has been Tron-o-fied, and for the last couple years at Comic-con there’s been a Flynn’s Arcade, and impressive presentations. I heard that Green Hornet moved a month because they were afraid of the film.

On the surface, it’s the sort of gamble any geek should celebrate. A young director (known for his commercials) was put in charge of a very expensive – but technically adventurous – tent-pole. Jeff Bridges was brought on early, and the film seemed to have the possibilities of being awesome. It is a sequel to the first film, not just a reboot. The coup de grace was that Daft Punk was brought in to do the score. The teaser had me in.

Then I saw the film, reviewed it here, and saw it a second time in Imax to see if I had any new thoughts, to which I brought a friend who’s a producer in town. When we discussed the film, I was very critical of the script, and he said “yeah, but with this sort of film, the script is the last thing that anyone thinks about.” What an ass-backwards way of making movies, but I think this is inarguably true – you can look to a number of recent summer blockbusters that obviously started shooting without a script anyone ever liked. Part of this is the production schedule of sequels, where release dates are more important than quality.

The problem is that studios know how to sell this stuff, and audiences – if they get what they came for – tend to be very forgiving. Both reviewing movies and paying to see them are a political act, because they can dictate what gets made next. I don’t mean that either give anyone much power – reviews are more helpful for certain films and have very little impact on a blockbuster’s success. But that’s mostly because the studio system have figured out ways to circumvent their importance and – to some extent – word of mouth. Wolverine made money, but the two sequels in production are basically pretending that the last film didn’t happen (from all accounts). But if you went by the numbers, Wolverine is as successful as Star Trek ($12 million separates their worldwide gross), and yet one is a franchise-restarter.

I bring up Star Trek (which mostly is considered a break-even) because Disney feels similarly with this title. They only care about breaking even, because if they do so, it means the ancillaries will sell, and the brand gains a certain validity. The problem that Disney has run into with this film is that there’s a large chunk of the audience who doesn’t care – they never were able to crack women. The only good thing Disney has going for them is that they’re heading into two holiday weekends (the Avatar model), but there’s also a lot of competition for families, and this doesn’t appear to be that family friendly.

Tron: Legacy will be judged by its worldwide numbers. Domestically it seems $150 Million (which is less than the budget) is out of reach. This is about world numbers partly because the domestic numbers are doomed to be disappointing. For all the early comparisons to Avatar, that had an obvious interest to women. Tron: Legacy went from a reasonably fresh rating to a now less than 50% rating, so it doesn’t have the critical support, and it’s not the center of attention, so much as a question mark – which is not a good place for such a film to be. The grand experiment has failed.

How Do You Know?  is somewhat fortunate in this regard, as the heat will be on Tron, which will open at #1 but still be a discussion point. Know cost $120 Million, and is dead in the water. The film will never make its budget back, and Sony seems to have given up on it. It should disappear. But that’s been the way of James L. Brooks for a while. I may see it this weekend. I’m fascinated by it.

TWO-HEADED PREDICTIONS, ALL FLOATING IN GLASS

Tron: Legacy has the weekend, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory. Right now the numbers are at $40-ish, prediction-wise. If the movie flat-lines for the next two holiday weekend, then it could conceivably do $150. But it’s very likely that Christmas weekend it’s going to take a huge hit from Little Fockers, and the likelihood of bad word of mouth, which puts $100 Million domestic as a likely end result. Disney has already suggested that they know there’s problems, so if they somehow manage to get to $50 Million for the weekend, that’s a huge win, but tracking doesn’t seem to suggest that could be possible. Perhaps the film has an appeal to children that was not expected, but then it’s also got to deal with Yogi Bear, which may be a worse film but might be less tedious to the under-ten set. It’s a sad weekend, but more for moviegoers who see this shit. The Aero is showing Lawrence of Arabia.

Can I kick it?:

1. Tron: Legacy - $41.5 Million
2. Yogi Bear – $17.7 Million
3. The Fighter – $13.3 Million
4. Dawn Treader – $12.5 Million
5. How Do You Know? – $9.5 Million

If Tron does $30 Million or less, Disney will be panicked, and people will be fired. It’ll be interesting to see what the weekend brings, and of course I’ll be back to talk about it come Sunday.